Government bans import of Iranian vegetables

LAHORE: The federal government’s Department of Plant Protection (DPP)’s quarantine unit, which is responsible to keep a check on import and export of edible goods, has banned the import of potatoes and tomatoes from Iran due to which there is a fear of price hike and shortage of the two staple vegetables across the country.

Per sources, a ban was imposed on the import of tomatoes and potatoes coming to Pakistan through the Taftan border of Iran, which has led to a nationwide shortage of these items. The shortage can turn more serious in the next few weeks.

Food factories manufacturing potato chips in Pakistan import a large quantity of Agria, a special type of potato from Iran, but due to the ban, these companies have started buying local potatoes in bulks to stock them in the factories. Owing to that, the demand and price system has come under severe pressure and there is a risk of a sharp rise in the price of potatoes in the coming days as well as a decrease in its availability.

On the other hand, tomatoes under cultivation in Sindh have been lost to heavy rains last week and now the new batch will be harvested in December. What is more, the limited tomato crops cultivated in Balochistan will be consumed by October. Tomatoes from Iran meets the needs of the whole country but after the ban, there is a possibility that prices may increase up to Rs200 per kilogramme.

In the light of the upcoming shortage, officials of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Traders Association met the secretary agriculture on Wednesday, September 9, and apprised him of the situation, after which the Punjab Agriculture Department sent an emergency letter to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and demanded it to review the ban on import of potatoes and tomatoes from Iran.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Agriculture Department’s Special Secretary Punjab Waqar Hussain said that the quarantine unit of the DPP has imposed a sudden ban which may lead to a crisis in the availability of potatoes and tomatoes.

“We have requested the federation to lift the ban. At the same time, we are taking steps to increase the supply of tomatoes by contacting the Balochistan government,” he said. “We will also contact the federal authorities on this issue.”

When contacted, Anjuman e Arthian Association’s General Secretary Haji Ramzan said that the suspension of import could lead to a critical food shortage in the country.

“The quarantine department has imposed an unwarranted and sudden ban and allegations have surfaced that some quarantine officials stationed at the Taftan border had made some “demands” from importers,” Ramzan said. “Most of the importers rejected the undue demands of the quarantine officials due to which a ban was placed.” He added that if the ban is not lifted, potato and tomato prices could rise by 100% to 150%.

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