Pakistan halts import of edibles from Afghanistan, citing certification requirements

The Torkham crossing. Sept. 15, 2022. File photo.

Pakistan has suspended the import of all edibles, with a particular focus on fresh fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan, Pakistani media reported on Tuesday.

This decision, enforced by Pakistan customs officials on Monday, requires importers to present a Plant Protection Quarantine Certificate (PPQC) for customs clearance on the Pakistani side of the border.

The sudden implementation of the PPQC condition led to a halt in the movement of vehicles carrying fresh produce on the Afghanistan side of the border, as none of them possessed the required certification from the Taliban government, according to reports in Pakistani media.

According to the Pakistani media report, customs clearing agents expressed frustration and engaged in heated exchanges with Pakistani customs officials, claiming they had not received prior notification about the PPQC requirement.

However, Pakistani customs officials clarified that this regulation had been in place for several years, and initially applied to imports of raw cotton from Afghanistan.

In response to the disruption, irate importers of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with customs clearing agents, organized a demonstration and briefly obstructed Customs Road leading to the border point.

As night fell, the issue remained unresolved, with transporters and importers anxiously awaiting a response from authorities in Islamabad.

Customs officials at Torkham, the border crossing, stated that there were no quarantine or spray facilities for edibles, especially vegetables and fruits imported from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, they had received strict directives from Islamabad officials to rigorously enforce the PPQC condition and withhold customs clearance for imports that did not meet the requirement.

According to Pakistani media reports, officials explained that the Ministry of Food Security had written letters to all relevant departments stationed at the Afghanistan border crossing, emphasizing the importance of implementing the PPQC to protect Pakistan’s orchards and domestic produce from potential infections carried by edibles from Afghanistan that lacked proper spray and quarantine measures.

While customs officials acknowledged the difficulties faced by local importers, transporters, and customs clearing agents due to the sudden enforcement of the PPQC, they asserted their obligation to abide by official orders issued to customs, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the Ministry of Finance, and border security officials, all of which called for the strict implementation of the PPQC.

Local importers reported that more than 50 trucks and containers loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables were stranded on the Afghan side of the border due to Pakistani authorities’ refusal to grant customs clearance.