Pakistan likely to import red chilies from India as monsoon rains decimate crops

A trader picking up chilies in Chili Market Kunri, Sindh on Nov 28, 2019. (AN Photo/S.A. Babar)
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Updated 09 September 2020

Pakistan likely to import red chilies from India as monsoon rains decimate crops

  • Growers say almost 80 percent of red chili pepper fields on 80,000 acres of land have been destroyed
  • The agricultural yield was already in decline due to erratic climate patterns

KARACHI: Heavy monsoon rains in Mirpurkhas district in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province have destroyed red chili pepper fields, making it likely that the country will import spices from India this year.

The red chilies produced in Kunri, a small town in the area, has a distinct taste with huge demand in places like the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and several European countries. 

“During the last season, we traded about 425,000 bags, each containing 40 kilograms of hybrid or special dandicut longi varieties of red chilies,” said Yudhister Maheshwari, chairman of the Red Chilies Market Association which is said to be the second largest market of the product in Asia. 

“A large portion of our special variety was exported,” he continued. “This year, however, 80 percent of our crops on some 80,000 acres of land have been destroyed by rains. This will even make it difficult for us to meet the domestic demand.” 

Maheshwari added that the crops were about to be harvested and the produce had to be supplied to markets in the coming days.

“We have nothing to trade now,” he said. “Contrast that to the situation last year when we were trading between 15,000 and 20,000 sacks every day,” he told Arab News on the phone from Kunri. 

Contrary to the situation in Pakistan, about 75,000 bags arrived for sale in the Guntur Chili Market in India on Wednesday, according to the information available on the market's website. 

The seeds of the special aromatic dandicut longi chilies reached Kunri from Radha Ram near Lahore in the 1960s. A decade later, this small town in Sindh became one of the largest chili markets in Asia. 

Almost 85 percent of Pakistan’s red chilies are produced in Umerkot, parts of Badin, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar districts of Sindh. 

“The region has an exceptionally suitable climate for growing chilies,” Mian Muhammad Saleem, president of the Red Chili Growers Association, told Arab News. 

However, he added that the area was now beginning to feel the impact of erratic weather patterns, noting that the recent rains that destroyed the crops constituted one such instance. 

“Our annual production had been up to 125,000 tons only a couple of years ago. It decreased last year, and this year we may not even be able to produce 20,000 tons. My own export had been 500 tons, but I would not be able to export a single chili this year,” Saleem said with a hint disappointment in his voice. 

Maheshwari said India’s sanam red chilies from the Guntur market was one possible alternative. 

“I have heard that some import orders have been placed for India’s sanam chilies which may arrive from our border with Iran and Afghanistan due to the strained ties between the two South Asian neighbors.” 

He added he was optimistic that Pakistan would be able to regain its place in the international market when the difficult phase was over. 

“Our chilies have a distinct taste and no one can forget them so quickly,” he said. 


Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

Updated 07 March 2021

Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

  • Senate approved Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 on Feb. 1
  • The bill makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the federal capital

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 90 percent of Pakistanis are in favor of a senate bill that makes Arabic classes compulsory at school, a recent survey shows.

Pakistan’s upper house of parliament last month approved the Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 which makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the capital, Islamabad.

“Eighty-nine percent Pakistanis said that they are in favor of the approval of a Senate bill that calls for Arabic to be a mandatory part of the syllabus in educational institutions,” Gallup & Gilani Pakistan said in the study released on Friday.

The study was carried out on a sample of 1,503 men and women in urban and rural areas of 100 districts of all four provinces of Pakistan between Feb. 6 and Feb. 27.

To become law, the senate bill on Arabic teaching now requires approval by the National Assembly.

The lawmaker who presented the bill, opposition senator Javed Abbasi, argued that a command of Arabic, the official language of over 25 countries, would open up more job opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East, leading to lower unemployment and increased remittances.


Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

Updated 07 March 2021

Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

  • Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan earlier this week met Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials in Colombo
  • Pakistan last month offered a $50 million credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has offered support to and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the Sri Lankan military, PAF said on Saturday.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan arrived in Colombo on Thursday, where he met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials.

As Marshal Khan lauded the efforts of Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their fight against terrorism during a meeting with Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, he offered Pakistan's support and cooperation, PAF said in a statement.


In this photo released by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on March 6, 2021, Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan meets Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in Colombo. (Photo courtesy: PAF)

"The leaders agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation especially in training and professional enhancement programs," PAF said, adding that Gen. Gunaratne welcomed the Pakistani air chief's visit as "manifestation of the strong bond between the Armed Forces of both the countries, especially the two Air Forces."

The Pakistani air chief's visit follows Prime Minister Imran Khan's official visit in late February, during which Pakistan offered a $50 million new credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 07 March 2021

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • Accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province
  • Eight cars of the 18-car train from Karachi to Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch

MULTAN: Eight cars of a Lahore-bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.

The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.

Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.

Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.

Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.


Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

Updated 07 March 2021

Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

  • The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold for many years until authorities launched military operations in the area
  • The militants killed in the recent attacks were involved in terrorist activities against security forces and locals since 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces conducted two separate intelligence-based operations in North Waziristan district, said the military’s media wing, ISPR, in an official statement on Saturday, adding that eight militants were killed in the ensuing battles. 

The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold until Pakistani authorities launched clear-and-hold military operations to destroy the hideouts and communication centers of various proscribed groups. 

The recent operations in the territory were launched against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in which three senior commanders of the outfit were also killed, the ISPR statement informed. 

It added that these people were “involved in terrorist activities against security forces, law enforcement agencies and locals of the area since 2009.” 

The militants used improvised explosive devices and indulged in target killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. 

The statement continued that the TTP members were also involved in recruiting young and impressionable minds, adding that security personnel recovered huge caches of arms from their hideouts. 


PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

Updated 06 March 2021

PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

  • The prime minister expresses his faith in Shaikh's professional abilities while praising him for shoring up the national economy
  • Shaikh can work in his current capacity until June, though the government may try again to get him elected to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his close aide Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to continue working as finance minister after Shaikh lost a general seat from the federal capital to a joint opposition candidate in the recent Senate elections, local media reported on Saturday.
In a one-on-one meeting after securing the vote of confidence from parliament earlier in the day, Khan said he had complete faith in Shaikh's professional abilities and applauded him for shoring up the ailing national economy.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration relied heavily on its finance minister to bring down the current account deficit and keep the financial system on track during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Islamabad High Court ruled in a case in December that no special assistant or advisor to prime minister could chair or participate in cabinet committee meetings, Khan exercised his constitutional authority to elevate Shaikh as a federal minister for a period of six months.
According to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the finance minister cannot be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implies he may only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.
According to The Express Tribune, however, the government is likely to make one more effort to get him elected to the upper house of parliament by de-seating an opposition member, Ishaq Dar, who was elected to the Senate from Punjab in 2018 but did not take oath to the office.