GILGIT: After halting trade and passing through the Khunjerab Pass between the two nations, hundreds of individuals associated with the Pakistan-China border trade face economic hardship.
Trade groups have called on the government to establish a mechanism to mitigate their damages by ensuring that trade operations proceed smoothly from the coming season onwards.
As the CPEC-related shipments ended after the border closure in 2020, they said the exchequer had sustained about Rs8 billion revenue losses.
The boundary stays open from April to November under the Protocol Arrangement.
Shaban Ali, a local merchant, told Dawn that he had purchased Rs5 million worth of products from China’s markets in 2019, including walnuts and almonds, but was able to ship them to Pakistan as the Khunjerab pass was closed following the November 2019 coronavirus outbreak.
He said the filled containers had to be unloaded at different warehouses in China following the border closure.
“Due to the increase in the value of the Chinese currency against the Pakistani rupee and the arrival of fresh products on the market, the prices of goods I bought in China fell in the local markets as the border remained closed during the past year,” he said.
He said he had no choice but to sell the goods at low prices in China, causing tremendous losses.
Another merchant, Hussain Ali, said the prolonged border closure had caused him huge losses.
Mehboob Rabbani, president of the Hunza Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Dawn that thousands of people had suffered losses due to the closing of the border, including merchants, transporters, employees and hotel owners.
He said that about 30 per cent of GB individuals were dependent on border trade.
Mr. Rabbani said the export to China of local items such as jewellery, minerals, dried fruits and cherries have experienced a battering last year.
Mohammad Ayub Waziri, president of the Nagar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said that about 3,000 containers moved annually to and from China, and the GB economy was badly affected by their suspension.
Mr. Waziri said that the prices of Chinese commodities, normally available at affordable prices, had also risen in local markets.
He said a total of 180 containers were stranded in China when the border was closed in November 2019, and when the border was temporarily opened, only 66 were able to fly to Pakistan. He said that merchants in China were already paying warehouse rentals and taking on other expenses.
He regretted that after the partial opening of the border, Pakistani merchants had to pay five times higher rentals to Chinese firms to move stranded containers to Pakistan.
He said the Chinese carriers lowered the containers at the top of the Khunjerab, and the merchants had to pay additional expenses to transport the containers from Khunjerab to the port of Sost.
Meanwhile, according to Pakistani customs authorities, during the temporary opening of the border in 2020, only 66 containers, including equipment linked to Covid-19 and machinery, were able to be shipped from China to Pakistan.
On condition of anonymity, an official of Pakistan Customs told Dawn that Rs6.4 billion was raised for customs duty at the port of Sost in the 2019 season, and it was projected to cross the Rs8 billion mark in 2020 if the border remained open.