Leading exporters of India, displaying their products at the first-ever Indian trade exhibition in Pakistan, have expressed great interest in selected markets such as petroleum products, tea, spices and fast moving consumer goods.
The exhibitors at the three-day India Show at the Expo Centre Lahore, which ended on Monday, were excited over the overwhelming response to their products from the traders and general visitors. Most of the Indian traders are visiting Lahore for the first time.
Talking to The Express Tribune, leading Indian exporters underscored the importance of streamlining bilateral trade as indirect trade in many valuable products was not only causing huge losses to the exchequer but was also making the products costlier for consumers.
Most of the Indian products come to Pakistan via third countries like Dubai, Thailand, Iran and Afghanistan, costing an additional 30 per cent in freight.
Representatives of the Indian petroleum industry said they were offering products of European Union standards at competitive rates with shipments through the land route.
Indian Petroleum Federation’s representative Yogendra Sahai said Delhi could meet energy demands of Pakistan if bilateral trade normalised in the wake of continuous negotiations between the two governments. “India can supply diesel, furnace oil, lubricants and coal tar through the Wagha land route,” he said.
Surprised by the encouraging response, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Senior General Manager A Surinder boasted that good standards and quality drove the demand for Indian goods. “Most of the Indian states are using the fuel that is compliant with Euro-III standards. Recently, 13 cities have started consuming Euro-IV standard fuel which ensures low emission levels,” he said, adding Pakistan could also import these high-standard petroleum products.
S Aziz, who represented the Tea Board of India, claimed that they could meet 100 per cent tea demand of Pakistan. Africa was facing drought and the Sri Lankan tea industry was under pressure due to high wages, so India would be the only source to import tea into Pakistan, he said.
A delegation of the Pakistan Tea Association is expected to visit India in April to discuss trade-related issues. “High import duties and taxes at around 35 per cent is the biggest barrier for the Indian tea exporters,” Aziz said.
He suggested that the Wagha-Attari border was the ideal route for tea export to Pakistan which would save time, adding the land route took 15 to 20 days for transportation while shipments through sea took 40 to 45 days.
Indian gems and jewellery exporters were also present in large numbers at the show under the banner of India Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Over 17 stalls were decorated with Indian jewellery, which attracted visitors, especially women.
Council’s representative Tom Jose estimated that Indian traders exported jewellery worth around $5 billion in 2010-11. He said Pakistan was also importing Indian jewellery via Dubai and Thailand, but it was not working for the benefit of India or Pakistan in terms of direct trade.
He saw vast potential of bilateral trade as Pakistan was rich in precious and semi-precious stones while India had state-of-the-art technology and expertise in value addition.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2012.