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9,000 goods containers held up for months by Pakistani officials

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(Last Updated On: September 7, 2020)

As Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan continues to decline another problem has reared its head – that of about 9,000 containers loaded with goods worth more than $400 million stuck at Pakistani ports. 

Bloomberg reported Monday that these containers have been held up for about five months. There are two reasons for this, the report stated. 

Firstly customs officials are screening all the cargo instead of the five percent they used to check before the COVID-19 outbreak and secondly because not all trucks have GPS trackers – which are mandatory to stop theft and to ensure the containers don’t go missing along Taliban controlled routes. 

However, the company tasked to install trackers refuted these claims. 

Ghulam Nayab, commercial consular at the Afghanistan consulate in Karachi told Bloomberg that “transit consignments that landed in June are still lying at Karachi port,” said Nayab.

South Asia Pakistan Terminal, the nation’s biggest and deepest container terminal, alone has a backlog of 1,600 boxes, according to Rashid Jamil, chief executive officer of SAPT, a unit of Hutchison Port Holdings.

This, according to Bloomberg, is eroding Pakistan’s trade surplus to Afghanistan even further as a sharp decline has been recorded over the past three years. 

In this time, Pakistani exports to Afghanistan have dropped more than 40 percent in the three years that ended in June, to $889 million, according to official data. 

Bilateral trade stood at $1.01 billion last fiscal year, down more than 38 percent from $1.64 billion in fiscal 2018, reported Bloomberg.

Afghanistan meanwhile has tried to push for quicker clearance of these containers and also requested that Pakistan waive the demurrage and detention charges, which range from $120 to $200 a day, according to Nayab’s letter to the Pakistani customs office.

“Traders are losing millions of dollars because of shipping and port demurrages,” Nayab said.

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Freight trains to Afghanistan via Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif suspended

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(Last Updated On: February 2, 2023)

The Afghanistan Railway Authority has announced that the transportation of goods on the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line from Uzbekistan has been stopped until further notice.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said the railway line from Uzbekistan has been temporarily closed.

He stated that there is no problem in the technical and operational aspects of the Afghan Railways, and added that there was a shutdown by Uzbekistan.

Calling the closure of this railway line temporary, Mujahid asked traders to be patient and import essential goods using the Akina-Andkhoy railway line.

In explaining the reason for the temporary closure of the Hairatan-Uzbekistan railway line, the Afghan Railway Authority noted that it has been working to transfer management affairs of the line for the past three months. The authority also said a delegation from Afghanistan will meet with officials in Uzbekistan in the next few days to finalize the final memorandum on this matter.

Afghan Railway Authority added: “After signing this memorandum, the process of transfers from Hairitan-Mazar-e-Sharif route will start again and will continue normally.”

The Afghanistan Railway Authority announced last month that as a result of negotiations between the Afghan side and officials from Uzbekistan Railways, the responsibilities of the Hairatan-Mazar-e-Sharif railway line were handed over to Afghanistan by Uzbekistan.

Afghanistan Railway Authority said management of the line had for 11 years been provided by an Uzbek company, Sogdiana Trans.

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Iran hoping to establish trade hub in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2023)

Iran’s deputy minister of trade Mohammad Mousavi said Tuesday in a meeting that Tehran is considering setting up a trade center in Afghanistan in the near future.

According to Mehr News Agency, Mousavi expressed hope that the establishment of this center will strengthen ties between Kabul and Tehran.

He did not however say where the center would be situated.

Addressing the meeting, titled “Trade opportunities between Afghanistan and Iran” he said Tehran’s wanted to invest in Afghanistan and participate in the country’s “sustainable growth”.

At the same time, Afghan officials have said that the volume of imports from Iran, such as food and fuel, has totalled more than $1 billion so far this solar year (from April 2022).

According to the officials, Afghanistan’s export volume to Iran was much lower and totalled only $20 million.

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Afghanistan’s exports to India total almost $200 million in past 9 months

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2023)

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC) says over the past nine months, Afghanistan has exported goods to India worth $159 million, most of which was asafetida, saffron and pistachio nuts.

The MoIC officials said Tuesday they would try to expand economic relations between Kabul and New Delhi because India can become one of Afghanistan’s major economic partners.

“In the last nine months, our exports to India totalled $159 million,” said Abdul Salam Akhundzada, a spokesman for the MoIC.

According to MoIC’s officials, Afghanistan has imported goods worth $291 million from India in nine months, and the total trade volume is $450 million.

“The important goods we exported were pistachio, cumin, raisins, saffron and asafetida seeds, and we imported sugar, medical spices and various clothes from India,” said Akhundzada.

“And our imports from India totals $291 million.”

However, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) has said that there are currently problems with the export and import of goods from India but once these problems are solved, the trade volume will amount to $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the commodities are being transported from Afghanistan to India and vice versa via the air corridor, Wagah port in Pakistan and Bandar Abbas in Iran.

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