Amid high tension, Pakistani traders want to buy Indian wheat

January 14th, 2009 - 11:04 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Jan 14 (IANS) Amid heightened tension between the two countries, Pakistani traders have begun contacting their Indian counterparts for purchasing wheat to meet crippling shortages in this country.The state-run Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has floated two bids to import 350,000 metric tonnes of wheat to meet the shortfall, according to information available on its website.

The TCP had set a Jan 10 deadline for submitting bids for purchase of 250,000 tonnes and Jan 31 for a second deal of 150,000 tonnes.

The government had set a production target of 25 million tonnes for the 2009 wheat crop but experts in the agriculture ministry say this is a target difficult to meet. Pakistan requires almost 23 million tonnes of wheat - including its supplies to neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan.

However, experts say that wheat production this year will be not more than 21 million tonnes, pushing Pakistan to purchase two million tonnes from the international market.

“We have received good response from our Indian counterparts who are interested in exporting wheat to Pakistan,” Ahmed Sethi, a leading trader based in Islamabad, told IANS. He said that initially the government would only buy 350,000 tonnes but would be requiring more at a later stage.

In Pakistan, the official rate for 100 kg of wheat is Rs.2,400 rupees ($31) whereas the international market rates are much lower. Heavy subsidies means that wheat flour is provided at Rs.16 per kilogram through government-owned stores.

Another trader, Ismail Khan, said that several Indian traders have shown interest in supplying wheat to Pakistan. “But we are reluctant as any increase in tension may spoil our deals,” Khan told IANS.

He said that they have contacted TCP officials and have been assured that the government “will have no objection if the Indian wheat is purchased according to the quality laid down in the tender documents”.

He said that during “bad days”, traders would import commodities and other goods from India through third parties and that “used to be transported to Pakistan via Dubai and other international ports”.

He wished both countries would soon normalise their relations as tremendous trade opportunities exist for both Pakistani and Indian traders.

Sub-continental relations have hit a new low with India blaming elements from Pakistan for the Nov 26-29 Mumbai attacks that claimed the lives of more than 170 people, including 26 foreigners, and injured more than 300.

India has submitted a dossier that it says contains evidence of the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group in the Mumbai. Pakistan has termed this mere “information”.

The fresh tension has also halted the peace process between the two countries.

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