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Afghanistan's Fresh Dry Fruits Return from Torkham border after Pakistan Hikes Duty

According to a local importer, the import duty on one-ton grapes has increased from Rs 14,000 to Rs 56,811 and on apples from Rs 56,000 to Rs 114,959 as a result of the move.

Shivam Dwivedi
Dry Fruits
Dry Fruits

Following the imposition of additional regulatory duties on imported foodstuffs by Pakistan, hundreds of trucks and containers carrying fresh and dry fruits have begun returning to Kabul from the Torkham border. Importers feared that if the regulatory duty was not removed or reduced, those items would disappear from local markets. Importers at the Torkham border told Dawn that the arrival of fresh and dry fruits from Afghanistan had dropped by nearly 70% since a 49% regulatory duty was imposed on them.

They also claimed that additional taxes had raised the prices of Afghan grapes and apples in the domestic market. According to Shah Jahan, a local importer, the import duty on one-ton grapes has increased from Rs 14,000 to Rs 56,811 and on apples from Rs 56,000 to Rs 114,959 as a result of the move.

He stated that prior to the imposition of the regulatory duty, over 200 trucks and containers of fresh fruits and dry fruits would arrive in Pakistan via the Torkham border daily, but that number has since dropped to less than 50, with most truckers preferring to return to Kabul to prevent fresh fruits from decaying and to avoid a sudden increase in customs-related taxes. According to fruit importer Shah Jahan, if Afghanistan responds by imposing additional duties on Pakistani fruits, Pakistan will eventually lose its largest market for fresh fruits.

The export of kinno, oranges, and guava will begin in early November, and we fear that if the regulatory duty on the import of Afghan fruits is not removed by then, we will face a similar response from Afghanistan, resulting in huge financial losses and possibly the loss of the Afghan market for our winter season fruits," he lamented. Zahidullah Shinwari, a former president of Sarhad Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the 'unilateral' imposition of regulatory duty on dry and fresh fruits was very surprising in the current situation, when the country was facing food shortages due to devastating floods, according to Dawn.

"After the recent floods destroyed large swaths of our agricultural lands, Afghanistan was the first country to start sending us duty-free onion and tomatoes, while we slapped them with additional duties," he said, according to a leading Pakistani publication. Shinwari stated that it was time to reduce customs duties on food imported from Afghanistan to the lowest possible level, both as a goodwill gesture and due to increased domestic demand for all types of edibles following flooding.

He also expressed concern that if the regulatory duty was not removed immediately, Afghanistan would impose additional and inflated duties on a number of Pakistani export items, particularly fresh fruits, in the coming winter, according to Dawn. Haji Jabir, a Khyber Chamber of Commerce official, contended that the imposition of regulatory duty went against repeated official promises to increase the country's trade with Afghanistan.

He insisted that the local business community had always advocated for greater ease in the country's trade with Afghanistan in particular, and with other neighbours in general, in order to increase exports and revenue."Our country urgently requires a resolution to its current financial problems." "A favourable environment is required to increase exports," he explained.

According to Dawn, Jabir stated that a delegation of local traders would soon visit Islamabad to express their concerns to the relevant authorities about the abrupt and unilateral imposition of the regulatory duty, which they believed was largely anti-trader. He stated that any delay in the removal of the new regulatory duty would result in huge losses for local importers but a significant decrease in exports to Afghanistan. Such 'ill-conceived' trade policies, according to the chamber leader, would only benefit Afghanistan's neighbours, who would seize any opportunity to capture the Afghan market.

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