Neglected chemical sector needs help.

AT this crucial juncture and in a depressing environment when the country is facing a lingering economic crisis that is in particular adversely impacting industrial activities, it is reassuring that the indigenous chemical industry, once neglected by successive governments, has continued to flourish, and offers immense potential for further growth.

Globally, the chemical industry is one of the largest and fast-growing sectors; a market of about $4 trillion with over 70,000 products. It is recognised as the 'mother of industries' since it is vitally important for overall industrial development and self-reliance, being a major provider of raw material to almost all sectors.

Many of the chemicals are part of our daily life, whereas others are main constituents of practically all the manufacturing processes. Industrial chemicals, in solid, liquid and gas forms, are commonly used almost in all industries, including pharmaceuticals, rubber, soap and detergent, cosmetics and toiletries, food and beverages, cement, fertiliser, ceramics, glass, sugar, pulp and paper, iron and steel, oil and gas, leather and tanneries, coatings and inks, textiles and engineering industries, to name but a few.

Besides, the chemical industry provides key linkages in terms of product technology to several industries, such as automotive, engineering, consumer durables, food processing and petrochemicals. About 70 per cent of country's overall industrial chemical output - basic, formulated and intermediates - is consumed by the larger manufacturing sector.

For this reason, growth of the chemical sector worldwide is directly proportional to the growth of overall manufacturing sector. Pakistan's chemical industry, despite facing global competitive markets and lack of policy support from the government, has grown progressively over the years, and is considered one of the robust industries that has seen many ups and downs in the past, but has survived the odds. In fact, the idustry has done well.

Like all other industrial segments, and much else, the industry had a setback in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, but it soon recovered, contributing 3pc of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Currently, there are 28 listed companies engaged in production and marketing a large variety of chemicals, and employing thousands of workers. In addition, there are many units operating in the non-formal sector.

Industrial chemicals are produced by converting raw materials, such as fossil fuels...

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