Betel containers stuck at ports to be re-exported to India

KARACHI: As scores of betel nut consignments are stuck at ports due to the recent regulatory amendments, the importers have filed Goods Declarations (GDs) for re-export of these consignments to India.

An importer said, Pakistani importers would suffer heavy losses as the deals made with Indian buyers were at rates much lower than their purchase price. Moreover, these importers would also have to pay heavy demurrages to the terminal operators.

An importer said this would also drain foreign exchange as the terminals were mostly owned by foreign companies and they repatriated in dollars.

Around 200 containers of betel nuts are stuck at ports as Ministry of Commerce issued a statutory order that a certification that the goods were afla-toxin free was required for clearance.

Sources said that only smuggled betel nut would be available in the market, which was of much inferior quality than that which was legally imported and now being re-exported.

To recall, in 2003 betel nuts clearance was stopped due to the fear of fungus and 1800 containers were stuck and subsequently re-exported to India. Those consignments were bought at $1000/container and were sold to Indian buyers for $350/container. Importers also had to pay heavy demurrages to terminal operators and this money was repatriated abroad in dollars as foreign companies own the terminals. Importers said this time also they would be suffering similar ratio of losses.

Afterwards, heavy taxation was imposed on betel nut import and the doors were opened for the smuggling of the commodity. In 2004, FBR formulated a policy that a certificate from the authorities of exporting country that betel nut was without any fungus or parasites would be required for import clearance.

FBR had nominated three companies including M/s Bureau Vital, M/s SGS and M/s Lloyd for inspecting and certifying the consignments coming to Pakistan as fungus free.

An official said apart from the above mentioned 200 containers a number of containers were lying at the ports, which had to be cleared through green channel through mis-declaration i.e. the smuggling. However, in view of recent events as containers cleared as being scrap were found to be betel nuts, Collectors of appraisement south region have tightened vigilance and examination of consignments coming from Jebel Ali in particular.

Official said several containers were lying at ports for which GDs had not been filed and the same would also be re-exported as frustrated cargo.

It may be mentioned here betel nut generated heavy revenue for the government as heavy taxes and duties had gradually been imposed on its import.

Importers are of the view that the decision of blocking betel nut import just before the elections was questionable as the import had been replaced by the smuggling of these goods. importers said elements in the government had collaborated with smugglers to make arrangements for their elections expenditures.

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