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ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Monday said that cartelization is not acceptable at any cost and stern action will be taken to keep the prices of basic commodities in check.

While chairing a meeting of National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC), he said that all those responsible for undue profiteering or hoarding will be taken to task.

He also said that the government is striving to ensure smooth supply of basic items through a network of Ramazan Sahulat and Saasta Bazaars and Utility Stores to ease shortages and check price hike.

According to a statement issued here, the minister said that Covid-19 pandemic has caused price hike in food items, especially edible oil, sugar, tea and wheat, in international markets.

Taking stock of the situation, he directed all the provincial governments to ensure daily release of wheat at subsidized rates to avoid any shortage.

The NPMC noted that the major driver behind increase in prices of items of daily use is massive international price hike due to ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The year-on-year comparative analysis indicates that price of crude oil increased by 178 percent in April this year.

Similarly, the prices of sugar in international market soared by 57 percent on year-on-year basis.

Furthermore, international prices of palm oil, soybean oil and wheat also continued an upward trend leading to sharp increase in prices of basic items in domestic markets.

APP adds: Earlier, the NPMC reviewed the price trends of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar, edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week.

While briefing the NPMC about weekly SPI, the Finance Secretary apprised that prices of 07 basic commodities registered a decline whereas 26 items remained stable during the week under review.

Syed Fakhar Imam updated the NPMC about the wheat procurement drive of the Provinces and PASSCO to ensure steady supply of wheat at fair prices during the current year.

He further apprised the NPMC that Punjab was ahead of other provinces in procurement of wheat to date.

Secretary Ministry of NFS&R informed the committee that a summary to import 4 million metric tons of wheat would be presented before the next Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting for requisite approval to build strategic reserves and to ensure smooth supply of wheat across the country.

The Chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) presented findings regarding completion of recent inquiry into the Poultry Industry before the Committee.

The CCP underlined some anti-competitive conduct that led to a surge in the prices of chicken feed, which, in turn, increased the prices of chicken.

The finance minister stressed that canalization would not be acceptable at any cost and stern action would be taken by the provincial administrations and departments concerned to keep the prices of basic commodities in check.

All those responsible for undue profiteering or hoarding would be taken to task, he concluded.

Those attended the meeting were Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research (NFS&R), Syed Fakhar Imam; Adviser to the PM on Commerce, Abdul Razak Dawood; SAPM on Finance and Revenue, Dr Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Division, Secretary Ministry of NFS&R, Chief Secretaries of the Provincial Governments, Member PBS, MD Utility Stores Corporation, Chairperson CCP and other senior officers of various ministries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021