Pak delivers onion blow, halts export
Amritsar, January 5
According to media reports from Pakistan, the Ministry of Commerce has banned export of onion to India by land, but export through sea routes will be open.
As per the official notification (a copy of which is with The Tribune) issued by Muhammad Maqsood Khan, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, dated January 4, ‘onion export allowed except through land route via Wagah to India’. An official of the Pakistan Ministry of Food and Agriculture said the ban was justified, because the prices of the commodity could shoot up to over Rs 100 per kg in Pakistan otherwise.
Talking to The Tribune, Rajdeep Uppal, MD of Narain Exim, a leading Amritsar firm, said the ban has only been imposed on export via road route, adding that onions can still be imported via goods train between India and Pak. He said though the ban has come into force, it remains to be seen whether the onion stock — documentation work for which has been completed -— is allowed to cross over or not. He attributed the Pakistan move to shortage of onions there, stating that they don’t have enough onion to feed India after catering tothe domestic demand.
Indo-Pak Exporters Association chairman Om Prakash Arora rubbished reports of onion shortage in Pakistan. “I had been to Pakistan a few days back and there was no shortage of onions. Had they not banned onion export via Wagah it would have continued for the whole month of January,” he lamented.
According to him, Pakistan authorities have even recalled onion-laden trucks from No Man’s Land. “I have received a call from an exporter whose five trucks have crossed over but the remaining five have been recalled. Now, tell me how the documentation work will be completed,” he wondered.
RK Duggal, Deputy Commissioner (Customs), Attari, said 78 trucks loaded with onions have arrived from Pakistan today, adding that he has also come to knowabout the ban order. He said though there are reports that Pakistan exporters are having a meeting with their officials over the issue, today’s consignment may well be the last from Pakistan via road route.
According to sources, around 300 trucks were ready to bring in onions to India, but they had not entered into Pak Custom authorities’ jurisdiction.
Gaurav Behl, a wholesaler, said the wholesale prices of onions, which were above Rs 40 per kg, had come down to Rs 20 to Rs 30 per kg after the import from Pakistan started. The government had also abolished custom duty on import of onions. However, the import had little effect on the prices in the retail market as onions are still being sold at Rs 45 to Rs 60 per kg in different parts of Punjab, a trend which many attribute to inferior quality of onions from Pakistan. Behl said they are expecting the supply of onions from Nashik but that would start in the second half of this month.
“Around 400 to 500 tonne of onion is being sent across the border daily from Wagah. Due to the floods, onion production in Sindh alone has registered a decline of 5 lakh to 6 lakh tonne this season. Since exports to India began, onion prices in Pakistan’s retail markets have surged from Rs 60 to Rs 90 per kg. In the month of February and March, the stock of onion would be completely exhausted,” say the news reports from Pakistan.