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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance, Revenue, Industries, and Production, Hammad Azhar Monday sought the details from all the four provinces regarding wheat procurement targets and the prevailing market prices.

The finance minister was chairing a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) at the Finance Division. The provincial governments have apprised him of the measures being taken by them including setting up of Sasta Bazaars to provide relief to the people.

The finance minister urged the provincial governments to take strict administrative measures to ensure smooth supply of sugar at fair prices during Ramzan.

There is a great need for mobilising district administrations and departments concerned to curtail profiteering and hoarding through smooth supply of basic commodities at affordable prices throughout the country.

The finance minister also reviewed the prices and supply position of sugar across all the provinces.

The additional secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production, briefed the Committee about the continuous downward trend in international prices of sugar, which will reduce the upward pressure on sugar prices in the domestic markets.

Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, secretary Finance Division, secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research, secretary Ministry of Industries and Production, MD Utility Stores Corporation, senior representatives of the provincial governments, member PBS, and other senior officers participated in the meeting.

The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar, vegetable ghee, chicken, eggs, and vegetables during the last week.

The secretary finance briefed the Committee about the weekly SPI, where prices of 13 basic commodities registered a decline and 20 items remained stable during the week under review.

Essential commodities including flour (-0.7%), sugar (-3%), eggs (-1.4%), and pulses (-0.5%) recorded a decline due to improved availability.

Non-food items including LPG (-2.3%) and electricity charges (-1.3%) also recorded a decline.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) briefed the Committee about the sufficient stock of wheat across the country.

While reviewing the overall prices of wheat flour, the finance minister sought details from all the four provinces regarding procurement targets and prevailing market prices.

The committee observed prices of 20kgs wheat flour bags were significantly higher in Sindh (Karachi Rs1,200 and Hyderabad Rs1,230) compared to prices in other provinces (Peshawar Rs964, Quetta Rs960, Islamabad Rs864, and Lahore Rs860.

The finance minister specifically asked the representative of the Sindh government to explain why prices were higher in Sindh and what measures had been taken to control rising prices of wheat flour.

The representative of the Sindh government highlighted that higher procurement price set by the province (@ Rs2,000/40kgs) was the reason for higher flour prices in Sindh as compared to other provinces and no effective price control strategy had yet been formulated in the province.

With the arrival of Ramazan, the Punjab government updated the committee that 313 “Ramazan/Sahulat Bazaars” have been established to provide maximum relief to the consumers by offering basic commodities at discounted prices.

The finance minister directed the respective provincial governments to establish sufficient number of Ramzan Bazaars to ensure provision of basic need items at affordable prices across the board, he stressed.

The MD, Utility Stores Corporation (USC) apprised the NPMC about the arrangements being made to ensure uninterrupted supply of basic commodities namely, wheat flour, rice, pulses, sugar, vegetable ghee, and others at subsidised prices under the “Ramadan Relief Package” across its chain of outlets throughout the country.

The finance minister directed the MD USC, to firm up a plan to ensure all the basic items are well-stocked and available to the masses at discounted prices.

The finance secretary informed the committee that the Finance Division has released requisite funds and would facilitate further to enable USC replenish its stock (as needed) during the holy month.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021