SRINAGAR: More than seven years after it was started, the cross LoC trade along Uri-Muzaffarabad route today is more a story of hype than the real business. Traders say that a business of only Rs 3700 crore was recorded since 2008, when the trade across the Line of Control began as part of major confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan governments.
Traders’ community blames the barter system and lack of banking and communication facilities for the low turnover.
Hilal Ahmad Turki, General Secretary Salamabad-Uri Trade Union, blamed the successive governments for being uninterested in improving the trade. “This trade has remained confined to barter system with exchange of goods only without any money transaction,” he said. He said the quantity of goods traded between both the countries has declined considerably. “Earlier 50 trucks loaded with goods would be exported from here to Pakistan but now it has been restricted to just 25 trucks”.
Turki said some of the items from this side which have huge demand on the other side of the LoC have been dropped from the list permissible for trading.
The main items exported from Salamabad in Jammu and Kashmir to Chakoti inside Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are: carpets, honey, rajma, papier mache products, dry fruits, saffron and medicinal herbs. The products imported from Chakoti are mainly: rice, tamarind, carpets, fruits and vegetables, moongi and black mushroom.
According to government officials at the Trade Facilitation Centre (TFC) at Salamabad in Uri, 31567 trucks have so far carried goods from Uri to Muzaffarabad, while as 2881 trucks have carried goods from Muzaffarabad to Uri since 2008, a total export and import of about Rs 3700 Crore.
During the year 2015, goods worth Rs 494.4093 crore were exported from Pakistan and Rs 668.88 crore was recorded as turnover of the import from the other side.
Similarly, the quantity of goods that were exported during 2014-2015 was 590266.70 quintals worth Rs 371.74 crore while as 258971.48 quintals of goods were imported from PaK with the value of Rs 583.67 crore. The cross-LoC trade takes place on four days a week with 21 permissible items. Official figures say that 768061.86 quintals of goods were exported from here during 2012-2013 with the value of Rs 371.67 crore (INR) while as 790245.70 quintals of goods were exported from other side of Kashmir with the value of Rs 657.79 crore (PC).
During 2013-2014, 624607.15 quintals of goods were exported from here worth Rs 347.59 crore (INR) against 352946.78 quintals of goods were imported from PaK with the value of Rs 513.62 crore (PC).
Traders from both sides are demanding that the trade should not be restricted to only 21 items. Rather all items produced and manufactured in Jammu and Kashmir should be incorporated in the list.
The traders are also demanding that the trade should be driven on demand-supply basis.
Another grouse that traders have is that their trucks have to unload goods at the check point near the LoC. The goods are then reloaded onto local trucks for onward journey, which results in damage to goods, especially perishable items like fruits and vegetables.
Some business experts say the cross-LoC trade could go beyond present turnover of Rs 300 crore per week if both governments “show seriousness” in the trade by making available proper infrastructure.
However, an economics professor of Kashmir University wising anonymity said trade would have resulted much better results but New Delhi’s approach is not in favour of its promotion.