Experts term adopting new SoPs in trade, transportation critical amid Covid-19



ISLAMABAD, DEC 23 – Adopting new SoPs in trade and transportation has become a critical need to get aligned with the new scenario amid Covid-19.  The experts including the representative from the public and private sectors said this while sharing his views at workshop ‘Trade Protocols Amid Covid-19 Pandemic’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in collaboration with Pakistan Institute of Trade & Commerce, Ministry of Commerce here on Wednesday.

Director General, Pakistan Institute of Trade & Commerce, Ministry of Commerce, Ms Raheela Tajwar, emphasized that after Covid-19, new SoPs involved in trade and transportation must get adopted to remain competitive in the international markets.

“We are glad that private sector bodies and think tanks are closely working with the government to understand the new trade regime,” she said in the current scenario, trade of fresh fruits and vegetables could get more challenging. Safety of workers involved in production and trade is also important and requires cooperation from both public and private sector to help each other, she added.

Senior Adviser, Export Quality Management, International Trade Center, Geneva, Mr Khemraj Ramful, highlighted that allowing electronic certifications can ensure safe handling of animal and livestock trade. The sustainability of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is important during pandemic as they are ensuring stable supply of food and personal protective equipment. Besides, risk management tools need to be integrated into their management systems, he added.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director SDPI, while covering various dimensions of the pandemic related impacts, said that Covid-19 is an amalgam of three crises that include health, economic and food crisis. The food production, processing and handling will become challenging and more hygienic standards from the buyers may get introduced in this new scenario.

“During the first wave of Covid-19, Pakistan’s output was also affected by the locusts attack,” Dr Suleri said. He added further that the inputs for kharif crops were therefore curtailed and likewise, during the second wave, rice and citrus are at the mercy of the circumstances that are unfolding. He informed the participants that SDPI is working closely with the government to establish a central data facility to facilitate decision makers in ensuring smooth domestic food supplies.

Mr M. Anees, Khawaja, Director, Mahmood Group of Industries, opined that the agriculture sector’s productivity needs to be addressed. Besides, we also need to ensure that the focus on sustainability and environmental protection is not lost during the pandemic.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI while moderating the discussion, highlighted that after Covid-19, there is an emphasis in most countries to ensure hygienic and safe transportation, port handling, storage, and warehousing of cargo. Therefore, we also need to understand that WHO and WTO have been looking at this and new consignment handling procedures have been recommended.

He said “there is a need to see how our transport, warehousing, and port operations can all go online in an integrated manner to minimize human interface and reduce incidence of infection”.

He said that for agriculture trade, introduction of risk-based approaches, backed by scientific evidence and robust traceability system are now essential. The legislation and technical regulations need to be in line with best international practices may be adopted. We need to plan with the view that future waves of Covid-19 will continue to impact the global supply chain, he added.

Director, Bio-Labs Pvt Ltd. Mr Usman Shaukat, was of view that there is a short and long run perspectives to Covid-19. He said that export restrictions are not the answer to deal with the current crisis and all countries need to keep the supply chains open. He advised that government should practice caution while placing orders for vaccine. Most vaccine options may not be viable given weak cold storage infrastructure.

Mr Ahmed Khaver, Researcher at SDPI, highlighted learnings from ‘Strengthening Use of Evidence for Development Impact’ (SEDI) and underpinned the importance of deeper public-private sector engagement during pandemic times for informed decision making at the policy level.