LAHORE, Pakistan — Freight forwarders, customs clearance agents and goods carriers in Pakistan went on a countrywide strike Tuesday, which has so far had only a minimal impact on apparel and textile shipments.
One of the major demands of the strikers is for the Federal Board of Revenue to remove a new 8 percent sales tax that has been imposed on the industry. It claims that since it works on a slim margin of 2 to 3 percent, the tax will shut the freight-forwarding and custom-clearing business down. Revenue loss on taxes is reported to be about $80 million to $100 million daily.
The strike is mostly affecting air freight and not ocean carrier shipments at the moment and, since most of the textile and apparel shipments are by sea, there is only a minor effect on the textile industry, said Sheikh Mohammed Akbar, chairman of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, Punjab zone and executive director at Acro Spinning and Weaving Mills in Punjab.
So far clearance has not been an issue, said Anis Sheikh, secretary of the APTMA, Punjab. Custom agents work on the behalf of mills and if they are striking, mills send their own personnel to the Karachi port or dry port at Lahore to get their shipments cleared. Recently, there was a transporters strike, but that affected petrol shipments, which are a daily necessity, resulting in the government conceding to their demand within a day.
Experts feel this strike will be resolved soon. However, Pakistan Ready Made Garment Exporters Association South Zone chairman Shaikh Shafiq Rafiq expressed his concern that if the strike is not resolved quickly, it would adversely affect the timely clearance of shipments of goods at Karachi and Bin Qasim ports.
Supply chain company Raaziq’s chief executive office Nadeem Khan said, “Freight forwarders are taking up the strike one notch at a time. This week, we have effectively organized a choke hold at all the airports with customs agents gathered there who are impeding all clearance business. Next Monday, we will take this strike to the private terminals at bonded warehouses where importers consolidate their shipments from various mills in containers to optimize the freight cost. After that, in eight to 10 days, we will shut down business at sea ports. However, there are ongoing negotiations with FBR officials to resolve this issue.”
So far, the biggest problems in delays in consignment clearance and supplies are for North Atlantic Treaty Organization and International Security Assistance Force shipments in and out of landlocked Afghanistan, according to reports.