Himalayan News Service

Lahore, June 11:

Pakistani platters can now offer lots of extra garnish — thanks to cheaper vegetables and fruits from India. Indian exports through the Wagah border to Lahore have, for instance, helped make tomatoes cheaper, with prices falling from Rs 60 per kg to a reasonable Rs 20 in Pakistani currency. “But it is not just tomatoes,” says Chaudhary Muhammad Saeed, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI). “Other vegetables like onions and several fruits that have also become more affordable in local markets since Pakistan notified regulations about a fortnight ago allowing imports from India,” he said. “The notification allowing for the import of live animals is also expected to help our dairy industry. Already the flow of animals from across the border has started,” Saeed said. The sixth largest milk producer in the world, Pakistan is keen to improve its dairy industry to help farmers through the import of high quality milch animals from India, the largest milk producer.

FPCCI recently joined hands with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to set up the India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry after a meeting between Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

“An eight-member study group has also been set up to give concrete suggestions before the next round of composite dialogue in July about areas of cooperation and how we can boost bilateral trade,” said Saeed. “Among the proposals being studied by the industry lobbies is feasibility for warehouses along the no-man’s land near the Wagah border to help importers and exporters on both sides,” said Saeed.

The study group would submit its final report by the end of December to the respective governments for further action, said Saeed, who is planning to visit Mumbai in November for a special wedding exhibition. The industry lobbies of both the countries are keen that decision makers take their study into account while reviewing the list of items that should continue to receive protection and others that should be off the negative import list. The exercise is meant to address Pakistan industry’s grievance that their exports to India are growing at a lower pace compared to imports from India, despite having been accorded the most favoured nation status by New Delhi. The first meeting by the study group in Lahore earlier this month has identified 10 items for cooperation-- agriculture, fisheries and textiles.