SIALKOT-As many as 2,200 out of a total of 3,600 surgical manufacturing and forging units have been closed for the last six months due to unending loadshedding of electricity and gas.

Thus, the persisting energy crisis is the main reason behind the decline in the exports of Sialkot-based surgical items thus the century-old industry is facing a hard time and needs immediate investment and the government patronage.

The surgical instruments exporters said that there are more than 3,600 surgical instruments units, out of which more than 2,200 units scattered in and around the Sialkot city are badly affected by the loadshedding of power and gas due to which the new investment in Sialkot’s surgical industry has stopped.

The unavoidable circumstances had beaten them badly and as a result they are forced to close these units to avert for financial crisis, the owners said. The affected small manufacturers said that the lack of government patronage was also another main cause behind the closure of these manufacturing and forging units in and around the Sialkot city. There was also a visible decline in exports of surgical instruments in Sialkot from US$ 369 million to US$ 358 million, they disclosed.

Perturbed exporters Fazal Jillani, Jalil Bajwa, Sheikh Waqar, Bilal Ameen, Qaiser Baig and Ch Ikram were of the view that the surgical industry and its manufacturers, venders and exporters were in dire need of government patronage on the pattern of India and China to prop up the sector. They urged the Pakistan government to ensure the maximum trade, export and research and development patronage for the surgical industry. They said that surgical industry was more than a century old and also in dire need of advanced manufacturing technology and new international trade markets through the diversification of their traditional t nontraditional export products.

They also urged the surgical exporters to end their internal price war and focus on diversification of their traditional to non-traditional export products in a bid tap the international markets.

Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan (SIMAP) Chairman Jehangir Bajwa said that the industry was in dire need of the skilled work force as fresh blood.

He narrated that the government still remains unable to honour its commitments regarding establishment of the international standard training schools for the industry and regarding the provision of its prolonged promised soft-term business loans for the manufacturers, vendors and exporters.

They said that the surgical industry was still being ignored and neglected by the government and still had been waiting for the government support and patronage for more than a century.

SIMAP Chairman Jehangir Bajwa said that the government support and patronage could help increase the surgical instruments’ exports from Sialkot to US$500 million annually. They said that the surgical exporters from China and India were rapidly capturing and tapping the international markets by producing the best quality and low-price surgical instruments than Pakistan by enjoying the trade and export related incentives by their governments.

Giving a wake-up call to the government, Jehangir pointed that it has also become very hard for the Pakistan-based exporters to survive and compete in the international trade markets against China and India. Pakistan was losing the international surgical markets to China and India because of lacking government support and patronage, they added.

The surgical exporters demanded early establishment of China-like surgical training schools in Pakistan for producing skilled labour and work force for the industry. They added that the government had established a laboratory at Sialkot for testing the quality of surgical instruments’ materials in 2011. They said now six years have passed but the government has not yet released the funds for the laboratory due to which the surgical exporters were also facing great difficulties in getting their instruments tested.

They urged the government to come forward to play its pivotal role in putting more than a century old surgical industry on modern lines by ensuring early provision of advanced manufacturing technology. They said that the early establishment of surgical training schools at Sialkot by the government would also help produce skilled labour for the industry.