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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin has directed the provincial government and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to review the entire supply chain from farmer to the end-consumer to minimise disparity in wholesale and retail prices of basic commodities to ensure that both the farmer and the consumer get maximum benefit.

An official said the finance minister, who presided over the first meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC), had shown discontent over variation in prices at the wholesale and the retail levels, and directed to review the entire supply chain.

The finance minister also directed the PBS for coverage of more areas in the sensitive price index (SPI) and a plan to that effect should be put up to the next meeting of the NPMC.

The meeting reviewed the price trends of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar, edible ghee, chicken, eggs, and vegetables, during the last week, in the light of the briefing by the secretary finance about weekly trend of the SPI.

The Secretary Finance informed the meeting that the SPI declined by 0.40 percent as prices of 13 items recorded a decline and 26 items remained stable.

The meeting was told that prices of essential commodities including tomatoes, onions, sugar, potatoes, and poultry were reduced during the week under review.

The PBS briefed the finance minister about the data collection methodology and updated the meeting about the recent changes incorporated to reflect price variation between wholesale and retail levels across various cities.

The finance minister emphasised to extend the market coverage by including more cities and local areas including Ramazan Sasta and Sahulat bazaars.

The data must represent and reflect prevailing price trends accurately, he stressed.

Tarin also sought briefing from the representatives of the provincial governments regarding efficacy of Ramzaan Sasta bazaars, which had been setup to provide maximum relief to the masses during the holy month.

The provincial administrations reported that by and large, the response has been very encouraging as people were making regular purchases and taking benefit of the reduced prices of basic commodities.

The finance minister urged the respective provincial administrations to chalk out a firm plan for strict monitoring of prices and availability of basic commodities’ stocks at Ramazan Sasta bazaars to facilitate the general public in Eid shopping which largely took place during the last week of Ramazan.

He also directed the provincial governments to keep the prices of basic commodities in check during the Eid holidays.

The MD, USC informed the meeting that there was adequate stock of all basic commodities at all the chain of the USC outlets including wheat flour, sugar, ghee, and pulses (at subsidised prices) in compliance with the directives of the prime minister.

However, he stated as maximum buying across USC outlets took place during the second half of the day; therefore, large queues were usually witnessed.

He urged the need for the general public to visit the USC outlets during morning hours to avoid large queues.

The finance minister stressed the need to ensure availability of basic commodities at the USCs throughout the country and urged the people to benefit from the Mobile Utility Stores facility amid Covid-19 pandemic.

He also underlined the importance of maintaining strategic reserves of essential commodities and directed the provincial governments and departments concerned to work out estimates and procure wheat and sugar in a smooth and timely manner.

The meeting was attended by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, 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 Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Joint Secretary Ministry of Industries and Production, Managing Director USC, senior representatives of the provincial governments, member PBS, and other senior officers of the Finance Division, participated in the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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