Karachi: The Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME) has asked the federal commerce minister Khurram Dastagir to take notice of imposing of mandatory membership of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) for rice exporters and urged him not to impose mandatory membership on rice exporters who are already members of chambers of commerce and industry in their respective cities.
President UNISAME Zulfikar Thaver said the membership of the chamber of commerce should suffice and there seems to be no need for double membership of the respective chamber of commerce and industry (CC&I) and also REAP and the ministry of commerce must take this into consideration and not burden the small exporters. Those rice exporters who consider the services of REAP worthy can become members voluntarily but the compelling is unfair, unconstitutional and illegal.
The SME forum urged the ministry of commerce to take immediate decision as the last date for renewal of membership is 31st March 2014.
The argument that since the income of pre-shipment inspection (PSI) fees from the Quality Review Committee (QRC) which is now going to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) instead of REAP is valid as there is shortfall in income but the question is that there should be no favouritism and patronizing of an association in this unfair manner. An association must be able to stand on its own merit and rice exporters would seek membership of REAP if they consider it useful on the basis of its facilities and guidance provided to its members. REAP has increased its renewal fees by 465% which is exorbitant and SME rice exporters who are members of the CC&I are forced to become members due to the mandatory clause.
However it is reported that QRC is most likely to be abolished very soon on receipt of no objection from the law ministry to its closure and it will be good riddance to bad rubbish as it was creating a conflict of interest and an hurdle and became a laughing stock as PSI is always conducted by third party. The QRC was formed to protect the basmati rice but was unfortunately abused by the managers who used it to subdue competitors and gave rise to conflict of interest. Besides it did not comply with the requirements of the Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and as such was not eligible, not qualified and not competent to conduct PSI.
The trade associations can attract membership on merit on the basis of their service and advocacy of the rights and protection they offer to its members and the ministry of commerce does not need to favour trade associations by making their membership compulsory for the traders who are members of their respective CC&I. Many exporters are exporting multiple items and it is unwise to compel them to become members of several associations and the SME exporters sometimes ship several items in one container and it should not be proper to compel them to become members of all the associations.
The TDAP had announced that an exporter of miscellaneous items could register as member of any one association and that would suffice but the question is that why a rice exporter is obliged to become a member of REAP even though the exporter is exporting several items.