Lahore: Authorities in Pakistan on Thursday stopped 300 trucks of onions bound for India at the Wagah land border, saying exports had to be curbed to control rising prices within the country.
The government of Punjab, the country’s most populous province, stopped the exports this morning. A government spokesman said a ban on onion exports has been imposed to control prices of the commodity, which have escalated since the sales to India began last month.
“After the ban, the prices in domestic markets declined by 45%,” he said.
Pakistan started exporting onions to India in mid-December after the food commodity prices in the latter shot up to above Rs 60 a kilo. Over 300 tonnes of onions were being sent to India every day, mainly through the Wagah border crossing, traders said.
However, the exports were accompanied by a surge in prices in markets across Pakistan. In some area, the price shot up from Rs 45 to Rs 80 a kilogram.
Prices of onions have stayed at high levels in Pakistan due to the devastation of crops by last year’s unprecedented floods, especially in the southern Sindh province.
The federal Commerce Ministry was reviewing exports to ensure there is no shortage of onions and to control the price rise, officials said.
However, the sudden ban angered traders across Punjab, who said they had not been given any warning about the stopping of exports and had already accepted sizeable orders from Indian importers.
The traders said they could lose millions of rupees due to the government’s decision and truckloads of onions already at Wagah could go waste.
Traders organised protests against the government’s decision at markets in Gujranwala and Lahore.
“The government should at least allow the 300 truckloads of onions at the border to be exported,” said Hamid Aziz, an exporter at the fruit and vegetable market at Ravi Road.
This is the first time in a decade that India has imported onions from Pakistan, making the exporters hopeful of making good gains.