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Forex reserves fall by $134m to $7.8b

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KARACHI:

The foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank fell by 1.68% on a week-on-week basis, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Thursday.

On November 18, the foreign currency reserves held by the SBP were recorded at $7,825.7 million, down by $134 million compared with $7,959.5 million on November 11.

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According to the central bank, the decrease in reserves came due to external debt repayment.

Overall, the liquid foreign currency reserves held by the country, including the net reserves held by banks other than the SBP, stood at $13,645 million. Net reserves held by banks amounted to $5,819.3 million.

In the week ended August 27, 2021, the foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank soared to an all-time high of $20.15 billion after Pakistan received the general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) worth $2.751 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on August 24.

Later, during the week ended on September 2, 2022, the SBP received a loan tranche of $1.166 billion from the IMF under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2022.

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Kinnow exporters seek govt’s help

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KARACHI:

All stakeholders in kinnow production and exports have sought the government’s assistance in coping with the emerging challenges because of climate change and extreme weather events.

Kinnow exports are expected to begin in the first week of December while the export price has been set at Rs2,000 per maund, according to a notification of the district administration, because of lower output.

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“Consumers may have to pay more for kinnow this time around,” remarked Ahmad Jawad, CEO of Pakistan Businesses Forum.

In order to facilitate exporters, he stressed, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) should timely issue E-forms and make special arrangements for establishing banking channels, for shipments particularly to the Iranian and Russian markets.

Jawad lamented that the SBP could not open formal banking channels for the two critical markets over the last couple of years.

“Iranian market can absorb between 60,000 and 80,000 tons of kinnow, while the size of the Russian-Ukrainian-Belarus market (the largest citrus importing region in the world) for Pakistani citrus fruit may double from the current level of around 50,000 tons in no time,” he projected.

“This season, kinnow production has dropped by 50% due to acute canal water scarcity and unexpectedly high temperatures during the flowering stage of plants,” he pointed out.

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Disappointed with the erratic canal water supply, kinnow export target will be fixed at a lower level at around 250,000 tons this season. “Although water has been in surplus quantity this year, temperature is an issue, which has affected our horticultural products,” Mahmood Nawaz Shah, an agricultural expert, told The Express Tribune.

In the absence of official figures, the estimates of production loss may vary.

“It seems kinnow production will be lower by 36% this year due to the impact of heat at the flowering stage,” said Hamid Malik, a Punjab-based farmer.

“However, I strongly believe that kinnow exports may not feel the pinch. Reasons for this are the reduction in sea freight rates, more availability of containers and weakening of Pakistani rupee versus global currencies,” he added.

Bayer Crop Science Grower Marketing Lead Azeem Khan Niazi pointed out that fresh kinnows had a high share in exports at 17-20% and major export markets for Pakistan comprised Russia and Far Eastern states.

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According to Niazi, the Russian market prefers a smaller size fruit, whereas the ethnic Chinese buyers like the larger fruit with little or zero blemish. “This requirement has continued to pile on the pressure on fruit processors as they struggle to process a large quantity of the high-grade citrus.”

The decline in output and water shortage would have two consequences, Niazi said. First, it will make the availability of “A” grade produce even more difficult and will push up the cost of processing. Second, the fruit size and quality will also be impacted.

With average annual harvest of 2.4 million tons, the citrus fruit contributes about 30% to the total fruit production in Pakistan, which is increasing at an annual rate of 1.5% over the past two decades. During this period, annual exports of the citrus fruit have expanded by 17%.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2022.

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Deadlock persists in talks on sugar export

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ISLAMABAD:

Deadlock between the government and the sugar mills over permission for sugar export continued on Thursday, as the authorities concerned decided to go for a third-party audit of the available stock in the country much to the dismay of the mill owners.

The latest round of negotiation failed to make any headway on the export of sugar despite the Punjab government’s opinion that a large quantity of sugar was available. After the meeting, Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema that no decision could be reached on the export of sugar.

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“The government has not allowed the export. Today, the Punjab government took a 180-degree turn on its first stand. Earlier, it said that the stocks of sugar were low therefore the export should not be allowed, but now it is of the opinion that sugar is available in large quantities,” Cheema said.

Cheema said that the mills presented a formula to resolve the issue. However, Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar said that the deadlock continued as the sugar stock position was the main issue. Therefore, he added, a third-party audit of the stocks would be conducted.

Read Govt rejects sugar export demand

“It was decided in the meeting that the owners of sugar mills will submit the stock details. On December 2, sugar mill owners will submit the details. The decision about allowing the sugar export will be taken after the stocks position us verified by the third-party side,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of the sugar mills, Zaka Ashraf also confirmed that the government had not yet given them permission for export. About the proceedings of the meeting, he said that the government had made them chase the tail light of long road.

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“A meeting of sugar mills will be held. The mills have not yet gone on strike, rather the mills in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are awaiting government permission for sugar export,” Ashraf said. He added that mills were facing severe problems, as they sustain a Rs100 million loss every day.





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No oil import on discounted rates, NA told

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ISLAMABAD:

The government informed the National Assembly on Thursday that the country was not importing oil at discounted rates from any country, while matters pertaining to the import of oil and gas from Russia were currently under consideration of the petroleum division.

During the session, chaired by Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the members congratulated the newly-appointed chief of army staff (COAS) and chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and expressed the hope that the new military leadership would amicably deal with the challenges facing the country.

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In a written reply to a questions from Sheikh Rohail Asghar and Tahira Aurangzeb during the Question Hour, the petroleum division told the house that no country has supplied oil to Pakistan at discounted rates so far, adding that Russia had not offered to supply natural gas in the recent talks with the current government.

The petroleum division further said that crude oil was being purchased from Saudi Arabia on deferred payment under an agreement between the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the Pakistani finance ministry.

The reply said that the minister of state for petroleum sent a letter to Russia on October 11, expressing the government’s desire to purchase two to three cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia for December 2022 and January 2023 at discounted rates and deferred payment but the Russian reply was awaited.

The reply added Russia had not offered natural gas to Pakistan but during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Samarkand on September 15, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif emphasised on oil import. It said Pakistan was ready to send a team to Moscow to discuss the matter.

In a written reply to another question from Sheikh Fayyazuddin, the energy ministry told the house that foreign direct investment (FDI) worth more than $22 billion had come with the start of 42 projects. It included $1.604 billion FDI for the development of wind and solar projects in Pakistan over the past 10 years.

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In response to Naseeba Chana’s question, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi said that the government had no intention to continue the hemp policy of the previous government, stressing that hemp cultivation and any other kinds of drugs should be banned.

During the session, Qadir Khan Mandokhel and Alia Kamran presented a calling-attention notice regarding the encroachment on the Zhob railway station and its adjacent land. In reply Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq said that efforts were afoot to resolve the railways issues before the end of this government’s term.

Kamran said that the road network in Balochistan was also very weak. She urged the government to make functional those railway stations, which were not operational so that the people of Balochistan could avail a cheaper mode of transportation.

Rafiq said that the government was trying to complete the Sibi-Harnai link before the end of its tenure. “Right now, we are trying to get Chinese investment for the Mainline (ML)-1 project, for which they [China] have signalled their willingness,” he added.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly passed the Legal Practitioners Bar Councils Amendment Bill moved by Mohsin Dawar. Besides, a bill moved by Wajiha Qamar for media access to individuals in matters of public importance through sign language, was also approved.

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The Pakistan Institute of Research and Registration of Quality Assurance Bill was presented by Muhammad Aslam Bhutani. The House passed the International Institute for Technology, Culture and Health Sciences Bill. The bill was presented by Qadir Mandokhel.





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