This leads to 5.5% widening of trade gap that stands at $16.9 billion. PHOTO: REUTERS

Experts discuss trade, food safety amid Covid-19

Stress coordination between authorities to avert delay in exports

Our Correspondent November 13, 2020

Experts have stressed the need for taking practical measures to ensure trade and food safety amid Covid-19 so that the pandemic could not impact the life of common man.

At a workshop titled “Safe Trade and Food Safety amid Covid-19”, they discussed how improved federal and provincial coordination in food safety could enhance the preference of Pakistan’s food products abroad.

“Coordination is required between product standard authorities and the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to avert delay due to approvals and permits that harm timelines of Pakistan’s trade consignments,” they emphasised.

They called on the government to conduct a regulatory impact assessment to investigate how the cost, which hurt competitiveness of exporters, could be reduced.

In that regard, the authorities concerned may also look towards the progressive practices adopted by peer economies in the Asia-Pacific region, they said.

Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development (PITAD) Director-General Raheela Tajwar said following the first wave of Covid-19, appropriate biosecurity arrangements in trade had become imperative and good hygiene practices needed to be evolved in the field of logistics.

Trade sector expert Dr Ali Abbas Qazilbash said that Covid-19 triggered an increase in non-tariff barriers, which impacted the global supply chain in agriculture. According to him, the world needs to achieve food safety compliance.

“Freight forwarders and transporters need to implement controls and human contact needs to be minimised by ensuring electronic certification,” he emphasised.

The trade expert pointed out that many organisations were dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and called for a single authority to be given the mandate for an SPS agreement.

SDPI Joint Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed said that after the first wave of the pandemic, many countries began paying due attention to hygienic and safe transportation, port handling, storage and warehousing of cargo.

In that connection, he pointed out, new consignment handling procedures were being discussed in different countries and the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation were also considering those procedures.

“Safety of people involved in the supply chain and logistics has received attention in the recently emerging literature,” Ahmed said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2020.

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