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Rice exports to face declines in 2004 in Pakistan
By Arshad Hussain
KARACHI: Top government officials are optimistic that the country will surpass the $12.4 billion export target for the current fiscal year since the half-year target has already been exceeded by about six percent but problems could also surface during the second half of the year as WTO fears hold industry back, experts say.
“Under the World Trade Order (WTO), there is an apprehension that textile exports to Europe and America might decline by up to 37 percent because of the low quality, but the government is taking measures in this connection,” Tariq Ikram, chairman Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), said at a seminar this week.

Mr Ikram said the country is ready to face all the challenges of WTO after 2005, adding that there is a need of more restructuring and modernization in the textile sector as the prices of textile products are in a downward trend in the international markets.
“Tariffs will protect Pakistan from dumping problems and the local industries,” he said.
Rahatul Ain, a senior director of EPB, says the federal government has accelerated efforts to protect the textile sector and in this connection three new textile cities are being established in the country.
Textile exports recorded 17.3 percent growth from July to September, but declined in the last three months, the EPB officials say. “Such declining trend is because of the changing intra-sectoral composition of textile exports shifting towards value added textile, compared to combined cotton yarn and cotton cloth,” says an official.
Imports, which recorded 12.1 percent growth in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, stood at $3.1 billion or 24.3 percent. The import of raw material, machineries and finished goods would go up in the year 2004 because of the modernization in textile and other sectors, the EPB officials say.

Most countries, he says, are giving subsidies to agriculture production which is why the export of wheat, rice and other products would go down in the year 2004. Pakistan has earned $85 million through the export of wheat last year, which is not expected to continue this year.

Rice exports to European countries would suffer next year after the European Union withdrew the 250 euros exemption facility on two qualities of Pakistani rice in the first week of December. The decision would affect around 80 percent of rice exports to Europe.

According to quarterly report of the State Bank of Pakistan, total exports of the country from July to September stood at $2.97 billion, which is 1.8 percent above the target for the period and are 14.7 percent higher than the corresponding period last year.

EPB officials say exports from October and November are showing a declining trend, of about 5-6 percent, while the figure of December has not yet been compiled.

“In the external sector, the current account surplus of the country and the remittances of the country are declining for the last few months and this trend would continue in the current fiscal year,” said Mohammad Sohail, research head at Invest capital and securities, a local brokerage.

According to the first quarterly report of the SBP, workers’ remittances declined by 14 percent in the first quarter 2004 only because of the abolishment of the Hajj Sponsorship Schemes.

Foreign direct investment also fell 31.2 percent in the first quarter 2004, which analysts say will continue in the first six months of 2004
MGR Archive 4.1.2004
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