ISLAMABAD: The government increased on Saturday wheat support price for the year 2014-15 crop from Rs1,200 to Rs1,300 per 40kg.
A statement released by the finance ministry said that as chairman of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar took the decision to facilitate the farmers who had been facing difficulties due to an increase in prices of inputs.
Earlier in March, Mr Dar himself had rejected the farmers’ plea for an increase in wheat support price.
An official of the ministry of food security told Dawn it appeared that the PTI sit-in had forced the government to raise the wheat support price because most of the farmers, especially in southern Punjab, supported Imran Khan.
And the government had tried to please the farmers at the cost of end consumers, he added.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presided over a meeting of the Special Committee of the Cabinet on Power Matters.
The committee received a briefing from a team of auditors about its report on the issue of electricity overbilling. The auditors answered a number of queries from members of the committee.
The meeting asked the auditors to ascertain in clear terms whether advance or overbilling had actually taken place.
They were told to submit their findings to the committee as soon as possible so that a consolidated report could be prepared and presented before the cabinet.
The minister claimed that in the past 14 months, the government had considerably brought down the subsidy for the power sector and budgeted it at Rs180 billion. The amount saved had been diverted for development works, especially the energy sector, he added.
Talking to a delegation of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, the finance minister said the issues facing the sugar industry would be given due consideration but the welfare of farmers and consumers could not be ignored.
He asked the ministry of commerce to submit a summary to the ECC encompassing genuine demands of the sugar industry.
Mr Dar said the ECC would take an appropriate decision about permission to sugar mills for export of sugar and discuss other issues.
The mill-owners told the minister that they had 1.2 million tons of surplus stock and they had no option but to export sugar to avoid incurring losses and ensure payments to growers.
They also demanded that a regulatory duty on import of sugar should be levied to help the industry.
Minister for Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan pointed out that while the issues raised by the delegation deserved consideration, the sugar mills also had some unfulfilled obligations. Some of them had not been making payments to farmers for as long as four years.
He also said that the sugar mills had been extending the date for cane crushing every year and that crushing must start maximum by Nov 15 to help timely sowing of wheat.
The finance minister called upon the association to ensure that all dues were paid to the farmers and the crushing process was initiated on time.
Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2014