News ID: 196903
Published: 0221 GMT July 18, 2017

Iran-Pakistan cargo train services up as trade grows: Pakistani official

Iran-Pakistan cargo train services up as trade grows: Pakistani official

Trade between Iran and Pakistan has increased with more cargo trains plying between the two neighboring states, said a Pakistani railway official from Baluchistan Province.

Station Master of Quetta Railway Station, Muhammad Zafar Iqbal told IRNA that right now there are seven scheduled cargo trains between Iran and Pakistan in a month.

Compared to past years, there is a big increase in the number of cargo trains operating between the two countries which also means that bilateral trade is growing rapidly, he said.

Last year, trade between Iran and Pakistan increased to more than $1 billion indicating a growing trend after the JCPOA.

He added that rail track between Quetta to Taftan border point is damaged and needs urgent repairs.

The official said that Iran sends mostly chemicals and cement while rice and other agricultural goods are transported from Pakistan through the rail road.

Zafar Iqbal said that Pakistan is interested in upgrading the railway track on its side but it would need the support of Iranian railways in this respect.

He said that if the track is upgraded, the two countries can also operate passenger train services for Pakistani pilgrims and other tourists going to Iran.

The official noted that there is absolutely no security problem along Quetta-Zahedan rail track and the trains run on this track even during nighttime.

He said that due to the slow train service, people prefer road trips between Iran and Pakistan. "In past we used to run three passenger trains between the two countries in a month," he said.

Last week an Iranian railways delegation visited Pakistan to participate in the 9th high level working group meeting of ECO Container Train on Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul route.

In a meeting with Pakistan's Secretary of Railways Parveen Agha, the Iranian delegation also urged Pakistan to give extra attention to Quetta-Taftan railway line which is an important section of Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul Container Train Corridor project.

There are only 14 railway stations in the last 553km section of the track. The total length of track from Quetta to Zahedan is 732km with the last 100km section being in Iran.

Earlier Pakistan's Minister for Railways had said that Pakistan Railway is working on a master plan to upgrade its three main arteries including Quetta to Taftan railway line which will improve connectivity among ECO states.

In 2004, Pakistan and Iran signed the preferential trade agreement (PTA) which came into effect in 2006. As per data from International Trade Center, Trade Maps, Pakistan's trade with Iran increased from $622 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2009, a 194 percent jump post FTA implementation.

Despite the increase in trade, bilateral trade with Iran composed of just 2.5 percent of Pakistan's global trade, with exports to Iran constituting just 1.4 percent of Pakistan's total exports. The only significant export to Iran was that of rice with 12 percent of Pakistan's exports finding a market in Iran.

The highest potential of increase in trade is rice exports to Iran. At the peak of Pakistan's exports in 2009, the top export to Iran was $200 million of rice which made up nearly 80 percent of Pakistan's exports to Iran.

Pakistan produces roughly 700,000 tons of rice annually and is a leading producer of Basmati and non-Basmati rice regionally. While Basmati rice is considered a premium high-end rice thereby enabling Pakistan to earn more forex, Iran is also a market for non-Basmati rice. Since the decline in non-Basmati variety has caused some concerned, the Pakistan-Iran FTA in the works may give it the much needed boost.

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