Unchecked smuggling of cattle to neighbouring Afghanistan and Iran is causing concern among exporters in Pakistan, with fears that exports will fall further as a result.
According to Nasib Ahmed Saifi, chairman of the All Pakistan Meat Exporters & Processors Association (APMEPA), Pakistan’s halal meat exports have declined by 40% to $2bn from $2.4bn in just a year: “If the government doesn’t come up with a proper strategy to curb the menace of smuggling, we fear our exports may go down further,” Saifi said. This, he added, was also having a negative impact on the Pakistan meat market, with consumers and retailers concerned about rising prices.
Inquiries staged by GlobalMeatNews at Lahore retail outlets show these increases are ongoing. Lahore mutton prices, which retailers say are representative countrywide, have risen over the past six weeks from PKR800 ($7.69) to PKR1,000 ($9.61) per kg; while beef prices have risen from PKR400 ($3.84) to PKR450 ($4.32) per kg.
Saifi claimed as many as 300 to 350 truckloads of calves are being smuggled across Pakistani borders with Iran and Afghanistan on a daily basis.
“Smuggling has caused a shortage of animals in the local market and we are unable to meet our export orders,” the APMEPA chairman pointed out.
His concern does not yet appear to have been matched in the government, however. Nasim Sadiq, the Punjab province secretary for livestock and dairy development, refused to accept that there was a current boom in smuggling. “All assertions of exporters regarding animal smuggling were baseless,” he said, while admitting that Pakistan livestock smuggling had been a problem two years ago.
“At that time, we received reports of 3,000 cattle, particularly bulls and buffaloes, having been smuggled to bordering Afghanistan and the Iranian city of Taftan via Karachi on a daily basis,” Sadiq added. “Fattened bulls and buffalos are in great demand in Afghanistan.”
“Now only individual cases are reported, but I can assure you there is no organised smuggling of animals,” claimed Khalid Chaudhary, the Punjab government livestock department’s additional secretary.
But APMEPA insists the government officials are wrong and that organised livestock smuggling across Pakistan to Afghanistan and Iran was continuing unchecked. He claimed that his organisation had even received “authentic reports of illegal transportation of calves to Uzbekistan via Afghanistan”. The smuggling, he alleged, continues with the connivance of customs officials and law enforcement agencies.
Indeed, the government should control smuggling and reduce taxes paid by the legitimate meat industry to improve its commercial footing. “One more thing the government needs to do is to ban opening of new slaughtering units because the existing units were running below full capacity following the dearth of animals,” he said.