Iranian tomatoes make way into Pakistani market

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By Muhammad Luqman

Traders in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore have started importing tomatoes from Iran via Afghanistan to meet the ever-increasing requirement  of this  important kitchen item after the gap between supply and demand of the commodity widened due to poor harvest  in Southern province of Sindh.

“Tomatoes are  presently being imported via Pakistan-Afghanistan border of  Torkham as government has not allowed direct  import of the commodity through Pak-Iran Taftan trade crossing,” said  Saddam Athar Khan, Information Secretary of  Lahore Fruit and vegetables importers association.

Due to indirect import , the importers of the commodity have to pay Rs one million transport charges for a truck , carrying 40 tonnes of the vegetable, claimed Saddam Khan.

Three trucks loaded with tomatoes from Iran have arrived in Lahore over the last two days, he said , adding that the imported commodity is being sold in retail at a price ranging between Rs 250 and Rs 300 per kilogram.

Pakistan used to import tomatoes and potatoes from neighbouring India  in the past but due to estranged ties between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations , it was not possible this year.

The prices of the much sought for kitchen item have recently skyrocketed between Rs 180 per kg to Rs 300 per kg in several parts of the country including Lahore and Karachi.. The local production from north-western district  of  Swat is too little to meet the ever-increasing demand.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the average
maximum national price of tomatoes was Rs 180 per kg, while it was selling as
high as Rs 300 per kg in several parts of the country.

Pakistan’s National Food Security  Ministry  has started contemplating to allow the direct  import of tomatoes from iran through Taftan border.

“We are considering 
to allow import of tomatoes from Iran,”, Muhammad Hashim Popalzai,
Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security was quoted as saying  by English newspaper, Daily Dawn.

It is believed   that the imports from Iran will help
compensate till the time new crop of tomatoes and onions will reach the market
in the next few weeks from Sindh.

“ This is a matter of just two weeks or  a month . The tomato crop will start arriving
from Sindh by first week of December,” Khalid Iqbal, a veggy dealer of Lahore’s  Badami Bagh market said.

In a show of ignorance, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Finance
Adviser Abdul Hafeez Sheikh recently  told a group of reporter in the capital
Islamabad that tomatoes were being sold as low as Rs 17 per kg in Karachi’s
vegetable markets, TV Channels  reported..

“In Karachi, in the sabzi mandi (produce market),
tomatoes are being sold for Rs 17 per kg,” he was quoted as saying.

When some of the reporters present at the scene told him
that tomatoes were, in fact, being sold at Rs 240 per kg, he refuted their
comment, saying people were lying.

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