Saturday September 18, 2021

ECC allows import of 600,000 metric tons of sugar

The concerned ministry took up consultations with the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) during different meetings and finally decided to build up strategic reserves in order to avoid exploitation from any elements.

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Wednesday decided to merge a summary tabled by the Ministry of Industries and Production for allowing import of 100,000 metric tons of sugar after knowing that the federal cabinet had approved the import of 600,000 metric tons of sugar in order to build up strategic reserves.

Top officials told The News in the background discussions after the ECC meeting that the forum had earlier approved import of 200,000 metric tons of sugar but when this issue came under discussion in the federal cabinet this week, it was decided to add 300,000 to 400,000 metric tons more to it so that a total of 600,000 metric tons of sugar would be imported in totality in order to build up strategic reserves in the domestic market.

“It will cost Rs8 to 9 billion per 100,000 metric tons depending on the freight charges, so it will cost the national exchequer to the tune of Rs54 billion on account of importing the sweetener in the current fiscal year”, the official said.

Hence, both the summaries were merged, because the ECC’s approval was required with effect to the allocation of funds for procurement and freight charges. The concerned ministry took up consultations with the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) during different meetings and finally decided to build up strategic reserves in order to avoid exploitation from any elements.

According to the official announcement by the Ministry of Finance, Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tareen, chaired a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet (through a video link) on Wednesday. The meeting witnessed hectic discussions where the participants also asked for inclusion of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in order to boost up exports.

The Finance Division tabled a summary to carry forward for FY2021-22, the unutilised cash component equal to Rs352 billion out of the economic stimulus package amounting to Rs1,240 billion (given in March, 2020) to mitigate the adverse socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and to support the marginalised sections of the society.

The funds were allocated under the economic stimulus package for the entire duration of Covid-19 pandemic irrespective of the financial year. Foregoing in view, the ECC revalidated the amount of Rs352 billion for the FY 2021-22 for the meeting-related expenditures, including procurement of vaccine for the COVID-19 (during the ongoing fourth wave) as the federal government aims to vaccinate at least 85 million by December 2021.

Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro, Adviser to the PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain, Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, federal secretaries, chairman FBR and other senior officers participated in the meeting. State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Reza Baqir joined the meeting through video link.

The ECC considered the summary presented by the Ministry of Commerce regarding the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) for 2020-25 to enhance export competitiveness of Pakistan through a framework of policy interventions. The proposed STPF 2020-25 also includes a monitoring and implementation mechanism. The underlying rationale is to enhance exports as a national priority through collaborative and cohesive efforts.

Speaking on the occasion, the finance minister directed that the factors related to a market-based realistic exchange rate must be incorporated under the proposed STPF 2020-25. The finance minister further stressed to include specific measures for encouraging Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and consolidation of the fragmented export industry in Pakistan.

After due deliberations, the committee decided to review the draft of STPF 2020-25 after having another consultative meeting with all the relevant stakeholders and present an updated policy framework before the next ECC meeting for approval.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research presented a summary regarding intervention in price for the cotton crop for FY2021-22. The ECC had earlier constituted a committee, under the chairmanship of the minister for NFS&R, for presenting recommendations to promote cotton production and bring price stability in the domestic market by monitoring local market prices.

The ECC deliberated on the recommendations by the Cotton Price Review Committee (CPRC) and it was decided that another consultative session would be held with all the key stakeholders on.board, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Finance Division and Commerce to finalise the recommendations and present the revised summary before the cabinet.