ISLAMABAD: The Government of Pakistan has met all the requirements specified by Mexico and awaits its inspectors for quality check in order to resume rice export.
Pakistan expects $350 million worth of export annually to Mexico once it unbans rice import, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce told WealthPK.
The spokesman said that the Mexican inspectors were unable to visit Pakistan due to the Covid-19 related restrictions. However, he added that fresh invitations will be sent to the Mexican authorities – through the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of the Ministry of Food Security and Research – to visit Pakistan for resolving the rice export issues.
Mexico had banned rice import from various countries, including Pakistan, in 1995 under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measure of the WTO agreement.
The purported reason for the ban was the presence of khapra beetle (trogoderma granarium) in rice shipment, the Ministry of Commerce stated in a report recently submitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, the ban was relaxed and the import was placed under the partial quarantine in 2010. Accordingly, rice import was allowed subject to fulfilment of the prescribed SPS measures.
The consignments failing to meet the set criterion were liable to return from the Mexico port, said the ministry in its document. However, rice import was again banned in 2013 due to the detection of khapra beetle in some shipments. Technical experts from Mexico visited Pakistan in December 2014. However, the ban stayed.
A mechanism was proposed to solve the problem when the then Deputy Chairman of Senate Saleem Mandviwalla visited Mexico in 2019. It was agreed that the DPP of the Ministry of Food Security and Research would invite technical experts of the National Health Services, Food Safety and Quality (SENASICA) and International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (OIRSA) for assessing the effectiveness of the fumigation process at the rice facilities.
The DPP sent an invitation in January 2020 but the Mexican experts could not visit Pakistan due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pakistan has reiterated its request in the virtual meetings for lifting the ban on rice export, the report maintained. However, Mexican authorities maintained that the ban on rice import could not be removed unless the phytosanitary conditions of the product in origin were supervised and inspected, WealthPK reported.
On the demand of SENASICA, the relevant department in Pakistan submitted a report in July last year on the current situation of pest and rice export facilities in the country. A virtual meeting was held between the relevant authorities of both sides in August last year.
The Mexican authorities were of the view that Pakistan needed to further improve its rice storage facilities and procedure and asked for more information, the document said.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood told the Senate standing committee in its recent meeting that Pakistan’s Trade and Investment Officer in Mexico had held a meeting with Director General of SENASICA.
“The Mexican side proposed that Pakistan may extend a new joint invitation to SENASICA and ORISA for a visit of experts’ delegation to Pakistan”, the advisor said.
Dawood said that the Ministry of Commerce had forwarded the matter to the Ministry of Food Security and Research and the Department of Plant Protection to make efforts for swift resolution of this problem. He said Mexico could be a huge market for Pakistani rice exporters if the ban ends. – INP