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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday the country has sufficient stocks of wheat and he will not allow its private import to save “precious foreign exchange.”

Addressing a review meeting at the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre on Thursday, the PM said the production of wheat was likely to be less than the demand consequent to the floods and the government wanted to distribute seeds to the farmers for the next crop with equal cost sharing with the provincial governments but Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had conveyed they did not need it.

He added that the government had imported thousands of tonnes of wheat to overcome the shortage for the last year. He said there was fear that after the floods the next crop production might not be sufficient to meet the demand. He said he would like to request Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab through that forum to accept that offer. He said those efforts were beyond personal and political preferences.

He added “if they are not accepting the federal government’s offer, they should not hold the federal government responsible.” He said after the flood, there was a possibility that the production of wheat would be less than the demand, and steps were being taken in that regard to bridge the likely shortfall. He said it was the precise reason that the federal government had decided to provide high-quality seeds to the farmers with equal sharing by the federation.

There’s no shortage of wheat: govt

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stated that the government has distributed Rs66 billion among the flood affectees so far.

He said that all the relief funds coming to the flood victims were being delivered to the victims and Rs66 billion had so far been distributed among the affectees. Shehbaz Sharif said the flood had taken the lives of more than 1,700 people and the federal government had announced Rs1 million for the families of the deceased as compensation and the injured. He said the NDMA had distributed Rs880 million among their family members. He said the aid being provided by the friendly countries was also distributed among the victims of the four provinces through the NDMA. In view of the arrival of winter, the tents sent by China were also distributed, he added.

The PM said the private sector had been stating the federal government did not allow them to import wheat which as PM he would not allow simply because there was an emergency-like situation in terms of foreign exchange reserves and the country could not spend even a dollar extra. He said wheat prices were also falling and had come down to $350, which would help the country save foreign exchange reserves. The premier said that flood water had not yet receded in many areas.

Earlier, the PM chaired a review meeting of the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre which was informed that comprehensive planning for the rehabilitation of flood victims was in its final stage and on October 24, a detailed Post-Disaster Need Assessment report prepared with the cooperation of the federal government, provincial governments and international organisations would be presented.

The PM directed the completion of the comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of the flood victims to be presented to international donors as soon as possible.

The PM was informed about the progress made by the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) on the distribution of 25,000 per household to the affected families under the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Cash Programme.

The meeting was told that so far an amount of Rs66.22 billion has been distributed to 2.6 million households in the whole country. The meeting was informed that money was disbursed at the highest number in Sindh with about 1.8 million households, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with 0.315 million households, and Balochistan with 0.240 million households.

The NDMA chairman informed about rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures and stated that in total about 123,000 tents had been provided in Sindh, 100,000 in Balochistan, and 64,000 in KP.

The meeting was further informed that 1.5 million mosquito nets in Sindh and 0.5 million in Balochistan were provided. Besides providing ration to the flood-affected areas, a large number of boats and pumps for water drainage were also ensured.

The meeting was also told that Rs1 million has been distributed by the NDMA to the families of the deceased and about Rs890 million to the injured.

The meeting was further informed that water pumps had been installed on the eastern and western banks of the Indus River in the province of Sindh for the drainage of floodwater and the provision of generators had been ensured in the areas where the electricity supply was disrupted.

The PM was informed by the Balochistan Chief Secretary about the problems of the flood victims in the province due to winter and the relief operations of the provincial and federal governments. The PM directed for immediate delivery of special tents donated by China to the flood victims in those areas where the severity of winter was increasing. Federal Ministers, chairman NDMA, chairman NFRCC, and senior officials of related institutions participated in the meeting. The chief minister of Sindh and the chief secretaries of the four provinces participated through video-link.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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