Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistan’s commerce minister and Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Iran’s minister for industry, mines and trade, met in Tehran at a scheduled session of the Pakistan-Iran joint trade committee. The two ministers tried to build on the goodwill generated during Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month.
The trade minsters committed themselves to promoting Pakistani-Iranian trade through further liberalisation and removing non-tariff barriers.
Relations have been frosty, with Tehran accusing its neighbour of doing too little to help, while Iran has suffered under the international sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme. Meat industry officials say this diplomatic clash was responsible for the import ban on Pakistan meat.
Syed Hasan Raza, general secretary of the All Pakistan Meat Producers and Exporters Association (PMPEA), said that Pakistani exporters lost PKR6.1 billion (US$60m) in annual meat sales to Iran as a result.
Meanwhile, he said Pakistani meat producers had collectively invested about US$10m collectively to improve logistics facilities and meat production. He told GlobalMeatNews that the country had the capacity to export US$80m-worth of meat to Iran if land, air and sea routes were opened.
While the ban remains in place for now, commerce minister Khan was optimistic, telling GlobalMeatNews in Islamabad, before leaving for Tehran: "We have done our homework well and I am confident we will succeed in persuading Iran to improve Pakistan access in its market including that of meat."
Seerat Asghar Jaura, federal secretary (top official) of Pakistan’s ministry of national food security and research, said the government had been in touch with meat producers and exporters to support them in preparing to increase overseas sales. "My office is accessible to livestock dealers and we are open to fair suggestions and assisting the sector in achieving standards necessary to boost exports," he said.
Tariq Butt, PMPEA president and CEO of PK Livestock, Pakistan’s biggest meat exporter, gave a more grounded assessment of the potential of meat exports to Iran. "My company’s meat exports to Iran were US$50m in 2012-13, but from March 2014 we have not exported even a single kilogramme to the market."
He warned that, should the ban be lifted, Pakistan exporters would not struggle to rebuild markets against domestic Iranian, Indian and Brazilian competitors.
He said Iran imported chilled lamb meat from Pakistan, and for beef it preferred Brazilian supplies, which were cheaper. As for processed value-added meat items, he said Iran had enough local production to meet demand.