KARACHI: A strike by goods’ carriers entered into its eighth day on Monday, hindering the movement of goods to and from ports and depriving factories of much-needed raw material.
The wholesale commodity market has managed so far reflected in price stability, but traders believe the situation could not be sustained for long with expected customers’ influx close to Ramazan.
Goods’ carriers went on strike last Monday against a ban imposed by the Sindh High Court (SHC) on the movement of heavy vehicles in Karachi during the day. The strike was later joined by 14 other transport bodies.
About 7,000 to 8,000 containers carrying raw material, imported food and other items travel daily from the Karachi port to Port Qasim, Landhi and Korangi industrial areas — a distance of about 35 kilometres.
Industry claims daily loss of Rs6bn
An alternative route given by the deputy inspector-general of traffic police was rejected by the transporters, who complained that the new route was long and would increase the cost of transportation.
In a hearing on Saturday, the SHC ordered the stakeholders to set up a committee to frame terms of reference (TOR) and suggest routes for heavy vehicles. The next hearing is scheduled for May 20. Nisar Hussain Jafri, the chairman of newly formed Pakistan Goods Transporters Alliance, said that on Sunday they met Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar and finalised the TOR and suggessions which would soon be submitted to the SHC.
However, Mr Jafri reiterated his stance that transporters never asked for any change in the route. He said transporters had been following a 2007 Supreme Court order given by the then acting chief justice Rana Bhagwandas under which heavy vehicles were allowed to move within city’s jurisdiction from 11pm to 6am.
He regretted that the SHC banned heavy vehicles’ movement on a plea that they were passing through residential areas. Mr Jafri argued that even the new, long route involving Northern Bypass was passing through residential areas.
The stakeholders’ committee has suggested that Northern Bypass should be used for heavy vehicles moving out of Karachi for other parts of the country. However, the intercity transport should be allowed to move on one of the following three routes leading to Korangi and Landhi industrial areas: first, from Sher Shah, SITE, Liaquatabad, Rashid Minhas Road to Sharea Faisal; second, from Shaheed-i-Millat Road to Sharea Faisal; and third, from Mai Kolachi, Bilawal House Chowrangi, Seaview Road, Do Darya to Korangi industrial area.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Karachi port told Dawn that from Tuesday (today) no vessel could be given berth for unloading of containers at its two container terminals, i.e. Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT) and Pakistan International Container Terminal.
However, he said the KICT could use some space. For the last eight days, the import of cargo was being unloaded but no export cargo could be loaded as no containers reached the Karachi port.
The industry is claiming that on an average about Rs6bn losses were being suffered per day on account of exports alone. Mohammad Jawed Bilwani, the chairman of Pakistan Apparel Forum, said industrial units were facing storage problems as goods could not be moved out of their premises.
Exporters were facing expiry of letter of credits and could lose order, he said, adding that the perishable cargo has been hit the worst.
In the commodity market wholesalers of imported grams and pulses sounded alarm over depleting stocks in Dandia Bazaar (Jodia Bazaar) ahead of Ramazan as a sizable quantity these commodities is lying at the port following a strike by goods transporters from May 8, 2017.
The arrival of essential goods from up-country has also been suspended for the last eight days due to a ban on the entry of goods carriers in Karachi.
“Around 500-700 containers carrying pulses from Australia, Myanmar, USA and Canada are awaiting clearance at the port,” Chairman Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA), Anis Majeed said.
Import of pulses swelled to 956,376 tonnes ($696 million) in July-March 2016-2017 from 695,898 tonnes ($444m) in same period last fiscal. “Over imports have kept the prices of pulses stable so far,” he added.
“Stocks of imported pulses are gradually coming to an end due to non-arrival of goods from the port,” he said.
He feared serious shortage in case the imported goods remain stuck at the port.
Imported pulses (whole) arrive at the port and are then transported to the mills located in Punjab and Hyderabad for processing, however many of these mills are now closed as they have run out of stocks, he informed.
So far, the wholesale prices of various essential commodities including pulses, flour, wheat, rice, etc, have remained unchanged. The wholesale price of gram pulse (dal channa) hovers between Rs108-115 per kg, followed by black gram (kala channa) at Rs95-105 per kg, masoor’s price at Rs70-75 per kg and moong’s price at Rs85-105 per kg.
Retailers in various areas said the prices of almost all the commodities have been static and markets are not facing any kind of shortage of essential goods as many consumers have yet to start bulk buying for Ramazan.
They added the markets cannot sustain this situation for long especially when Ramazan buying picks up pace.Traders said due to transporters’ strike, some Suzuki van drivers are cashing in on the situation by demanding higher prices for lifting goods from Dandia Bazaar to various areas of the markets.
Suzuki van drivers are demanding Rs3,000-3,500 for bringing goods to Saddar Market from Dandia Bazaar which was Rs1,500-2,000 prior to goods’ transporters strike, the said.
Another wholesaler said the arrival of locally produced commodities from up country has not been affected severely despite ban on entry of goods’ transporters. He said goods transporters are bringing essential commodities at the outskirts of the city from where the wholesalers manage small commercial vehicles to bring the goods to Dandia Bazaar.