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ISLAMABAD: The federal government has recognized that it does not have authentic data about availability of edible commodities in the country, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

This was accepted at a recent meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet held on September 9, 2020 when the issue of ban on export of potato came under discussion.

Commerce Division noted that the Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFSR) has proposed a complete ban on the export of potato with effect from August 16 till December 31, 2020 due to declining trend of produce over the previous financial year. The meeting was further informed of a situation analysis report of province-wise details of cultivation, production, domestic requirements, monthly prices and export/import of potato. The forum was informed that Agriculture Department, Punjab had been requesting the MNFSR since February 2020 to take necessary policy measure regarding export of potato in order to stabilize supply and price of the commodity in domestic market. Commerce Division informed that since Section 3(1) of the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1950 empowered the Federal Government to prohibit, restrict or otherwise control the import into and export from Pakistan of any good or class of goods, approval of ECC was requested to ban export of potato till December 31, 2020, as proposed by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. It was also requested to exempt export shipments of potato in the pipeline which had confirmed L/C, B/L or Airway Bill from the proposed ban. During the ensuing discussion, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood stated that there was a need to have a permanent mechanism in order to determine export potential as Pakistani potato was in demand in many countries. The Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed observed that there was lack of authentic data about availability of edible commodities in the country. He further observed that interests of growers and farmers should also be kept in mind while making any decision in this regard.

The forum agreed that decision regarding import/export of edible commodities should be based on authentic data. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity also observed that import and export of edible commodities should be based on market forces without any intervention.

The ECC directed the Commerce Division to review the position regarding availability of potato in the country and also assess impact on the local prices of potato, in consultation with relevant stake holders, in case export of potato is continued.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020