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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to allow wheat export to Afghanistan formally to discourage smuggling and raise revenue, well informed sources in Commerce Ministry told Business Recorder.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet, in one of its recent meetings when the minutes of the ECC regarding provision of additional wheat to AJ&K and Utility Stores Corporation (USC) were noted. According to sources, the issue of smuggling of wheat to Afghanistan was also highlighted and it was suggested that since Afghanistan’s requirement of wheat was not more than 0.7 million tons, ban on export of wheat to Afghanistan should be lifted to eliminate smuggling and raise revenue through exports. During discussion, Minister for Food Security & Research, Syed Fakhar Imam, who has also been included in the committee on agriculture reforms, noted that so far total of 3.8 million metric tons of wheat had been imported - 2.5 million metric tons by the public sector and 1.3 million metric tons by the private sector.

There was concern that there would be shortfall in the next season as well for which preparations should start immediately. At a recent meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet, Prime Minister, Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar stated that wheat’s “disturbing” consumption pattern indicated that another crisis will surface before the next crop comes to the market.

However, Prime Minister Advisor on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Hussain, was unwilling to support more import of wheat, saying a substantial foreign exchange had already been spent on import.

During the Cabinet meeting, it was suggested that procurement policy and Food Security Law, covering all issues impacting food security, should be formulated.

Minister for National Food Security and Research requested that permission to import 300,000 metric tons of wheat immediately may be granted to keep the prices stable. Minister for Finance and Revenue/Chairman, ECC, endorsed the proposal. The ECC, in its previous meeting granted formal approval for import of 0.3 million tons of wheat to avert crisis.

The sources said, the Cabinet while ratifying the ECC decision in the case titled “provision of additional quantities of wheat to KPK, AJ&K, USC”, allowed immediate import of 300,000 metric tons of wheat by TCP through tendering process by waiving of all the taxes and duties.

The Cabinet directed Food Security & Research Division to coordinate with the provinces for uniform procurement of wheat within 15 days and draft the Food Security Law within 15 days, in consultation with Law & Justice Division/AGP to cater to all issues impacting on food security.

The Cabinet further directed Commerce Ministry to coordinate with all the stakeholders, including Afghanistan Government, for regular export of wheat to Afghanistan. This task should be completed in 4 weeks and the Cabinet be briefed.

Commerce Ministry, which is in contact with the Afghan government for next and crucial round of talks on APTTA and PTA in Kabul, will convey Pakistan’s intention to allow export of wheat to Afghanistan formally.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021