TORKHAM: Food items like vegetables, fruits and chicken worth billions of rupees may be wasted as many containers carrying these items are stranded at Torkham border after its closure.

Traders are very perturbed over closure of the border for two weeks amid the coronavirus threat. They said the food items in the stranded containers may be wasted within a week. The containers carrying food items were issued clearance and gate pass, but they are stranded in Torkham due to closure of the gate. Most of the containers are carrying fresh food items.

All Pakistan Agricultural Produce Traders Federation President Malik Sohni said the traders back all the steps taken by the government for prevention of coronavirus.

Under the government announcement, Torkham border was to be closed on March 16, but the border officials closed it on March 15 at 9:00pm due to which many vehicles were stranded there despite having clearance papers and gate pass. If these stranded containers carrying fresh food items were not immediately allowed to cross the border, food items worth billions of rupees may be wasted which will cause huge loss to traders and consumers will also suffer because of potential shortage of food items. The traders are of the view that their vehicles can cross the border gate within three hours if the government allows them.

Malik Sohni said the traders are fully cooperating with the government in implementation of measures to prevent the virus. However, he said the government should also keep the welfare of traders in mind while taking decisions. He demanded the government to allow the vehicles with food items to cross the border. He said the traders will stage protest if their vehicles were not allowed to cross the border.

Earlier, when the government announced that it was closing the border, thousands of people and vehicles rushed to the border to cross it before its closure. However, many people on both sides remained stranded as the process of checking was very slow due to testing of every person for coronavirus.

According to government directives, all kind of movement across the border will remain suspended during the two weeks closure.