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KARACHI: The Sindh Cabinet, in order to avoid spending foreign exchange on purchase of costly imported wheat, has taken a pragmatic decision to encourage local growers to cultivate more wheat by fixing minimum procurement support price at Rs2000 per 40 kg.

The cabinet also approved sugarcane support price at Rs202 per 40 kg and the crushing season would start from November.

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah here at CM House on Thursday. The meeting was attended by all provincial ministers, concerned advisors, chief secretary Mumtaz Shah, concerned provincial secretaries and other officers.

The first and important agenda of the meeting was fixation of the support price of wheat and sugarcane. The cabinet members said that it was a high time to fix support of wheat to encourage the growers for cultivating wheat in a great quantity.

The cabinet members said that the wheat which has recently been imported from Ukraine has finally landed in Sindh at around Rs5000 per 40 kg though it is not of such a good quality as is being grown here.

It was pointed out that the country was spending foreign exchange on import of wheat but we were not ready to incentivize our growers so that they grow more wheat for local consumption and export.

The agriculture department told the cabinet that the Punjab and Balochistan have proposed to fix maximum wheat procurement support price at Rs1,700 per 40 kg while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has proposed Rs1,880 per 40 kg.

The cabinet members unanimously decided to fix wheat procurement minimum support price at Rs2000 per 40 kg. “This decision at this time when wheat plantation season, from November 21 to December 15, is approaching, therefore the grower would prefer to grow more wheat because of its good price,” the chief minister said and added being agricultural country we should formulate such policies under which we not only ensure our food security but export grain to earn foreign exchange.

Sugarcane: The Sindh cabinet taking another important decision fixed the minimum sugarcane price at Rs202 per 40 kg plus Rs0.50 (fifty paisa) quality premium. The cabinet also directed the Agriculture department to ensure the starting of the crushing season from November 30.

The cabinet was told that the Minister agriculture had held a meeting of the Sugarcane Control Board on Oct 20, 2020 which was attended by all the sugar mill representatives. In the meeting the growers had demanded to increase the purchase price of sugarcane as the prices of inputs have increased considerably. They said, therefore the production cost of sugarcane has increased.

The meeting was told that during 2019-20 the Sindh government had notified sugarcane price at Rs192 per 40 kg. It was also pointed out that the Punjab government has notified Rs200 per 40 kg minimum sugarcane price.

The cabinet realising the sugarcane production cost decided to fix the minimum sugarcane purchase price at Rs202 per 40 kg and also approved the rate of quality premium at Rs0.50 (fifty paisa) per 40 kg.

Heritage: The cabinet was told that Sir Cowasjee Jehangir (C.J) Institute of Psychiatry, Hyderabad was established over an area of 27.22 acres at Deh Gidu, taluka Hyderabad in 1939-40. The cabinet after thorough discussion approved to declare the building as Protected Heritage under Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act, 1994.

The culture department presented another item under which the Heritage Committee had approved construction of a building within the compound of Homie Katrak Chamber, situated on Abdullah Haroon Road, Hoshang Road, Karachi.

The cabinet was shown photographs of the proposed high rise building to be constructed within the old compound walls of Homie Katrak Chamber. The cabinet members observed that the construction of the new high-rise building within the old compound walls of the chamber would overshadow the old heritage. Therefore, the cabinet members referred the proposal back to the Heritage Committee to reconsider its approval/project.

The cabinet also accorded post facto approval of the Rules framed under Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994.

Narcotics Act: The Minister Excise, Taxation & Narcotics Control Department told the cabinet that in the Control of Narcotics Substance Act 1997 the drugs were defined in detail with complete explanation of their usage, carrying, making, selling, purchasing and consumption which made it applicable to the defined catalogue only.

The cabinet was told that Neurotoxin Synthetic drugs which include Ice, Meth and Crystal (Methamphetamine) and Ecstasy and Molly (Midomafetamine) used as recreational/addictive psychoactive drugs were not defined in the law, hence no punishment was awarded in trial courts.

The punishment for drug related crimes in the law are also assigned as per quantity whereas severity of addiction and harm is not considered and drugs like Cannabis and Heroin are treated in the same category.

The Excise department requested the cabinet to approve amendment in the Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1997 by inserting undefined drugs and rigorous punishment for the offence.

The cabinet after discussing the proposed draft amendments approved them and referred them to the provincial assembly.

The cabinet on the request of the Transport & MassTransit department rectified minutes of its meeting held on August 20, 2020 regarding exemption of Government Fee upto 50 percent on the route permits fee and motor vehicle fitness fees.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020