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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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EU countries unhappy with 275-euro gas cap

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BRUSSELS:

European Union energy ministers locked horns on Thursday over a proposed gas price cap at 275-euros per megawatt hour (MWh), grappling over its effectiveness at that level and the impact on supplies and incentives to cut consumption.

The long-standing disagreements were holding up other policies to alleviate the acute energy crisis, such as the launch of joint EU gas purchases and a quicker permit process for renewables.

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Diplomats said the 27 EU countries agreed on these two in principle but delayed formal approval until another meeting called for Dec 13, with proponents of a cap demanding a green light for all three proposals or none at all.

Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa called the 275-euro blueprint put forward by the European Commission “a joke”.

Belgium’s Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten also chimed in, telling reporters: “The text that is on the table is unsatisfactory (…) it doesn’t clearly say if it will have an effect on prices.”

Their Greek counterpart, Konstantinos Skrekas said a cap of 150-200 euros/MWh would be realistic.

“It could help us reduce gas prices and therefore reduce electricity prices, which is a major challenge in Europe this winter,” he said.

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Malta was also unhappy with the proposed ceiling. Energy Minister Miriam Dalli said the strict conditions needed for the mechanism to kick in made it “next to impossible”.

As many as 15 EU states want a set limit to contain energy costs after gas prices soared to record highs last August, driven up by Russia cutting supplies to Europe in the wake of Western sanctions over Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

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

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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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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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