Pakistan Quarantine Act 1967 does not allow import of cotton through any land route; however, it is not being implemented in letter and spirited, lamented a farmer leader on.
The law was passed some four decades back, foreseeing the risk to the local cotton crop from the incoming pests and diseases along with imported consignments. Unfortunately, the authorities have not implemented the law effectively, and following the wishes of Aptma members and the industry kept importing cotton from Wagah, Torkham and Chaman boarders.
This has resulted in infestation of a number of new pests along with diseases in the country, said Khalid Khokhar, president, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad. He said that our scientists would confirm that the local cotton crop was subject to attack by more than 150 insect pests and diseases, and many of them were discovered in the last several decades. Even single insects have so many different types that have been imported from abroad with illegal import of cotton, he added.
He made it clear that farmers were not against the import of cotton, as cotton growers understood the need of raw material for industry, but at the same time local growers too needed protection. Otherwise, he said cotton production would go down and industry would have to rely only on imported cotton.
The PKI leader claimed that at the behest of Aptma, the Ministry of Commerce and Textile Industry was trying to get approval of the cabinet and the PM to amend the plant quarantine act to facilitate import of cotton through Wagah and Torkham borders.
The government officials should refrain from such illegal proposals and not compromise the law of the land. “We want to make it clear to the government that any illegal import or relaxation of law for the industry will be strongly protested and cotton growers will have no choice but to demonstrate in streets,” he vowed. According to the summary prepared by the Ministry of Commerce and Textile for allowing cotton import through land route, last year the Plant Protection Department made a lot of efforts for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) facility.
The said facility was not available at Torkham, and even Afghanistan did not arrange the pest scouting visit of Plant Protection Department of Pakistan to cotton growing areas of Afghanistan and could not develop an English based template.
The Aptma was of the view that under the quarantine rules, only American Cotton was subject to quarantine; therefore, such regulations were not applicable on cotton from Afghanistan and central Asian countries.