Onion exports: Pakistan shortly won at India’s cost in unlikely to matchup


Pakistani onion farmers and exporters have found themselves in an unexpectedly lucrative situation in recent months, thanks to a remarkable surge in exports. This windfall comes as a boon to them, but at the expense of their counterparts across the border in India, with whom Pakistan shares a bitter rivalry.

Both india and pakistan are major producers of onions in South Asia. India holds the distinction of being the world’s second-largest exporter of onions, trailing only behind China. Its dominance in the global onion market often overshadows the produce of smaller onion-producing nations.

In December, India imposed an export ban on onions due to a decrease in local production, particularly ahead of national elections. This move created a void in the world onion market, providing Pakistani farmers and exporters with a rare opportunity. In 2023, India exported nearly 2.5 million tonnes of onions, and with the sudden export ban, Pakistan swiftly stepped in to partially fill the gap.

Between December and March of the following year, Pakistan managed to export over 220,000 tonnes of onions, surpassing its usual annual export volume. Waheed Ahmed, the patron-in-chief of the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers, and Merchants Association (PFVA), attributed this success to quick decision-making and the government’s initial willingness to allow exports without imposing a ban similar to India’s.

Ahmed highlighted the importance of seizing the opportunity when India imposed the ban, urging the government to facilitate exports. This proactive approach resulted in generating over $200 million in revenue for Pakistan within a short period.

While the Pakistani government eventually imposed restrictions on onion exports due to the surge in outward shipments leading to soaring domestic prices, exports already underway through pre-approved deals are expected to bring in an additional $50 million in revenue by the end of the fiscal year in June.

Comparing this windfall to the usual earnings from onion exports, Ahmed noted that Pakistan typically earns between $110 million and $150 million per year. Last year, the country’s total revenue from vegetable exports exceeded $235 million, with onions contributing approximately $90 million to this figure.

The surge in onion exports not only represents a significant economic opportunity for Pakistan but also underscores the country’s agility in capitalizing on global market dynamics. By swiftly adapting to India’s export ban and leveraging its own onion surplus, Pakistan demonstrated its capacity to fill the void left by larger onion-producing nations.

However, this success story also highlights the vulnerability of domestic markets to sudden shifts in global trade dynamics. The imposition of export restrictions by the Pakistani government reflects the need to balance economic gains with domestic stability, particularly concerning essential commodities like onions.

Moving forward, Pakistan’s onion farmers and exporters may need to navigate a delicate balance between seizing export opportunities and ensuring domestic supply stability. While surges in exports can bring substantial revenue, they must be managed in a manner that mitigates adverse impacts on local consumers.

Despite the challenges posed by market volatility and geopolitical tensions, Pakistan’s onion sector has shown resilience and adaptability. As the country continues to navigate the complexities of global trade, its ability to capitalize on emerging opportunities while safeguarding domestic interests will remain paramount in sustaining economic growth and stability.


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