ISLAMABAD: In a groundbreaking development with far-reaching implications for mango exports from Pakistan to Iran, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP), a division of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MoFS&R), has taken the extraordinary step of suspending accreditation for several companies found exporting untreated or infested mangoes to Iran.
According to available documents with scribe, M/S Hyder Shah, a Hot Water Treatment (HWT) Plant located in Tando Allah Yar, Sindh, Pakistan, is among the entities facing suspension. This action comes in response to a “Notification of Non-Compliance” issued by the Plant Protection Organization (PPO) of Iran, invoking the International Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM-13) of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).
The notification from PPO Iran revealed that mango consignments disinfested by M/S Hyder Shah were intercepted at Iranian ports due to contamination with the fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis). Consequently, this firm is no longer authorized to disinfect mango shipments for export to Iran. PPO Iran has also urged the DPP to investigate the matter and take stringent measures to prevent further violations in the supply of quarantine products to Iran.
In response to this serious breach, the DPP has also suspended the company’s accreditation, effective from August 30, 2023, invoking Rule 96 (7) of the PPQR, 2019. Consequently, M/S Hyder Shah is no longer authorized to disinfect mango shipments for export to Iran in accordance with the agreed technical procedures.
This is not the first instance of action taken against M/S Hyder Shah. In 2016, PPO Iran had previously suspended the company for similar violations related to the export of contaminated mango consignments with alleged fake treatment certificates. Their accreditation, however, was reinstated in 2020 after they submitted a “Commitment Letter” pledging to adhere to prescribed standards and guidelines.
The recent detection of contamination in mango shipments disinfested by M/S Hyder Shah on May 24, 2023, suggests a recurring violation of treatment standards. The company was entrusted with conducting temperature treatment operations in line with the Pakistan Plant Quarantine Rules, 2019, and agreed technical procedures between the DPP and PPO Iran. It is alleged that false temperature treatment records were submitted to the DPP to fraudulently obtain phytosanitary certificates for untreated mango shipments.
In addition to the suspension, legal actions are being initiated against the said company for violating regulations under the Pakistan Plant Quarantine Act 1976 and 420, 468 / 471 PPC for submitting falsified treatment records.
Similarly, the DPP has also suspended the accreditation of another company, M/s AZZ Traders, a Karachi-based HWT plant, for violating phytosanitary standards to export mangoes to Iran. This follows the Notification of Non-compliance and Restraining Order reported by PPO Iran. The notification from DPP outlined that AZZ Traders had exported contaminated and untreated mango consignments to Iran. It is also alleged that fabricated treatment records were presented to the DPP to obtain phytosanitary certificates deviously for the export of untreated mango shipments to Iran.
The DPP emphasized that the Agreed Technical Procedures for Mango Fruit Exported from Pakistan to Iran, signed in June 2015 for HWT plant operations, required strict adherence to phytosanitary requirements, conditions, instructions, and standard operating procedures. M/s AZZ Traders’ failure to conduct disinfestation treatment in accordance with the standards of PPO Iran and their violation of the bilateral Phytosanitary Protocol led to the interception of mango shipments at the destination port.
Given the gravity of the situation and its potential consequences, the DPP has canceled M/s AZZ Traders’ accreditation with immediate effect. This means that the company is no longer authorized to disinfect mango shipments for export to Iran under the Agreed Technical Procedures, at the request of PPO Iran. The DPP underlined that the reputation of the organization and the goodwill of Pakistan in the international community cannot be compromised.
Both companies, M/S Hyder Shah and M/s AZZ Traders, had been summoned to appear before the Plant Protection Adviser and Director General and explain their positions with substantial evidence. This meeting was to determine whether these plants will be blacklisted for further disinfestation and export of mangoes from Pakistan. Legal action is also underway against these companies for issuing false and fake treatment certificates, which has raised doubts about the integrity of Pakistan’s plant quarantine system and official procedures.
In addition to these recent suspensions, in 2021, Iran revoked the privileges of two companies, Lutfabad HWT processing facility Multan and Zarpak Horticulture HWT processing facility, for sending untreated mango consignments and urged the DPP not to allow these companies to treat fruit. In 2020, Iran also removed two other companies, Ramzan Associates, Multan, and Millat Trading Company, Quetta, from the list of authorized mango disinfection companies, prohibiting them from treating the fruit. In 2015, the Iranian authorities canceled the accreditation of Al-Qaim Mango Processing, Karachi, for exporting untreated mangoes to Iran with fake treatment certificates.
Sources revealed that the accreditation of all the suspended hot water treatment plants, including RMC hot water treatment plant situated in Janjhar Goth, the fruit and vegetable market, the most marshy and unhygienic area of Karachi, was rejected by quarantine inspectors of Iran during their visit to Pakistan in 2019 due to critical deficiencies and defects. But the owners of these plants coerced and harassed quarantine officers to recommend and get their non-compliant facilities approved from Iran using political pressure and implicating them in baseless and false FIA inquiries. Iran accorded them permission for disinfestation and export at the request of DPP.
The issuance of false treatment certificates by suspended facilities can be established from their treatment records, which show that they have issued treatment certificates for quantities double or triple their approved capacity to process mangoes. The processing of mangoes in facilities beyond capacity is the very reason for making treatment defective. As per available Iran accreditation report, RMC facility was approved at 5 tons per 75 minutes by Iran. Thus, it can disinfect 75 tons of mangoes if the plant operates for 20 hours, but it is not capable of running continuously for 20 hours. RMC is processing mangoes beyond the capacity approved by Iran. In this way, the suspended plants are accustomed to exporting untreated mangoes to Iran with counterfeit treatment certificates, causing disruptions to Pakistan’s quarantine system.
These developments have raised concerns within the industry about the future of mango exports to Iran, as out of 17 hot water treatment plants, 6 are currently suspended. The continuous interceptions of commodities provide an opportunity for the importing country to doubt the phytosanitary system of the exporting country and impose a blanket ban on the import of all commodities, including intercepted ones, under the Convention to safeguard its domestic agriculture and public health. The DPP has been urged to take stringent action against quarantine rule violators to ensure the export of high-quality and properly treated mangoes.