Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has directed all the provincial governments to ensure daily release of wheat at subsidised rates in compliance with directives of the prime minister.
Chairing a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) at the Finance Division on Monday, he forcefully urged representatives of the provincial governments to ensure uninterrupted daily release of wheat without fail.
Reviewing the price trend of basic commodities in international markets, the NPMC noted that the major driver behind the increase in prices of daily-use items in Pakistan was a massive international price hike due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
A year-on-year comparative analysis indicated that prices of crude oil increased by 178% in April 2021 as compared to April 2020.
Similarly, prices of sugar increased 57% year-on-year in the international markets.
Furthermore, international prices of palm oil, soybean oil and wheat were also on a continued uptrend which, in turn, led to a sharp increase in prices of basic items in the domestic market.
Tarin pointed out that the Covid-19 crisis had fuelled the hike in prices of food items in the international markets, particularly of edible oil, sugar, tea and wheat.
“The government is making all-out efforts to ensure smooth supply of basic items through the network of Ramazan Sahulat/Sasta Bazaars and the chain of Utility Stores Corporation outlets to ease shortage and reduce price hike in the domestic market. The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities, especially wheat flour, sugar, edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week.
Briefing the NPMC about the weekly Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), the finance secretary said that prices of seven basic commodities registered a decline whereas rates of 26 items remained stable during the week under review.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam updated the NPMC on the wheat procurement drive of provinces and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to ensure steady supply of the commodity at fair prices during the current year.
He apprised the NPMC that Punjab was ahead of other provinces in the procurement of wheat to date.
The Ministry for National Food Security and Research secretary informed the committee that a summary seeking import of four million tons of wheat would be presented to the next ECC meeting for approval in a bid to build strategic reserves and ensure smooth supply of wheat across the country. The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) chairperson also presented the anti-trust watchdog’s findings to the committee after completion of a recent inquiry into the poultry industry.
The CCP highlighted some anti-competitive conduct that led to a surge in prices of chicken feed, which, in turn, increased prices of chicken.
The finance minister stressed that cartelisation would not be acceptable at any cost. Stern action would be taken by the provincial administrations and departments concerned to keep prices of basic commodities in check, he said.
All those responsible for undue profiteering or hoarding would be taken to task, he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2021.