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Coconut exports: Commerce Department to discuss ban with Pakistan

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Sri Lanka will seek a diplomatic dialogue with Pakistan in the coming weeks to relax the ban on Sri Lankan coconuts and related products, The Sunday Morning learns.

It is learnt that Pakistan had, last month, issued a ban on the import of Sri Lankan coconuts and coconut products, which local exporters are trying to get revoked. The ban abruptly denied Sri Lankan coconut exporters a $ 14 million market.

According to Sri Lanka Desiccated Coconut Millers’ Association Chairman Neomal Perera, local exporters have neither received any warning nor been informed by the Trade or Foreign Ministry about the ban. He urged the Government to act swiftly to help the industry retain market access and remain competitive.

Commenting on the ban by Pakistan, Minister of Trade, Commerce, and Food Security Nalin Fernando told The Sunday Morning that he had instructed the Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka to begin a diplomatic dialogue with Pakistani authorities to lift the ban on Sri Lankan coconut exports.

The Coconut Development Authority (CDA) had also initiated a dialogue with the Pakistani High Commission last week to the same end. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, CDA Chairman Keerthi Weerasinghe said the ban on Sri Lankan coconut imports had most likely been due to Pakistan’s ongoing economic crisis, where, like Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean neighbour has been suffering from a shortage of foreign exchange to pay for imports.

“I met with diplomats from the Pakistani High Commission on Friday (17) and requested them to lift the ban placed on our coconut exports. I think Pakistan, just like Sri Lanka, is facing a foreign currency shortage. We will submit an official request to them next week,” Weerasinghe said.

According to data published by the CDA, Sri Lanka earned approximately $ 14 million by exporting fresh coconuts and 15 other coconut products to Pakistan in 2021. Between January and May this year, export earnings from coconut exports to Pakistan was $ 7.08 million.

Responding to a question by The Sunday Morning, the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) said that it was not aware of the details surrounding the ban and that the agency was looking into the matter. 

(From The Morning – By Asiri Fernando)

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