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ISLAMABAD: As there appears to be no let-up in increase in the prices of essential commodities, Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC), and called on the provincial governments as well as the concerned authorities to take immediate proactive steps to control increase in prices.

While presiding over NPMC meeting on Monday, the adviser was concerned about price hikes and inability of the provincial governments to check the widening difference, in wholesale and retail prices of up to around 40 percent. The absence of check and balance was leading to a huge difference in wholesale and the retail prices, the sources said.

They said that this had been one of the major drawbacks of the present government.

The adviser urged the representatives of the provincial governments to strictly monitor the difference between retail and wholesale prices of various commodities to ensure availability of essential items for consumers at affordable prices.

On October 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan promised that he would use all available resources of the state to bring the prices of food items down.

However, there is no let-up in rise in prices of essential commodities, according to reports.

The NPMC meeting reviewed the price trend of essential commodities, namely wheat flour, sugar, tomato, onions, vegetable ghee, potato, and chicken on a weekly basis, and the finance secretary in his presentation told the NPMC that according to the latest SPI released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), there was a decline in the prices of wheat flour, sugar, onions while the prices of tomato, potato, and chicken had slightly increased.

The meeting was informed that prices of vegetable ghee had remained unchanged.

The committee was also informed about the price variations among the provinces and the profit margins between wholesale and retail sales.

The adviser on finance held a detailed discussion regarding the position of wheat and sugar stocks in provinces with provincial chief secretaries.

The NPMC was briefed that sufficient quantities are available across the country.

The chief secretary Sindh told the meeting that wheat flour and sugar prices had declined in the province, which would further stabilise in coming weeks.

He also said the Sindh government had established fair price shops to provide relief to general public.

However, chicken prices are increasing and the authorities are taking corrective measures accordingly.

The additional chief secretary Punjab informed the meeting that tomato was were witnessing price fluctuations due to seasonal factors but it would stabilise in coming weeks. He further said prices in 360 'Sahulat Bazaars' were lower compared to the open market. He also informed the meeting that the government of Punjab was releasing wheat as per policy; as a result of which, wheat flour prices had stabilised. The chief secretary Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said that they were releasing 5,000 tonnes of wheat daily and the prices of wheat flour had, therefore come down in open market.

It was also informed that local produce of tomato in the KP had started reaching the market; it was expected that in coming weeks, the supply of tomato would increase significantly, which would bring a major decline in its price.

The Punjab and the Sindh governments also spoke about the new crushing season of sugarcane, and underlined that price of sugar would be reduced further due to availability of the local produce in the coming months.

Managing Director (MD), USC apprised the NPMC about the availability of "sufficient" stocks of sugar and wheat flour at Utility Stores across Pakistan at subsidised rates.

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, Federal Secretary Finance, Federal Secretary National Food Security and Research, Secretary Industries and Production, Secretary Commerce, Chairman TCP, Chairperson CCP, and Managing Director Utility Stores Corporation participated in the meeting. The provincial chief secretaries attended the meeting through video links.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020