LAHORE – Pakistan has reentered the Iranian market after a gap of more than six years, as the country’s rice exporters have booked new orders of around 30,000 tons of rice export during their visit to Tehran.

This was stated by Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan Chairman Ch Shafique while returning to home after a weeklong visit to Iran along with a 22-member delegation with a view to explore trade and investment opportunities and enhance rice export to Iran.

“We had very fruitful meetings with Iranian buyers and most of our members have booked their orders of export for May-June, 2016 but there is still a problem of Currency Swap arrangements with Iranian Banks. Iran is one of the biggest importer of Basmati Rice and our export share in Iranian market drastically down due to non-availability of Currency Channel.”

The delegation, led by REAP chairman Shafique Ch, visited Tehran as well as the city of Mashhad where they had meetings with Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines and Mashhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The deliberations were aimed at increasing bilateral trade and investment between the two friendly countries.

He said the REAP discussed the issues related to the resumption of rice exports, which nosedived after sanctions, from Pakistan, implementation of currency swap agreement and the condition of good manufacturing practices (GMP) certification with Iranian authorities.

These dialogues between the leading businessmen and industrialists were meant to inspire the Iranian importers as well as investors to explore the healthy business opportunities in Pakistan, and foster new profitable ventures.

The REAP members also invited the Iranians to visit Pakistan, where Association could arrange fruitful B2B meetings with progressive business groups, to seek fresh collaborative ventures.

The Pakistan exporters’ team also held meetings with Government Trading Corporation (GTC) of Iran, besides meeting with Health Ministry to raise the issue of GMP certification for Pakistani rice exporters, which presently has become a major hurdle in the way of rice export to Iran.

With a view to enhance liaison between the businessmen of two countries, the REAP members’ group held B2B meetings with Rice Importers Association of Iran. The REAP chairman also called on the Pakistan commercial counsel in Mashhad.

“I hope that the country would regain its share in the Iranian market, which can become the good destination for their basmati exports.”

Shafique Ch said that the restart of rice export to Iran remained ineffective, as no appropriate currency transfer arrangements have been made through State Bank of Pakistan so far. “Although rice exporters have managed to book orders of around 30,000 tons rice export but we don’t seem to take advantage of this opportunity yet, because lack of Pak-Iran proper banking channel and absence of research & development in the country, have become major hurdle.

He requested the government to approve new rice seed variety developed by the Kalashah Kaku Research Institute and National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering to enhance our yield. Though our Gulf rice market has squeezed yet we can compensate this loss by diverting our supply to Iran, he added.

“Keeping in view of the current situation we request the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and SBP to look into the matter and try to arrange Currency Channel for issuance of “E” Form from the Commercial Banks through Swift Bank in Euro or to open Irrevocable Letter of Credit in favour of the exporters.”