Road trade between Punjab and Pakistan affected

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh, Dec 30 | Updated: Dec 31 2007, 06:16am hrs
It was on only October 1 this year that Punjab chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal had flagged off first truck full of tomatoes from Attari International Airport to Pakistan signaling motorized trade opening. It was to save time and money as goods from Punjab were earlier routed from Punjab via Kandla-Dubai-Karachi. Earlier it was the emergency in Pakistan following violence in November and now the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto that has cast a shadow on trade between Punjab and Pakistan.

A cross section of exporters from Punjab who spoke to FE here on Sunday observed that the turn of events in Pakistan had affected trade and no consignments had crossed the borders from more than a month. The suspension of Samjhauta Express and bus service had also affected trade ties and is bound to affect peace process with the, especially Punjab. They say that it is sure to affect exports from Punjab and recently started import of cement and dry fruit from Pakistan.

Tarsem Saini, president Rice Millers Association Punjab told FE that the developments in Pakistan are very serious and would affect its economic stability which in turn will affect ties with India.

Pawan Kamra, managing director Hans Raj Agro Private Limited said, " It is not only the exports from Punjab that would be hit but also import of cement that had just begun. Also, the import of dry fruits would be hit." He said that now when the Attari border had been opened, there was turmoil in Pakistan. Now, its first priority is to maintain law and order than concentrate on exports from Punjab. This would surely mean a major set back to exporters who had earlier been hit by rupee surge vis--vis dollar."

Sanjev Goyal, a garment exporter from Ludhiana said, "Wagah border had also been opened and garlic consignments from Punjab to Pakistan had been sent. Cotton is yet another item that was exported from Punjab besides basmati rice through a longer route till now making the exports almost unviable."

Pakistan now allows import of 700-odd items on the positive list from India. Exporters from Punjab were expecting huge increase in exports as Pakistan suffered a huge loss of around $260 million owing to severe damage caused by strong winds coupled with rains and fog to the standing paddy of basmati this season.

In fact, Punjab had drawn lofty plans and farmers in Punjab in association with Markfed were gearing up to export 10,000 metric tonnes of potato to the European nations and tap on Pakistan's decision of duty-free import of the crop. "Jalandhar Potato Growers Association had already signed an agreement with Markfed according to association secretary Jaswinder Singh Sangha.

About 1,500 acres had been earmarked for production of potato in Punjab. Farmers from Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Bathinda, Khanna and Amritsar were gearing up to export fruits to Pakistan. The situation in Pakistan was sure to affect all these calculations say exporters.