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January 26, 2020

Ten questions

Opinion

January 26, 2020

Background: We consume around 115 kilograms of wheat per person per year for a total of around 24 million tons a year, around 2 million tons a month. According to the Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA), chaired by the ex-federal minister for national food security and research, Sahibzada Muhammad Sultan, the country’s wheat production stood at 25.16 million tons.

Mr Khusro Bakhtiar, the federal minister for national food security and research, told the Senate that 4 million tons of wheat was available in the public sector and even at the end of the season 0.85 million tons would still be available in stocks.

Question 1: If we have sufficient stocks of wheat then why has the price of flour in the market shot up by a painful 59 percent?

Question 2: If we have sufficient stocks of wheat then why did the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) in its meeting on January 20 chaired by Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh approve the import of 300,000 tons of wheat?

Question 3: Did the government allow export of around 693,000 tons of wheat?

Question 4: Did we export 645,353 tons of wheat for Rs18.5 billion from September 2018 to June 2019 at the rate Rs29 per kilogram? Background: On 17 July 2019, the ECC of the cabinet placed a ban on the export of wheat.

Question 5: Data from Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) shows an export of 48,083 tons for Rs1.82 billion even after a ban was imposed on exports. Did we actually export wheat even after a ban? Background: When the price of flour in the market goes up by Rs20 per kilogram Pakistanis are forced to cough out an additional Rs40 billion a month.

Question 6: Who are the beneficiaries of the wholesome Rs40 billion a month?

Question 7: The State Bank of Pakistan is showing a hefty amount of Rs740 billion as outstanding ‘Debt and Liabilities’ under ‘Commodity Operations’. Where have these billions been spent?

Question 8: If the government has been successful in stopping the smuggling of wheat then the supply of wheat must have gone up and the price of flour must come down. Instead, prices have actually gone up. Why? Background: We consume around 25 kilograms of sugar per person per year for a total of around 5.2 million tons a year, around 430,000 kilograms a month. When the price of sugar in the market goes up by Rs20 per kilogram we are forced to cough out an additional Rs8.75 billion a month.

Question 9: Who are the beneficiaries of the wholesome Rs8.75 billion a month? Background: The federal minister for national food security and research has claimed that the wheat crisis is “artificial”. The dictionary definition of artificial is: “made or produced by human beings”.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh