Reap displeased at being excluded from negotiations

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LAHORE: The Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (Reap) has criticised Pakistani authorities for not consulting with stakeholders about liberalisation of trade with India. Reap suggested restricting the import of rice from India by imposing regulatory duty. The association appreciated the government’s timely decision to allow trade with India. “There is immense potential to market food and agricultural products to India, a market of approximately 1.3 billion people,” said Chaudhry Samee Ullah, vice chairman Reap, in a statement issued on Monday.

He criticised the bureaucracy for excluding stakeholders from the negotiation process, arguing that stakeholders are well aware of the strengths of mutual trade and should have been consulted.

“We need to play to our strength during negotiations. There are odds and evens in trade. We need to gather the best potential possible for our country,” said Samee Ullah. He claimed that the worth of Pakistan’s rice exports could be increased to three billion dollars from the existing two billion dollars by opening trade through Wahga with India. He requested the authorities to take representatives of export-oriented industries on board for the purpose of evolving an effective and result-oriented trade liberalisation policy with India.

Samee Ullah wrote a letter to the secretary Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in which he said that, the Indian agriculture sector is highly subsidised and Indian farmers are provided free electricity, fertiliser and pesticides at nominal rates, which leads to reduced production costs. He said that bilateral trade with India in rice would knock Pakistani farmers out of the competition.

“For that, we recommend that the import of rice from India for local consumption within Pakistan is countered by imposing countervailing duty in proportion to the difference of subsidised inputs available to Indian farmers. As India has imposed 70 percent duty on the import of rice from Pakistan, we need to cater to it,” said the letter.

Reap warned that if the interests of farmers are not safeguarded, the association will file an application with the National Tariff Commission. Further, with regard to imports of Indian rice for re-export purposes, a Duty and Tax Remission for Exports (DTRE) scheme should be allowed, Reap recommended. This would help Pakistani exporters avoid countervailing and other duties. Samee Ullah said that the DTRE scheme would ensure increased export volumes and capacity. The DTRE scheme should only be allowed on imports of Indian rice for re-exports purposes – only with value addition.

Reap demanded that the trade of rice across the Wahga Border be permitted. High quality Indian Basmati rice is grown just 30 km from Wahga Lahore. Transporting it from Amritsar through Lahore to Karachi Port saves time and money.

It was further recommended that a limit of 100kg bags be levied on rice imports from India. Furthermore, import items must be limited to whole grain rice. Importing rice by-products must be restricted.

Courtesy: The News

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