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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Tuesday expressed anger over the failure of the government for not fixing the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat and recommended to take the matter to the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research, which met with Syed Muzafar Ali Shah in the chair, recommended the government to send the matter of wheat MSP to the CCI. The wheat crop harvest in Sindh is approaching but the government has not announced MSP yet, Shah said. He said that why the government has so far not taken the matter related to wheat MSP to the constitutional forum CCI.

Due to price difference: NA panel foresees movement of wheat from Punjab to Sindh

The committee expressed displeasure on the non-seriousness of the federal cabinet on the issue “two months have lapsed and the committee is informed that no steps have been taken in fact it continues to be pending before the cabinet and no decision so far is taken.” The committee also showed serious concern over the acute shortage of wheat flour and inquired about the steps taken to meet the shortage and the reasons of the hike in prices to which the ministry informed that there are sufficient wheat stocks in the country.

The official of the MNFS&R further told the committee that the less releases of wheat by the provinces, despite sufficient wheat stocks, slow lifting of wheat from Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation Ltd (PASSCO) stock by the provinces, the non-uniform announcement of MSP by the provinces, under-utilisation of grinding capacities of flour mills inconsistent policies, smuggling and hoarding are the main reasons of wheat crises in the country. We have been told that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will talk to the Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari regarding the matter, he said.

Shah said that the country is witnessing wheat crisis but the government is unable to take any steps to increase the production of the commodity.

“The government is importing expensive wheat from abroad”, he said.

Wheat Commissioner MNFS&R told the committee that imported wheat costs about Rs 3,840 per 40 kg.

He said that the proposed MSP per 40 kg by the provincial governments is Rs 3,000, however, the provincial government of Sindh unilaterally announced the MSP at Rs 4000 per 40 kg. The MNFS&R moved a summary to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet with the recommendation of MSP of wheat crop at Rs 3,000 per 40 kg or 3,200 per 40 kg the decision by the federal Cabinet is still awaited, he said.

Senator Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar said that the middleman purchases cheap wheat and then sells it at higher rates. A system should be developed which helps in timely action against the hoarders and smugglers, he said, adding that the smuggling of wheat is continued unabated due to poor checks of our relevant institutions. He further said that urea fertilisers are being sold at a higher rate.

The chairman said that the employees of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) have not received salaries since 2016. For the last seven years, the MNFS&R is making different kinds of excuses on the issue of salaries of PCCC employees, he said, adding that due to the non-availability of funds, research has not been conducted on cotton in the country. The meeting was also attended by Senator Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar, Kamran Murtaza, Rana Mahmoodul Hassan, Senator Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan, and senior officials of the MNFS&R.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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