ISLAMABAD - Senate standing committee on commerce and textile on Wednesday recommended measures to stop import of those fruits and vegetables which are produced locally and directed PASCO to fix minimum price for the fruits and vegetables grown in Balouchistan province.

The meeting discussed impact of import policies on growers of most backward province. It was observed that the biggest province by area has been ignored and anti-farmer policies have been adopted.

It was apprised that when vegetables and fruits are ready for picking, borders of Afghanistan and Iran are opened for vested interest, due to which markets become full of imported stuff and local produce rots in fields. Last year, the committee was told, on recommendation of senate body, imports were banned which helped local farmers, but due to re-opening of border with neighboring countries the problem has re-surfaced again. It was told that Balouchistan produces 1.2 million tonnes of apple, while the total country demand is only one million ton.

Similarly, it produces 0.3 million tons grapes, 0.5 million tons onion, and 0.5 million tons dates, which can meet local demand easily but due to lack of any permanent import policy, low quality produce from neighbouring countries is imported in the country.  Senator Kabir Ahmed Shahi demanded to adopt measures to save local agriculture.

Chairman committee Senator Shibli Faraz observed that cold storage and silos should be built in the province to avoid vegetables and fruits wastage.

Officials said no import can come without permit, and smuggled crops may also transmit diseases to local crops. They said last year when imports were stopped, a high level Afghan delegation visited Pakistan and only Afghan produce was allowed to for import.

Members were informed that every year, tomatoes worth $25.6 million dollar are imported from Afghanistan and of $4 million from Iran.

As much as $13 million is spent on import of onions from Afghanistan and $1 million from Iran, while $25 million is spent on import of apple from Afghanistan and 8 million on import from Iran.

It was apprised that four laboratories have been outsourced in the country and every imported product is tested in these labs. It was further told that there is limited checking staff on Torkham and Taftan borders and Afghanistan is a major trade partner and one sided ban cannot be imposed.

Senator Nauman Wazir Khattack said that commercial importers should arrange dollars themselves instead of asking from State Bank. The committee directed PASCO to fix minimum prices of commodities and buy vegetables and fruits from farmers.