Iranian tomatoes arrive in Pakistan to meet demand gap

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In this file photo, Pakistani vendors sell tomatoes at the main fruit and vegetable market in Islamabad on June 24, 2009. (AFP)
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A man rides on donkey cart while selling tomatoes along a road in Karachi on May 25, 2016. (REUTERS/File)
Updated 16 November 2019

Iranian tomatoes arrive in Pakistan to meet demand gap

  • Says the US sanctions don’t apply on trade related to food items
  • The import will be for about four weeks to meet the shortage in local market, official says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government has allowed businessmen to import tomatoes from neighboring Iran to meet increasing demand at home and to control the skyrocketing price of the commodity in the local market.
“The tomatoes import from Iran is allowed for three to four weeks to meet the shortage,” Muhammad Ameer Sultan, Parliamentary Secretary for National Food Security and Research, told Arab News on Friday.
Tomato is one of the major staples in Pakistan and its recent shortage and resultant price hike in the market has fueled public protests and criticism of the government. This has prompted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to allow import of the commodity from neighboring country which is otherwise struggling to discourage imports to bring down the ballooning trade and current account deficits.
Sultan said that the tomato crop arrival has been delayed in Sindh and Balochistan provinces due to cold weather while Punjab’s production has already hit the market. “This is a temporary shortage … the import from Iran will help bring down the commodity’s prices in the market,” he said.
He expected the imported tomatoes would reach Pakistani vegetables markets in the next few days. He also clarified that Pakistan had not been importing tomatoes from India since 2017 due to a ‘disease’ in the produce, which could harm the local crop seed.
“This is a misconception. We weren’t importing tomatoes from India even when the bilateral trade was open,” he said.
The tomatoes price shot up in the market in recent days owing to the acute shortage of the produce and it is being sold as high as Rs300 ($1.93) per kilogram in different parts of the country. The official price of one kilogram of tomatoes on average in major cities is calculated to be Rs164 ($1.05), according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
The government has not set any exact quota or quantity of tomatoes to be imported from Iran, the parliamentary secretary said, adding that the import would end automatically after the arrival of the new crop in the market by early December.
Iran has been under the US economic sanctions for its controversial nuclear program that has inhibited Pakistan and other countries to establish trade and economic relationship with the Islamic Republic. Islamabad therefore has no legal banking channel with Tehran for payments against any import or export. The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries stands around mere $400 million per annum.
“The US sanctions don’t apply on trade related to food items,” the parliamentary secretary said, “we have been doing barter trade with Iran for vegetables and fruits only.”


Pakistan’s religion ministry orders banks to refund all Hajj applicants by July 28

Updated 3 min 46 sec ago

Pakistan’s religion ministry orders banks to refund all Hajj applicants by July 28

  • A total of 180,000 Pakistanis were scheduled to perform the Hajj this year
  • Saudi authorities announced this year’s Hajj will be limited to 10,000 people residing inside the Kingdom

ISLAMABAD: A spokesman for Pakistan’s religion ministry said on Thursday it had reissued instructions that all pending dues be reimbursed to Hajj applicants, saying they should withdraw their dues from banks “as soon as possible.”
Last month, the Pakistan government said it would refund all those who had paid dues to perform the Hajj pilgrimage under a government scheme, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit the annual pilgrimage this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 180,000 Pakistanis were scheduled to perform the Hajj this year, over 107,500 under a government program.
“All nominated banks have been instructed to complete the refund process by July 28,” a spokesman for the religious affairs ministry said in a statement.
He said the ministry had not issued any instructions that the dues be kept in banks or new bank accounts be opened.
“All nominated banks are obliged to pay all dues without deduction,” the statement said. “The ministry is in constant touch with the banks for easy refund of money to all Hajj applicants. In case of any difficulty or concern, users should contact the Religious Affairs complaints number.”