Howard may intervene in wheat dispute
CANBERRA: Prime Minister John Howard may intervene in a dispute between Australia and Pakistan over a shipment of wheat Pakistanis claim is tainted, the Australian trade minister said on Tuesday.
Authorities in Pakistan last month said the $30 million shipment was infected with a fungus known as karnal bunt, which gives the grain a fishy smell. However, the government in Canberra is disputing the claim, fearing it could lead to other countries rejecting Australian wheat.
Australia, which exports $3 billion worth of wheat each year, has never had a known case of karnal bunt in its wheat crop. Trade Minister Mark Vaile said on Tuesday the allegations would dent the reputation of Australia as an exporter of high quality wheat. Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of wheat, after the United States.
“There is a good relationship between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Howard, and if necessary we will need to bring that into play,” Mr Vaile told reporters.
“We cannot afford to have the reputation of our wheat product damaged in this way, so we’ll be doing everything in our power, as I say even through to the prime minister writing to President Musharraf.”
Australia wants Pakistan to have the wheat tested by an independent third country, either Britain or the United States. “We have a concern that maybe the testing facilities and capability in Pakistan is not quite up to the standard that is needed to be able to identify karnal bunt from other organisms,” he said. —AP