As prices rise in markets, scores of containers with onions stuck at port

Importers say containers are stuck because govt does not have US dollars to clear payments
<p>A vendor sits atop his stock of onions. PHOTO: AFP/FILE</p>

A vendor sits atop his stock of onions. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Even though prices of onions in the market have increased to an unprecedented Rs250 per kilogram, scores of containers carrying the commodity imported from various countries are stuck rotting on the port.

The main reason they were stuck on the ports was that the commercials banks who had helped open the letters of credit did not have US dollars to clear the payments.

This was claimed on Tuesday by the Pakistan Fruits and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) in a letter to the Commerce Ministry.

In the letter, PFVA Chairman Muhammad Shehzad Sheikh said that currently, more than 350 containers containing onions, garlic and ginger are parked at the Karachi port.

However, he said that the customs authorities are refusing to release the containers because the commercial banks are refusing to provide the necessary documents for their clearance.

One reason for cited for the commercial banks not to provide clearance documents, he suggested, was that the banks lack sufficient US dollars to clear payments for the containers.

The PFVA chief said that at the moment, some 63 containers carrying ginger worth a total of $816,48, 250 of onions worth $2.107 million, and 104 of ginger worth $2.53 million were stuck at the port.

The total estimated value of the shipment of onion, ginger and garlic containers was around $5.5 million.

As a result, Sheikh said, the price of onion in the market had skyrocketed to a record rate of Rs250 - Rs270 on vegetable stalls. By comparison, the wholesale rate of onions was Rs175.

Should the containers remain stranded on the ports, he expressed the fear that the price of these commodities may shoot up further, putting it out of the reach of the common man.

Hence, the PFVA sought help from the Federal Ministry of Commerce over the issue, urging it to take urgent measures for the release of containers from port.




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