- Imported MB consignment if not released immediately, as per verdict of SHC, would be expired on Nov 30
ISLAMABAD: In another example of bureaucratic bottleneck and influence of mafia in government institutions, a private firm, which imported methyl bromide two years ago, is finally going to get his consignment expired at port, after fighting the hurdles, what the importer claims, created by influential mafia in the Department of Plant Protection (DPP), an attached department of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R).
According to available documents, Ahmed and Kamran Traders (Pvt Ltd), which imported Methyl Bromide (MB) on January 13, 2020 with valid registration, could not get released the consignment from Karachi port as the DPP Department did not clear the consignment and canceled all IPCs issued on Form-16 after import of the same.
The private firm probably started facing a strong influential importer group, which according to a departmental inquiry of MNFS&R, has monopoly over import of MB and fumigation of imported/exported consignments. For, what the report says, the same reasons, the DPP which had issued an IPC to M/s Ahmad and Kamran on Form-16 in 2020 to import MB, and once it was imported, the department canceled all IPCs disallowing the shipment, thus, leaving only one importer in the market. More specifically, the department adopted three courses to sustain the monopoly.
As per the inquiry report the DPP treated the mixture of 98% MB & 2% Chloropicrin as a new pesticide. Later on, despite the gazette notification of 98% MB & 2% Chloropicrin for registration and import of said formulation dated 16-07-2021, the department did not release MB from Karachi port and asked for a fresh application of IPC from M/s Ahmad and Kamran. The company, which meanwhile faced court cases from its competitor, later received another IPC on April 26, 2022 but another competitor (Pentagon Fumigation) approached the Sindh High Court and got a stay order against shipment of the consignment of Ahmed and Kamran Company. However the court on November 24, through its interim order the stay has vacated, consequently directing the department concerned to endorse the pre-shipment inspections report and custom authorities to clear the consignment in accordance with relevant applicable laws and rules.
However, according to Ahmed Yar Khan Kakar, CEO of the company, the officials of DPP were still allegedly applying delaying tactics despite the fact that the imported consignment of MB is going to expire on November 30, 2022(after next two days). The total value of the container including other expenses was estimated to be over Rs100 million (10 crores).
When contacted the Acting Director General of DPP Allah Dita Abid did not reply to queries shared with him.
What is the issue related to the function of DPP?
As per an inquiry report of a committee constituted by MoFS&R, to investigate ‘hegemony’ of private firms in one of the ministry’s important departments, DPP, the government regulatory body was being influenced and run by a group of private companies and mafia.
The 15-page report, prepared by a committee on the directives of the Prime Minister secretariat and submitted to the Secretary MoFS&R, reveals how a powerful mafia is practically runs the DDP affairs, especially the major role of the department, the fumigation process of all imported and exported agriculture items.
The committee headed by Rashid Mahmood, former Additional Secretary-II of MoFS&R (currently serving as secretary power) was assigned to investigate the controversy over the import of MB, used for fumigation and the monopoly in this sphere.
As per the report, “Inquiry Report on Methyl – Bromide Registration and Import for Phytosanitary Fumigation,” the committee has made it clear that for all practical purposes, it appears that DPP is no more a federal entity as far as the issuance of biosecurity and phytosanitary certificates is concerned. Instead, it is influenced and practically run by the fumigators who virtually control the entire value chain of the business. Such regulatory capture is generally associated with a high level of corruption. The majority of the department officers are compromised and/or afraid of doing anything against the mafia for fear of repercussions, says the report.
In its findings, the committee has revealed that current leadership positions at DPP are not manned by scientists/entomologists who have any knack for enforcement nor have the ability to sustain extraneous pressure while executing their regulatory powers. Therefore, the current organogram and recruitment criteria cannot serve the purpose of regulatory enforcement with high stakes.
According to the report, there is a subculture of corruption, backbiting, infighting, and responsibility-shirking that has seeped into the very roots of the organization. The Director General (DG), all directors, and deputy directors are part of the problem rather than the solution, even if some of them may not be financially corrupt.
The committee has informed that interestingly, the importer of Methyl Bromide and fumigating companies were all one party due to which not only there is a monopoly but also higher cost being charged to importers/exporters by the fumigators. The decision about the right price of fumigation cannot be left to private actors if the volume of private actors’ business is a result of regulatory action.
As per the report M/s Adeel Pesticides and Manufacturing is the sole distributor of MB on behalf of M/s National Chemicals. Notably, this distributor of MB is also a fumigator. Although 50 fumigators are registered with DPP, MB was distributed to only three fumigators, namely M/s Pentagon Fumigation, M/s Pest Management Services, and M/s Tahir Fumigation Services. Only six fumigators consumed 98% of MB during 2021.
In addition, the fact that the sole distributor is also a fumigator and supplies MB to only three major fumigators, thus crowding the rest from the market indicates the existence of strong market power in the hands of a cartel. It adds that M/s Ahmad and Kamran traders, which tried to import MB, were punished by the group to serve the interest of the monopoly.
According to the report, based on the claims made by Tariq khan (director Registration) in his statement, a fumigator, namely M/s Pakistan Fumigation services, (Adeel Pesticides) provided office space and bore running expenses of key office, namely Seaport office on I.I Chundrigar road, Karachi from 2011 to 2015 in exchange, the department delegated the drafting of official documents, including PPROs and PCs to the fumigators.