Container shortage puts rice exports at risk | The Express Tribune


KARACHI:

Rice traders – the second largest export earners for Pakistan – have pointed out that export of the commodity is at stake due to non-availability of containers for shipments.

They highlighted that shipping companies were sending empty containers back to expensive foreign destinations to secure a higher return.

“Pakistan’s containerised imports are more than double compared to its exports,” said Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) Senior Vice Chairman Muhammad Anwar Mianoor while talking to The Express Tribune. “However, we are facing immense hardships in finding containers for exports.”

He added that rice exporters were not the only traders encountering such a challenge as exporters belonging to all sectors of the economy were in trouble.

“Non-availability of containers is causing huge financial losses to the export sectors.”

He pointed out that container shortage worsened when many countries imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections.

Countries around the world, including India, have resolved the problem through policymaking, however, the government of Pakistan has yet to discuss the issue to save export earnings.

“The government should impose duty on sending empty containers,” Mianoor suggested in a letter written to Federal Secretary for Commerce Muhammad Sualeh Ahmad Faruqui on Tuesday in the backdrop of an online meeting held on the issue a day earlier.

He said that India overcame the problem in September 2021 and saved its exporters.

“Pakistan government should allow the shipment of empty containers after six months,” he said, elaborating that the neighbouring country had made empty consignments available after at least nine months.

Pakistani traders exported rice worth $2.04 billion in the previous fiscal year ended June 30, 2021.

Rice exports increased 13% to $826.22 million in the first five months (July-November) of current fiscal year 2021-22 compared to $730.7 million in the same period of last year, according to the latest data available on the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) website.

“We are being charged 20-30% higher freight cost for rice exports by the shipping lines and despite this, our export orders are being delayed,” he said. “This is because cargo firms issue and cancel CROs (container release orders) on their own will.”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2022.

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