KARACHI: Pakistan’s push to import goods to tame Asia’s fastest inflation is clogging up the country’s busiest ports and hiding something else in plain sight – the plight of exporters, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.
The truck traffic jams snaking the British-era Napier Mole road, which connects the commercial capital Karachi to the country’s largest port, has defined the struggles of traders in shipping non-food goods. The reason: Ships carrying food grains and sugar leave little room for other carriers to dock.
The inability to load goods on board is part of the reason Pakistan’s cement exports fell 18 percent to 633,431 tonnes last month, steeper than the 5 percent drop seen in November, according to an industry body.
Prime Minister Imran Khan is under enormous political pressure to cover inflation, which at 8 percent in December was the highest among Asian economies tracked by Bloomberg. His government is now aggressively importing staples such as wheat, sugar and canola to curb rising prices, which according to the International Monetary Fund increased further to 8.8 percent in the year ending June.
In the four months to December, a record 30 grain ships were handled at the Port of Karachi, Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Haider Zaidi said in a December 27 Twitter post. An equal number of ships carrying more grain are scheduled to arrive on the country’s largest vessel. port in March to complete the planned 3.6 million tonnes of imports.
Inflows flood local infrastructure.
“We used to make at least four trips a month before these grain ships start arriving,” said Bashir Ahmed, a 45-year-old truck driver who was stranded in a traffic jam around the port in Keamari last week. “We can barely make one trip now.”
The situation is unlikely to improve any time soon, as the South Asian country gave approval last month to import another 300,000 tonnes of wheat to build up strategic reserves.
Customers divert their vessels to other destinations in the region to load cement and clinker, according to a statement from the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturer Association.
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