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Pakistan puts ‘unofficial hold’ on cotton imports from India as tensions simmer

Pakistan has suspended cotton imports from its top supplier, India, saying shipments failed to fulfil phyto-sanitary certification, threatening the $822 million-a-year trade, government and industry officials told Reuters. Traders say rising hostility between the neighbours might have prompted Pakistan to restrict imports.The decision will help other cotton suppliers such as Brazil and the United States to increase exports to Pakistan. “We had received some complaints regarding insects, pests, in cotton consignments imported from India, so we have sent samples for tests,” Imran Shami, director general of Pakistan’s Plant Protection Department (DPP), told Reuters on Wednesday.

“If results show non-compliance of phyto-sanitary requirements, we would have to stop the imports from India.” Pakistan had put on hold cotton consignments from India, he said, adding that if tests confirmed the presence of pests, “these consignments will go back or would have to be destroyed”, he said. In 2015-16, Pakistan surpassed Bangladesh to become India’s biggest cotton buyer, accounting for 40 per cent of exports. “Officially there is nothing on the record, but on the ground, there is an unannounced ban on cotton imports from India,” said Ihsan ul Haq, chairman of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Forum.

Indian exporters have signed contracts to export 350,000 bales to Pakistan since the start of the marketing year on Oct1 and out of that nearly 300,000 bales for shipments in December and January could get stuck, three exporters said. “Out of the contracted quantity, a very small amount has been dispatched so far as the season has just started,” Cotton Association of India President Dhiren Sheth told Reuters.“Buyers and sellers are not cancelling contracts. They are waiting for some positive response from the government,” said Chirag Patel, chief executive officer of Indian exporter Jaydeep Cotton Fibers. The nuclear-armed rivals have seen tension increase in the past few months over Kashmir.

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