Pak can consider importing vegetables, and other edible items from India: Finance Minister Ismail

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Mifta Ismail said on Monday that three years after Islamabad downgraded trade ties with New Delhi over the Kashmir issue, the government was forced to buy vegetables and other food items from India following the destruction of standing crops due to heavy floods.

Pakistan is witnessing a huge jump in the prices of various vegetables and fruits due to the devastating floods as the supply of vegetables from Balochistan, Sindh, and South Punjab has been severely affected due to the disaster.

Addressing a press conference here, Finance Minister Ismail said that the government may “consider importing vegetables and other food items from India” to avoid the recent floods across the country, government Radio Pakistan reported. After that, the crops can be destroyed.

He made this comment in response to a question.

Pakistan downgraded its trade ties with India in August 2019 following India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Quoting a source, Dawn newspaper reported that former security adviser Moeed Yusuf was working on some proposals regarding trade with India.

The newspaper said that on record, former commerce adviser Razak Dawood also spoke on several occasions for the resumption of trade with India.

In March 2021, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) announced that it would allow the private sector to import white sugar and cotton from India through the Wagah border. However, the decision was reversed within days after strong criticism from the main opposition parties – Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples Party – which are now in the coalition government.

The newspaper said that with the change in the federal government this year, the commerce ministry ruled out the possibility of resuming bilateral trade that had stalled in May.

The commerce ministry’s reaction to widespread speculation on social media that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif-led government is considering a proposal to resume trade with India.

An official announcement from the commerce ministry said, “There is no change in Pakistan’s policy on trade with India.”

However, in June, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari advocated for trade and engagement with other countries, especially India.

According to Shahzad Cheema, secretary of the Lahore Market Committee, one hundred containers of tomatoes and about 30 onions are being received daily at the Torkham border (with Afghanistan), out of which two containers of tomatoes and one onion are being brought to the city of Lahore. The provincial capital of Punjab has little daily and no number of containers to meet the demand.

Cheema said the government would eventually import onions and tomatoes from India. He said that the import of vegetables from Iran through the Taftan border (Balochistan) was not viable as the Iranian government had increased tax on its import and export.

He said that the prices of dates and bananas will also increase in the coming days as most of the orchards in Sindh have been destroyed by the floods. The supply of apples from Balochistan or other areas was also cut off due to the floods.

Lahore market wholesaler Jawad Rizvi told PTI that on Sunday, tomatoes and onions were available at around Rs 500 and Rs 400 per kg in Lahore markets, respectively.

He said the prices of the commodities would increase further in the coming days as the supply of vegetables from Balochistan, Sindh, and South Punjab has been severely affected due to the floods.

According to officials, the floods have claimed over 1,100 lives so far.

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