With tension escalating between the two countries along the LoC, Pakistan has suspended the import of cotton and other agriculture commodities, including vegetables from India, a media report stated.
As per officials of Department of Plant Protection (DPP), import of agricultural items from India through the Wagah border crossing and Karachi port and issuing permits for future imports has been halted, the Dawn reported.
Cotton importers and customs clearing agents claimed that the department had stopped the import of agriculture commodities from India without a warning or written order because of increase in tensions across the LoC.
Imran Shami, chief of DPP which is a subordinate department of the national food security and research ministry, however sought to dispel the impression.
"We have stopped import of tomatoes and other fresh vegetables in order to protect our farmers. We have enough tomato and other vegetables stocks, which we import from India only in case of shortages in the domestic market," he said.
The reason behind the "suspension" of cotton imports from India was, nevertheless, different, he said.
"No. We have not stopped cotton imports from India. It has just been halted over reports that the Indian exporters are not meeting our bio-security conditions. We're looking into these reports and will lift restriction on cotton imports if our apprehensions are proved wrong," Shami said.
He said only those cotton consignments would be allowed to enter Pakistan through surface or sea routes where importers had already secured permits from his department and carried phyto-sanitary certificates.
"Our cotton consignments are not being allowed to enter Pakistan through Wagah and Karachi for reasons known to the ministry but cheaper, subsidised Indian yarn is being brought in without any let or hindrance. At least 11 trucks of Indian yarn entered Pakistan on Thursday when the department stopped cotton consignments from coming to this side of the border," a textile factory owner told Dawn.
He said the suspension of cotton import from India would create a huge problem for the textile exporters as the truncated domestic crop target of 11.25 million bales for this year appeared difficult if not impossible to meet.
"The industry requires 14 million bales. We will still be short by three million bales of cotton even if the crop target is achieved," he said.
He said cotton shortages after the ban on Indian imports would make domestic prices shoot up at the expense of exports.
Pakistan had imported 2.7 million bales of cotton (1 bale is 170 kgs) - about 40 per cent of India's total cotton exports in 2015-16 - due to crop failure that wiped off 0.5 per cent of GDP growth. The industry is expecting to import 2 million bales this year.
(With PTI inputs)