Exports to Afghanistan hit all-time low

Cement among most affected goods with 70pc share in trade


Abu Zar Afridi September 05, 2021
Torkham Gate Pakistan. PHOTO: RP

LANDIKOTAL:

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pakistani exports to the war-torn country have dropped dramatically via Torkham Border due to the uncertainty. This has hit hard the local traders’ community in Peshawar who acts as middlemen between the Kabul business community and Punjab traders.

Talking to The Express Tribune Customs Deputy Commissioner in Khyber tribal district Umair Zahid said that the largest export item was cement which was in great demand before August 15 in Afghanistan.

“Before the start of US withdrawal, there used to be 350 trucks crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan. After the withdrawal, it reduced to 150 vehicles and after the Taliban takeover of the Afghan capital, it further dropped to just 120 trucks per day,” he said, adding that there was uncertainty surrounding the Taliban rule which brought the economic activities to a standstill.

Read Pak-Afghan trade picks up as Taliban seize control

“The previous Afghan government imposed higher taxes on Pakistani goods but the main cause of the decline in the exports is the collapse of the banking system in the war-torn country,” he added, saying that with the US withdrawal in April the Pakistani exports of goods via Torkhan reduced by 50 per cent.

“Around 70 per cent exports are of cement because the construction industry is a large one in Afghanistan which was brought to a standstill by the Taliban take over. This is what traders are telling us. Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks,” he said.

Traders said that majority of the share in exports was of Punjab province but local traders and middle men were also benefiting from it in Peshawar.

“The transporters and truck owners are majority Pakhtuns while the middlemen are also from Peshawar. Local traders are involved in exports too but on small scale like jaggary is exported from Peshawar which is in great demand in Afghanistan and tribal belt,” they said.

A local customs clearance agent and trader Mujib Shiwari said that the competition Pakistani traders faced in Afghanistan from Iran and India had almost disappeared and this was a golden opportunity but the new regime in Kabul should reduce taxes on Pakistani goods and ensure security for Pakistani vehicles.

“Security is a major concern and the new government could facilitate Pakistani traders in this regard but another problem was the banking system in Afghanistan which is non-functional after the fall of Kabul and transaction are not possible for traders via banks,” he informed, saying that in the past there were heavy taxes on Pakistani goods in Afghanistan and officials were also corrupt.

Most other traders are worried that the lack of US funding for the new government would push the country’s economy into recession and the purchase powers of the local would drop dramatically as in the past two decades Afghan traders demanded the best food items and other goods which will no more be the case due to declining economy.

“Still we have to supply them with flour, rice and vegetables as well as ghee and oil and Afghanistan is a promising market to a great degree,” they said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2021.

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