EghtesadOnline: Trucks started arriving at border gates after Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan on Thursday announced that Turkey has reopened the Gurbulak border gate with Iran (known as Bazargan on the Iranian side of the border) and the Habur border gate with Iraq for international freight transport.
The announcement came just a day after Pekcan said the border gates would open this week to help boost trade, as coronavirus containment measures are eased, Daily Sabah reported.
Bazargan is a city and capital of Bazargan District in Maku County, West Azarbaijan Province, Iran. It is the most important Iranian land border for importing and exporting from and to Turkey.
To stem the spread of Covid-19, Turkey in March shut its border gates with neighboring countries, including Iran and Iraq. After the closure of Iraqi borders, Turkey’s Trade Ministry implemented a number of no-contact foreign trade practices to continue the country's exports and imports.
The Bazargan border initially opened for trade in May, but restrictions were applied regarding incoming and outgoing truck traffic.
According to Spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration Rouhollah Latifi, 60 Iranian trucks per day were allowed to transfer exports to Turkey from Iran as per new agreements as of May 5, IRNA reported.
Pekcan said restrictions on these countries were lifted due to the slower international spread of possible contaminants and the waning outbreaks in Iraq and Iran.
Trade through the Iraqi-Turkish border via trucks was halted for a limited time. However, it was later resumed via a buffer zone established for truck drivers to send goods without entering each country.
Turkish drivers were responsible for bringing trucks to border crossings before their containers were received by a foreign driver who hauled the goods back through their country of residence. The vehicles were disinfected upon arrival at the buffer zone established at the customs gates before being brought to the other side of the border.
The reopening also marks the end of contact-free trade, Pekcan added.
Trucks from Iran started arriving at the Gürbulak customs gate after the announcement and were to enter Turkey after the completion of procedures. Turkish trucks looking to enter Iran also started arriving at the border gate.
Strict measures such as imposing lockdowns and closing borders deeply affected the country's exports, particularly to Europe, its top export market, and the Middle East.
Pekcan on Wednesday said the worst was over and that the recovery period in exports would continue with the gradual normalization in Turkey and the country's main export markets.
The country's exports rose 10.8% month-on-month in May, while they plunged 40.8% year-on-year under the impact of the measures.
In May, exports slid to $9.43 billion and imports fell 28.2% to $12.79 billion, according to the special trade system, Trade Ministry data showed. Special trade system data exclude imports to customs warehouses.
Turkey's trade deficit for May widened by 78.7% year-on-year to $3.36 billion.
In addition, Turkish and Iranian citizens are allowed to cross the border into their own countries in a controlled manner. In this context, a large number of Iranian citizens at the border crossing entered their country after the completion of necessary procedures.
As part of the measures taken, truck drivers and Turkish citizens showing Covid-19 symptoms during checks by thermal cameras and paramedics will be transported by ambulance to hospitals in the region.
Those who do not show symptoms will remain in quarantine under the supervision of health officials for 14 days during their stay in Turkey.
Pharmaceutical Cargo Arrives From France
Following the reopening of Bazargan border, the first batch of pharmaceutical imports from France entered Iran on Friday.
The shipment which included 7,300 kilograms of antiserum worth €618,981, Sadeq Namdar, the managing director of Bazargan Customs Office said.
Before the reopening of Bazargan border crossing, 19 pharmaceutical shipments entered Iran via West Azarbaijan Province’s Sari Su border market near Maku, ISNA quoted Namdar as saying.
75% Decline in Bilateral Trade
Iran’s trade with Turkey totaled $719.53 million during January-April to register a decrease of about 75% compared with the corresponding months of 2019, data released by Turkish Statistical Institute show.
Iran exported $289.1 million worth of goods to Turkey during the four months under review, indicating an 86.05% decline year-on-year.
Imports stood at $430.43 million, down 45.72% YOY.
Bilateral trade in April amounted to $74.55 million, going down by 89.54% compared to April 2019. Exports to Turkey accounted for $19.45 million of the figure, down 96.1% YOY, while Turkey’s exports to Iran stood at $55.1 million, down by 74.19% YOY.
Trade via Railroad
Iran-Turkey trade has continued since the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Razi border crossing is Iran’s sole rail connection with Turkey. Prior to the opening of Bazargan, all trades were carried out via this gate.
A total of 18,000 tons of goods worth more than $41 million were exported from Razi border crossing in West Azarbaijan’s Khoy County via 813 cargo wagons during the first month of the current Iranian year (March 20-April 19), showing a sevenfold and 20-fold rise in tonnage and value respectively compared with the similar period of last year, according to manager of Razi Rail Customs Administration, Seifollah Rasi.
The main exported items were polyethylene, urea, copper ingots and watermelons.
Some 30,000 tons of goods worth around $40 million were transited through Razi border via 1,400 freight wagons over the same period, registering a 2.5-fold increase in weight year-on-year.
Rasi added that since the virus outbreak, the border crossing has been working round the clock.
A total of 6,300 wagons have exchanged goods between Iran and the neighboring Turkey since the beginning of the current Iranian year (March 20) up until May 29, IRICA spokesman said recently.
“A total of 3,072 wagons carried Iran’s exported commodities to Turkey over the period, while 3,228 wagons transported the neighboring country’s exports to Iran,” Rouhollah Latifi was quoted as saying by ILNA.