Iran, Pakistan barter trade deal yet to be finalised
ZULFIQAR AHMAD AND FAZAL SHER
October 24, 2012: The barter trade deal between Iran and Pakistan is yet to be finalised as Tehran has not yet to send agriculture experts to check wheat quality despite repeated requests. “The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) has invited Iranian experts after both countries signed a barter trade agreement, a key feature under which Iran agreed to import a million ton of wheat from Pakistan at $300 per ton,” a senior official of the ministry said.
The official said that Iran was “not serious in finalising the deal and is yet to inform Pakistan about the schedule of its experts’ visit to examine Pakistani wheat”. They reminded that Iran had earlier expressed unwillingness to accept Pakistani wheat containing karnal bunt or Tilletia Indica.
The official claimed that three letters had so far been sent to Iran’s Plant Protection Department, but they have not yet responded. He said that there was already considerable informal trade between the two countries, especially in cheap petroleum products, because of the shared land border. “The authorities on both sides privately condone it because it helps redress domestic imbalances in supply and demand,” he added.
The proposed barter trade arrangement was initially discussed in February this year when President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mehmoud Ahmadinejad held a meeting in Islamabad. Both the leaders resolved to raise bilateral trade between the two countries to $10 billion per annum.
Earlier, Iran expressed dissatisfaction over the quality of Pakistani wheat, saying it contained 0.3% karnal bunt (a fungal disease). Tehran was seeking fungus free wheat. During talks, Pakistan’s team insisted that 0.3% karnal bunt was not harmful to human health.
Iranians were told that the internationally acceptable threshold was even higher at 1%, while Pakistan’s wheat was in line with standards applied in the United States and Europe. Later, Iran softened its stance and reached an understanding about the import of wheat. A mechanism for transporting wheat to Iran was also discussed.
Another official said that the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on August 7 this year had decided to carefully examine the impact of sanctions against Iran before the sale of a million tons of wheat (the initial deal is for 100,000 tons) under the barter trade deal.
The ECC directed the then Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Yaseen Anwar to get feedback from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on possible impact of UN sanctions on Iran on the proposed barter trade between the two countries. Business Recorder made numerous calls to the Iranian Embassy to get their point of view, but received no response till the filing of this story.