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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) is to submit plan to import 0.4 million tons of wheat to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet soon after Eid holidays, well-informed sources told Business Recorder.

This was revealed by Secretary, NFS&R, Ghufran Memon at a meeting of National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) held on May 10, 2021 under the chairmanship of Finance Minister, Shaukat Tarin, convened to discuss prices and supply position of essential food items.

The main issues pointed out in the meeting were that wheat stocks of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) are to exhaust on May 15, 2021 due to which a crisis like situation can emerge in the province during Eid days, and cartelization in poultry and Passco's complaint against Punjab government regarding wheat procurement excesses.

Finance Secretary, Kamran Ali Afzal briefed the meeting that weekly SPI increased by 0. 50 percent for the week ended on May,6 2021 on WoW basis. He further stated that during this week prices of 07 items declined 18 items increased and 26 items remained stable.

The meeting was also briefed on price movement in international commodity market. It was observed that prices of sugar increased by 56. 5%, palm oil 76. 5%, soya bean oil 76. 8 %, crude oil 178. 1% wheat 26. 9 % and tea 12 3% during April 2021 compared to April 2020.

Finance Minister noted that price of wheat flour bag during the week has increased overall inflation in the country. He directed the provincial governments to strictly follow the daily releases of wheat up till June 30, as PM also desired the same. He expressed concern on noncompliance of the PM’s order in this regard.

He urged that wheat flour bag must be sold at Rs 860 to Rs 900 up till June so that burden on the consumers is minimized. Punjab government noted that 313 subsidised outlets/Ramazan Bazaars have been established across the province and also proposed that all provincial governments continue daily release of wheat uptill June 30, 2021.

Finance Minister highlighted various issues in gap analysis which require more fine tuning and correction by the PBS. He stressed the need that issues in PBS price data should be resolved at the earliest as it is very important to improve data collection methodology to reflect the ground realities of the markets.

He also observed that there is a huge price differential between PBS reported prices and prices paid by shoppers especially chicken and wheat flour. He further stressed that provincial governments need to monitor the supply as well as price of wheat/wheat flour and other essential items in the market.

Chairperson CCP noted that during their investigation of chicken price hike it was found that there is a presence of cartelization in the poultry sector. Finance Minister advised CCP to share the findings with Chief Secretaries of the provinces for strict action against major players of cartelization.

Chief Secretary KP stated that wheat stocks in the province will be exhausted on May 15, 2021.

The Federal Minister for NFS&R noted that Punjab Government has completed 95% of procurement target of around 3 5 million tons while Sindh and Passco are far behind their wheat procurement targets. Finance Minister appreciated the Punjab Government and urged the need to enhance target to 4 million tons after getting approval of the Cabinet.

MD, Passco stated that Punjab Government was procuring wheat from their specified areas which is creating problems for Passco to meet procurement target. Finance Minister urged Chief Secretary Punjab to resolve the dispute with MD Passco amicably.

Secretary NFS&R stated that the Ministry will move a summary next week regarding import plan of wheat to meet the shortfall of 4 million MT to smooth supply situation and control possible price hike. Finance Minister also instructed Secretary NFS&R to take up the matter of release of wheat with Government of Sindh and ensure affordable wheat price in Sindh especially in Karachi.

After detailed deliberations following decision were taken: (i) provincial governments will continue daily release of wheat at subsidised rates till June 30, to ensure smooth supply of wheat/wheat flour at fair price (Rs 860 to Rs 900) in the markets; (ii) PBS will regularly share the list of items where gap between wholesale is more than 10 per cent with Provincial governments for strict action by the district administration;(iii) PBS to finalise the exercise for improving data collection and reporting mechanism to capture more realistic situation of prices of essential items in the market at the earliest; (iv) CCP will take necessary action to break cartelization in the poultry sector and also share findings of the inquiry report with provincial governments for strict action; (v) Passco was directed to release 0.5 million tons of wheat to KP to ensure smooth supply of wheat in the province; (vi) Chief Secretary Punjab was to resolve the dispute of wheat procurement with MD Passco amicably to facilitate the organisation to meet procurement target and; (vii) Secretary NFS&R was directed to take up the matter of daily release of wheat with Government of Sindh to ensure fair price of wheat in Sindh especially in Karachi.

The meeting was attended by Federal Minster for National Food Security & Research, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce & Investment, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue, Provincial Chief Secretaries, Secretary MNFS&R, Chairman FBR, Additional Secretary M/o Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Chairperson CCP, MD USC, MD Passco, DG National Accounts from PBS, Joint Secretary M/o Industries & Production, Joint Secretary Ministry of Commerce and senior officers of the Finance Division also attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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