Pak worries over flour exports to Afghanistan

Islamabad, February 4:

Unabated exports of flour to Afghanistan has raised concerns in Pakistan, with officials fearing a shortage in the country.

The ministry of food, agriculture and livestock is of the opinion that traders are feverishly exporting the commodity to neighbouring Afghanistan.

“The threat of shortage within Pakistan is towering and something must be done immediately. There should be some control,” an official said.

The export of wheat flour to Afghanistan got a boost after the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) of the cabinet removed last month the 15 per cent regulatory duty on its exports. The step was taken after a request by importers who have bought surplus stocks of wheat from Russia and other countries due to their economic prices. The importers wanted to export it to Afghanistan to get rid of surplus stocks arising from a lack of buying interest for the wheat imported from non-traditional sources.

“Importers have booked huge consignments from countries that are selling wheat at lower rates as compared to the US and Australia. Its quality is questionable and needs mixing with indigenous wheat,” said Tariq Sadiq, a leader of the All Pakistan Flour Mills Association and former president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI).

The ECC had rejected a proposal for levying 20 per cent regulatory duties on the import of wheat into Pakistan. This also boosted imports. Many exporters choose to buy flour from the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) for exports to Afghanistan due to its proximity to that country.