LoC trade dying silent death

LoC trade dying silent death

27 November 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Amen Setu Line of Control: The trans-Line of Control (LoC) trade that was started in 2008 as a major Jammu and Kashmir centric Confidence Building Measure (CBM) between India and Pakistan is meeting a silent death. Over the years it has been facing teething troubles but for past one month it has reached to a point where number of trucks exporting goods from Salamabad in Uri to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), have nosedived. In the recent months the trade has slowed down to the extent that today only two trucks carrying goods crossed to PoK from Salamabad trade centre in Uri while tomorrow only 3 trucks will cross Aman Setu towards Muzaffarabad. The Joint Chamber of Commerce Cross LoC Trade General Secretary, Hilal Turkey, says 'For the past one month, on an average, traders export 15-20 truckloads of goods from Salamabad to Muzaffarabad in a week. It was once 200-300 truckloads at its peak.' The trans-LoC trade attracted large number of traders when it started in 2008. The records suggested that 600 traders of the State were exporting goods to Muzaffarabad a year ago but it has now come down to 30 as rest of them have lost interest. Lack of banking facilities, communication, limit on tradable goods, structural difficulties in free movement are said to be the main reason for the decline in the trans-LoC trade. The traders of the State have so far exported goods worth Rs 695 crore from Salamabad while imported goods worth Rs 614 crore from Muzaffarabad in around 385 trading days since 2008 when the trade started. The traders of the State have exported 1127 metric tons of goods in 15010 trucks loads while it imported 673 metric tons of goods in 9990 trucks loads so far. The trans-LoC trade records revealed that the coconut, bananas and red chilli were the main export items of the trade. Around Rs 125 crore worth coconuts was exported to Muzaffarabad till 2011 when its export was banned by the Government of India. Despite repeated requests by the traders the ban was not lifted and traders say Rs 15 crore coconuts meant for export is rotting in the godowns since 2011. Red chilli was second major export item for the traders of the State but this year there was no demand for it from PoK as there was a bumper crop of Red chilli in Pakistan last year. The traders were now left with the only option of exporting bananas but its season has ended a month back and it is said to be one of the major reasons for the decline in the exports. The records of the trans-LoC trade suggested that on an average half of the trade comprised export of bananas this summer. Out of the 21 listed items of the trans-LoC trade mostly Red chilli, chilli seeds, spices, embroidery suits, pine apple, banana are being exported to Muzaffarbad while apple, herbs, almonds, walnuts, onion, garlic, carpets and embroidery suits are being imported from Muzaffarabad. Surprisingly, Kashmir's major produce is apple but through LoC trade apple is being imported in spring and autumn from PoK. And the major portion of the imported apples land in Shopian, the place that produces best quality apples in the State. However, rates of these apples are cheaper as they cost around Rs 50 per kilogramme in Salamabad.