Karachi (Staff report): Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) horticulture exports head Ahmad Jawad alleged that a declining exports result in unfavorable balance of payments, rupee depreciation, and pressure on the exchange rate, which again increases the imports bill, creating a vicious cycle.

Jawad expressed to media that the exports of almost all the countries in South Asia were on the rise. “Unfortunately, with Pakistan, it is the opposite case.”

On contrary, in the fiscal year 2015-16, Pakistan’s exports witnessed a 12 percent decrease from $23.6 billion to $20.8 billion. This is an awkward and embarrassing situation for Pakistan, given the fact that we had been awarded the GSP Plus status by the European Union to help boost our exports.

An economic survey of Pakistan 2014–15 shows, the country’s exports remained stagnant at $24–25 billion (and it actually decreased in the year 2016), while Bangladesh’s exports surpassed the $30 billion mark last year, and are set to hit the $34 billion mark this year.

One of the major reason for decreasing Pakistani exports is the sluggish growth in the Islamabad’s major trading partners - UK, US, and China, high cost of production due to electricity shortfall, and delays in order deliveries because of non-availability of energy inputs.

Among Pakistan’s major exports, rice, cotton, leather, jewelry and the chemical sector have been hit hard by the slump in exports. Given the current scenario of Pakistan’s dwindling exports, a strategy for bolstering them becomes imperative, Jawad said.

The primary ways of enhancing exports is to support entrepreneurship and to create new avenues for growth by guiding the youth. "We should identify other export opportunities from Pakistan and inform the investors and the public about them so that more people can take part in the value creation process. Similarly, there are many other opportunities available in the supply chain of many finished products like in the untapped horticulture sector, which is constantly ignored."

Jawad quoted the example of Bangladesh, which imports cotton from other countries, but was now the fifth largest textile exporter in the world owing to its value-added textile exports. In Pakistan, data shows that the export of cotton yarn has been down by 32 percent, but the export of readymade garments has improved by around 4.2 percent in the current fiscal year. This speaks volumnes about the importance of value-addition.

He said “Similarly, in the meat and dairy sector, we can export frozen meat products, powdered milk, cheese and other value-added creative products instead of exporting raw products.”

FPCCI panel chief also said Philippines, which has half the population of Pakistan, has roughly $25 billion of exports in the global outsourcing industry (part of the service sector), even Dubai earned $36.4 via tourism in 2015.

He added “Pakistan’s workforce is also skilled and it can become a major player in the global outsourcing industry if given proper attention by the government.”

Pakistan possesses the great tourism potential for both adventure seekers and history enthusiasts. “We have got some breath taking scenery, palatable food, and a wonderful cultural history for the global tourists,” the FPCCI chief added.

Jawad recommended the government to take a more liberal view of the situation, and develop a multipronged strategy towards the promotion of exports.