Afghanistan’s exports to Pakistan mark historic rise
Pakistan says its exports to Afghanistan have fallen and imports have risen sharply in the current financial year, resulting in a bilateral trade balance in favor of the war-torn neighbor for the first time.
Pakistan has stepped up bilateral cooperation and announced trade-related concessions for the landlocked country to help it overcome deteriorating humanitarian and economic crises after the Taliban returned to power last August.
In the 11 months of the current fiscal year, Pakistani exports to Afghanistan have fallen to around $700 million from more than $900 million last year, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture told VOA. Trade in Islamabad.
The change is mainly attributed to increased purchases of Afghan coal and “very good quality” cotton by Pakistan in recent months.
The spokesman noted that imports from Afghanistan, meanwhile, rose to more than $700 million from $550 million last year.
The drop in Pakistani exports is attributed to US sanctions against the Taliban interim government, the lack of banking channels and the non-availability of dollars in Afghanistan, as well as a drop in demand for some Pakistani products.
The Ministry of Commerce spokesperson, however, told VOA that Pakistani exports to Central Asian countries via Afghanistan increased by 70% to $202 million in the past 11 months from $118 million. dollars at the same time last year.
There are five fully operational border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In recent years, Pakistan has fenced off its traditionally porous nearly 2,600 kilometer Afghan border and tightened immigration controls to deter terrorist infiltration in both directions.
Afghans say the massive fence project has undermined livelihood opportunities for divided tribes straddling the largely mountainous border.
A senior Pakistani foreign ministry official said despite the tightened measures, “about 30,000 people, including Afghan refugees, are crossing the border every day.”
“We allowed Afghan importers to buy our products in Pakistani currency and gave them freedom to export any item to Pakistan to facilitate bilateral trade,” said the official, who handles issues directly. bilateral Afghans.
He noted that the Pakistani government has identified 44 places on the border where it plans to establish new crossing points to further facilitate trade activities as well as the movement of visitors.
“We intend to open several of the proposed doors every two or three months. We have discussed this with the Afghan (Taliban) leadership and told them to take care of these positions, so that they know who is coming in and going out,” the Pakistani official said.
The Taliban have acknowledged that they are also stepping up their coal exports to Pakistan and have raised tariffs on sales in a bid to generate more revenue from the Afghan mining sector in the absence of direct foreign funding.
Financial funding for Afghanistan has dried up because no country has yet recognized the Islamist group as the legitimate ruler of the country.
The Taliban now rely on the country’s natural resources, including largely untapped mineral and fossil fuel deposits, to meet the economic challenges facing their new government.
On Saturday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum earned nearly $5 million, including about $1.9 million from crude oil sales, during the past week (May 26-June 1).
Last week, the Afghan ministry said it had collected $44 million in customs revenue from coal exports over the past six months.
Cash-strapped Pakistan has increased coal imports from Afghanistan following rising world prices in a bid to reduce Islamabad’s dependence on expensive supplies from South Africa.
The rise in coal prices is linked to an unexpected ban by Indonesia’s main exporter earlier this year, followed by Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
South Africa currently supplies almost three-quarters of Pakistan’s coal needs for the country’s cement and textile industries, as well as for some power stations.
Afghan and Pakistani business representatives are due to meet in Islamabad next week to deliberate on developing “barter mechanism recommendations” for the two governments in a bid to boost bilateral trade.