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Pakistan denies transit facility for Indian wheat

ISLAMABAD, JAN. 20 Pakistan has decided not to extend transit facility for the Indian wheat being supplied to Afghanistan under the World Food Programme (WFP), on the ground that it is infected.

``We have decided not to allow the transit of Indian wheat through Pakistan due to reports that it was infested with germs and diseases which can harm Pakistani wheat,'' the Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Khair Muhammad Junejo, said at a press conference here.

Mr. Junejo said the Government had communicated its reservation to the World Food Programme (WFP). ``We have told them that Pakistan would not take any risk which might harm its wheat''.

The WFP had made a deal with India for 50,000 tonnes of wheat for the Afghan refugees, which was to be transported through Pakistan.

The Minister said the WFP had requested Pakistan to provide 200,000 tonnes of wheat and of this it had lifted 80,000 tonnes. The remaining would be lifted soon.

The Pakistan Agriculture Ministry said the Indian wheat, infested with ``seed-borne fungus like striga and disease like Karnal Bunt,'' could harm wheat production during the germination of seeds.

Under a new policy, the Pakistan Government had decided to allow private sector to export wheat and the target for the current financial year was put at 1.3 millions.

``The Government will start the bidding process from next week and it will be completed by April 30 to clear a backlog of 1.3 million tonnes of surplus wheat'', the Pakistan Commerce Minister, Abdul Razook Dawood, said.

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