The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has strongly recommended an increase in the number of utility store outlets and establishment of a centralized monitoring authority at federal level to monitor supply/demand of essential food items and recommend export controls to avoid shortages of such commodities.
According to the CCP's latest report on 'Review of Framework relating to Control of Pricing and Supply of Essential Commodities,' a central body to be established may monitor the supply situation and recommend export controls in case of shortages or opening up of exports in case of excess supply. The federal government can greatly assist in ensuring adequate supply by continuing to take timely decisions to bar export of commodities when a shortfall is expected. If commodities cannot be taken out of the country in times of crisis, shortages can be avoided and traders will be encouraged to ensure supply in the domestic market. This will have a positive impact on prices. A centralized monitoring authority would enable the timely identification of import needs in case of insufficient domestic supply. Emergency procurement has led to losses to the exchequer which could be avoided if there is a centralized authority monitoring the supply and demand situation and can thus accurately forecast import needs.
The CCP recommended that the federal government should increase the number of utility store outlets throughout the country so as to ensure the availability of essential commodities at a lower price. It is suggested that utility stores should also sell perishable commodities like fruits and vegetables. The USC could be run on a franchise model. Private sector partnership would ensure good performance and public ownership would ensure that excessive prices are not charged. Alternatively the government should appoint a committee to monitor the prices charged by utility stores and quality of items on sale.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) collects statistics on the supply and demand situation of essential food commodities in the country. Additionally in order to map the supply and demand, following statistics may be gathered and circulated to the relevant departments on fortnightly basis to facilitate planning: a). Identification of main sources of supply ie main production regions and markets, and who are the major dealers of the product? If the products are imported what the main sources of import are; If the product is being exported, examine the demand and production trend in neighboring countries and how to control exports (if applicable)?
The CCP has also recommended that the current food laws were archaic and need to be updated. Since the 18th Amendment the subject was devolved however, the provincial laws have not been changed to reflect this. The CCP also suggested that the Agriculture Produce Market Ordinance, 1978 needs to be amended for establishment of agriculture supermarkets.