ISLAMABAD: The provincial food departments have turned down a proposal by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to provide wheat instead of a cash stipend to the beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) in a bid to dispose of the surplus wheat stock.
“This proposal was given by the ministry to the provincial authorities at a high level meeting held last week in Islamabad, attended by provincial food ministers of Punjab and Balochistan along with representatives from provincial food departments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” said an official from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.
The ministry suggested giving wheat to BISP’s beneficiaries instead of cash on a monthly basis and the funds to be transferred to the provincial food departments accordingly. The move was to help redress the issue of surplus wheat in the provinces.
However, the provincial departments refused to accept the idea on grounds that BISP beneficiaries would not spend their monthly stipend of Rs1,500 only on wheat bur rather on different household items, and such a proposal would be unacceptable to them.
Despite opting for many mechanisms, the government has remained unsuccessful in disposing off around 3 million tons surplus wheat from the previous stock. Earlier, the Ministry of Industries accepted the idea of purchasing 70,000 tons from provinces and sell it at utility stores on a subsidised rate for Ramazan.
The government has been facing problems in exporting the surplus stock due to cheap rate of wheat in the international market. It could only manage to export 200,000 tons during the year.
To encourage the export, the ECC had approved a subsidy package on the 1.2 million wheat export.
Ministry officials maintained that the continuous bumper wheat crops in the three consecutive seasons resulted in the surplus stock
A similar situation has been seen in India, but they have given huge subsidy on wheat products and their prices are comparatively lower than Pakistani wheat in the international market.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.
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