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Pakistani food importers at mercy of ‘grey market’ due to dollar crunch

No dollars for food imports from Iran and Afghanistan

Pakistani food importers, especially those that ship in vegetables from Afghanistan and Iran, have been relying on the grey market to make payments since they are not allowed to buy dollars from banks or exchange companies. The country has been facing an acute shortage of tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and more, after floods destroyed crops pushing up prices to unprecedented levels across the country.

This situation has forced the government to immediately allow imports of these foodstuffs from neighboring countries to bridge the supply and demand gap but it has not made any arrangements for the provision of greenbacks to make payments against these imports.

The importers were asked to enter into barter deals with their Afghan and Iranian counterparts by exporting food items available in Pakistan. Import deals in local currencies are possible with Kabul as Afghanis are available in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, the sources maintained that the Afghan exporters usually ask for US dollars and insist to pay cash or make payments through Dubai. For Dubai payments, the hundi or hawala system is used.


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