KARACHI: Pakistani exporters of potato are facing a loss of millions of dollars as Russia has stopped clearance of consignments after complaining that the potatoes from Pakistan are infected with a disease.
According to potato exporters, the situation demands immediate steps on part of the federal ministries of commerce and national food security and research.
The exporters say the quarantine department of Russia has raised questions over the efficiency of Pakistan’s quarantine department and has threatened to slap a ban on potato imports.
However, the exporters insist that the potatoes are healthy and are not infected with any disease, blaming the Russians for indulging in a propaganda campaign to protect their agriculture sector. They term the allegations a ‘non-tariff barrier’.
The exporters claim that a government laboratory, after conducting tests, has cleared potato of any disease.
A leading exporter told The Express Tribune that Russia permitted extensive imports of potato three years ago when its crop and fields were badly damaged by cold weather. Moscow then tried to introduce the condition of ‘minimum required liquid’ to restrict imports, but still it cleared Pakistani potato to meet its pressing needs.
Last year, a record 100,000 tons of potato was exported to Russia. So far this year, 50,000 tons have already been shipped.
Russia is also importing potato from the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, France and Egypt, leading to fierce competition.
The cost of imports has also gone high for Russian traders following a fall in the value of the ruble. Imports from Pakistan cost around $445 per ton.
Exporters have suggested that the government invite Russian quarantine experts to visit Pakistani farms, factories and warehouses to check potato quality themselves.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.