ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Monday approved to import 300,000 tonnes of wheat to curtail supply shortage and increased prices.
The centre has asked the Punjab government and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) to release their stocks to overcome the shortage.
The first shipment is expected to arrive by February 15 whereas the wheat imports would be allowed in the country till March 31.
The ECC has also approved The Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) waiver of Rs 400 per bag to ensure supply of cheap fertiliser to farmers.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered a countrywide “grand operation” against wheat hoarders and profiteers after “acute flour shortages” ballooned into a crisis, shooting the prices up by as much as Rs6 per kilo and catching the government off guard.
Alarmed by the sudden upsurge in prices, Imran Khan directed the four provincial chief secretaries to launch a “grand operation” to net wheat hoarders and seal their granaries, according to his office. The top provincial administrators have been directed to initiate operations at the district level.
This is the second time the flour price has gone up as earlier the rates were jacked up by Rs20 per kilo. Though the earlier price upsurge was not unexpected, the current crisis, the government believes, is artificial, created by hoarders in an attempt to mint money.
Interestingly, the prime minister only on Thursday approved a multibillion-rupee package for providing relief to the poor through the Utility Stores Corporation (USC).
The Rs7 billion relief package, according to government officials, was in line with the prime minister’s vision of a welfare state modelled on that of Madina.
Under the package, the government plans to lower the prices of kitchen items – including flour, cooking oil, rice and pulses, etc – for the poor segment of society.
The prime minister had said that the national economy is on the mend and that 2020 would the year of stabilisation and prosperity.
The government has been subjected to scathing vitriol by the opposition over the flour price hike with the PPP-led Sindh government faulting the Centre for “this tsunami of dearness”, while traders blaming smuggling of the commodity to Afghanistan for the shortages.
However, experts in the Express News show, The Review, made a shocking disclosure that the prices skyrocketed after the government exported 48,000 metric tons of wheat despite a ban on its export.