The UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait have also banned the tomatoes
News of Indian farmers saying they wouldn't export their tomatoes to Pakistan in response to the attack on Indian armed forces in Pulwama that left 40 dead has been floating about but SAMAA Digital wanted to check how much we actually need these tomatoes. The answer -- not at all. On February 20, a video clip of Indian farmers and vegetable suppliers in Madhya Pradesh made rounds on social media in which they said they will be stopping the export of tomatoes to Pakistan in wake of the Pulwama attack. But what they forgot is that Pakistan had already banned the import of tomatoes and potatoes, along with other vegetables, from India. The import of the product was banned for three years because of the diseases they carry. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cetP1mIxD5M" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe] “India’s claim of suspending tomato export to Pakistan is baseless. Not only Pakistan but the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait had also put a ban on vegetables coming from India due to the Nipah virus,” Patron-in-Chief of the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Importers Association Waheed Ahmed told SAMAA Digital. Related: We don’t need your tomatoes, Punjab agriculture minister tells India “Not even a kilogramme of tomatoes were imported from India in the last three years ever since the department of plant protection stopped issuing import permits for Indian vegetables." He explained that even India isn't consuming the tomatoes it grows because of the virus and the country depends on imported tomatoes. “Indian tomatoes have been infected with five types of diseases and viruses -- the Nipah virus, leaf curl New Delhi virus, tomato yellow leaf curl virus, aspermy virus and mosaic virus,” said Ahmed. In 2017, when the ban had already been imposed in Pakistan, then federal minister for food security Sikandar Hayat Bosan had announced that Pakistan would be using the locally produced vegetables despite the crisis. He made it clear that the government would not import vegetables from India. “Pakistan is an agrarian country and we have been producing enough tomatoes locally,” said Bosan on October 3, 2017. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) had hailed Bosan’s announcement of not importing tomatoes from India, saying that the move would help local farmers and save foreign exchange for Pakistan. Related: Tomato Crisis: How it has different meanings for Pakistan and India The LCCI president, Abdul Basit, had said that the country has the resources to feed its entire population. “Therefore, local growers should be facilitated and their issues should be resolved on a priority basis.” But there was another reason for the ban on the import of vegetables from India. Ties between the two countries took a bitter turn after the January 2016 Pathankot attack and the Uri incident in September the same year. India blamed terrorists based in Pakistan for these attacks. [caption id="attachment_1693042" align="alignnone" width="640"] Photo: Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan, Ministry of National Food Security & Research Islamabad[/caption] After the ban on tomatoes, then Punjab food minister Bilal Yaseen, who was also the chairperson stakeholder of the Punjab Food Authority, announced on December 7, 2017 that, “local farmers have been encouraged after the ban on imports of Indian vegetables and Pakistan has remitted Rs10 billion worth of foreign exchange from July to November in lieu of not importing tomatoes from the Eastern rival.” The minister was quoted as saying that this was a blessing in disguise. The rise in tomato prices A recent shortage of tomatoes has led to an increase in their price from Rs130 to Rs160 per kg in Pakistan. A supervisor at SabziPhal.com, Muhammad Ali, told SAMAA Digital that tomato prices are rising as the vegetable is not ripening in Balochistan due to cold temperatures. “The local tomato onion crop has been damaged due to the change in weather which caused a shortage in supply and a hike in prices,” said Ali. He said the supply usually starts from Mirpurkhas and Badin in March while the crop growth starts decreasing in Thatta and Lasbela. He added that the prices are likely to decrease when supply from upper Sindh and Larkana increases. He said that the rate lists will be revised and tomatoes will then be purchased at Rs50 to Rs60 per kg. Follow SAMAA English on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.