Sunday November 28, 2021

Centre again blames Sindh govt for flour crisis

October 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Centre has again blamed the Sindh government for increasing wheat/flour crisis mainly because of increased prices of flour in major urban centre Karachi and directed the provincial government to release wheat to mills in order to bring down the price of flour bags.

The National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) was convened to be headed by Adviser to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh here on Monday in a bid to sensitise both the Centre and the provinces to take all corrective measures to avoid further price escalation of perishable food items just like on the pattern of last year.

The Customs authorities have assured the meeting that with the provision of certification of the Food Department, they would release containers of perishable food items on the same day and without any delays.

The Centre also asked both the largest provinces Punjab and Sindh for kick-starting the crushing season of sugarcane for ensuring availability of sugar without any disruptions. The provinces assured the Centre that the provincial cabinets will grant approval for kick-starting the crushing season and fixing of support price of sugarcanewithin this ongoing week. On persistent wheat crisis, the Centre informed the meeting that the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) was assigned to import 1.8 million tons wheat including 1.6 million tons and 0.2 million through government to government (G2G) from Russia. Despite giving repeated assurances from the Centre, the prices of wheat/flour are not coming down in the domestic market.

According to an official announcement released after the meeting stating that Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, chaired a meeting of NPMC to review the prices of essential perishable commodities, held in Finance Division, Islamabad Monday.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Adviser for Commerce Abdul Razzaq Dawood, Adviser to PM on Institutional reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, Secretary NFS&R, Secretary Planning, Secretary Ministry of Industries & Production, chief secretaries from Punjab, Sindh, KPK and Balochistan, chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan and representatives from Utility Stores and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The NPMC deliberated upon increase in the prices of wheat, sugar and perishable items namely tomatoes, onions, potatoes and chicken and discussed corrective measures to provide relief to the end consumers. It was stated by the concerned ministries that the reasons behind the price hike include gap in supply and demand due to climatic factors, upward trend in international prices and increased profit margin between wholesale & retailers particularly in metropolitan areas. There was a general consensus that recent rains and COVID-19 have further aggravated the situation. Hafeez Shaikh urged all the stakeholders to take drastic measures to curb inflation. In this regard, the role of district market committees was emphasised to curb price variation effectively. The chief secretaries were directed to minimize price disparity by streamlining the release of wheat at regular intervals to avoid profiteering.

NPMC also reviewed the timeline for import of wheat and sugar to meet domestic demand for the same. Adviser Finance was briefed that the total public sector procurement for wheat through G2G and TCP is equal to 1.8 MT based on the demand estimates provided by the provinces and PASSCO. It was also stated that sufficient sugar stocks are available in the country till Nov 2020.

Adviser Finance also directed Utility Stores to streamline the availability of essential items in order to provide maximum relief to the lowest strata of the society. Dr Hafeez Shaikh expressed confidence that effective and well-concerted actions by the provincial governments and the concerned ministries will help in controlling the menace of inflation.