Agricultural exports dented

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ISLAMABAD: The lack of an integrated sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) system and the government’s inadequate control over food safety, and the health of animals and plants is resulting in the frequent ‘confiscation and rejection’ of the country’s agro-based consignments in the international market. As a result , Pakistan’s exports are suffering.


“It is a challenge for Pakistan to meet the SPS’s requirements in international trade. Many agro-based consignments, frequently face confiscation and rejection at destinations, which not only causes economic loss to the exporters but at the same time puts a question mark on the credibility of Pakistan as an exporter of quality produce,” elaborated Moazzam Ali Khan Jatoi, Minister of state for National Food Security and Research at a consultative workshop on the draft bill to establish the “National Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health Regulatory Authority (NFSAPHRA)”.


The SPS measures are an agreement on how the governments can apply food safety and animal and plant health measures set out in the WTO.The failure to address a wide variety of challenges faced by the agro-based sector can be attributed to the absence of an integrated system of official controls at the federal and provincial level, Jatoi further explained.


A top official in the ministry told the News, “In Pakistan, we are far behind in helping our traders meet these requirements. Despite producing the finest quality agricultural products, Pakistan has been unable to compete in the international market. During the last four years, several of our export consignments were rejected because of quality and SPS noncompliance.”


It is interesting to note that the quantity of rice exports during July-April 2011-12 has fallen by 9.13 percent, fish and fish preparation by 2.12 percent, vegetables by 43.4 percent and spices exports dipped by 14 percent over the corresponding period last year. In dollar terms, these also sizably down.


Meeting the SPS requirements became essential since the introduction of the WTO regime in 1995, but without proper attention paid to this important sector, agricultural exports were affected. Hence the country lacked a coherent SPS management system in relation to its trade with other countries. There are still serious capacity constraints and lack of coordination and effective collective action between the departments involved in inspections, testing and other related activities.


The Minister urged upon the experts to deliberate upon the contents of the draft so that a comprehensive Bill encompassing all aspects of food safety throughout the supply chain from “farm to fork” was assured.


The National Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (NAPHIS) under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, with the support of the EU funded Trade Related Technical Assistance Programme (TRTAII), has prepared a draft Bill which would provide a national legal framework for SPS regulatory controls and establish a new Federal body, the National Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health Regulatory Authority (NFSAPHRA).


The new Authority would provide an integrated national system of official controls for food safety/animal health/plant health and its related aspects, i.e. monitor SPS conditions and levels of compliance with technical regulations. The draft copy has been distributed and comments are welcome, but they should be submitted to the NAPHIS by 18 June.


Courtesy:  The News

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