ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s food and oil import bill rose nearly 18 per cent year-on-year to $10.652 billion in the first eight months of the current fiscal year despite a decline in global prices of crude and grains.
The share of these products in Pakistan’s total import bill in July-Feb was 32pc, which is putting more pressure on the country’s balance of payments.
The trade deficit is widening as the overall import bill of the country has been on the rise since the start of the current fiscal year.
Official figures compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) show that petroleum imports increased 20.97pc year-on-year to $6.682bn in July-Feb.
Imports of petroleum products went up 23.28pc to $4.193bn in the eight-month period. However, a decline of 7.13pc was recorded in the import bill of petroleum crude.
In the petroleum group, the import bill of natural gas liquefied surged 144pc while that of petroleum gas liquefied recorded growth of 45.38pc during the period under review.
A reduction in the oil import bill in July-Feb followed a steep increase in the imports of petroleum products, which indicates that domestic refineries are not operating at full capacity.
The second biggest component in the import bill was food commodities whose exports rose 13.47pc year-on-year to $3.970bn in the first eight months of the current fiscal year.
This increase has been attributed to massive imports of palm oil worth $1.186bn followed by ‘other’ food items ($1.394bn), pulses ($600 million) and tea ($362m). Imports of dry fruits and milk products also grew during the period under review.
The import bill of machinery also surged 42.36pc to $7.811bn mainly because of power generating machinery, followed by office, textile, construction and electrical machinery.
However, negative growth was witnessed in the import bill of the telecom sector because of an increase in the import duty on mobile phones and other apparatus.
Economic managers are trying to control the impact of an increase in capital goods’ imports under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) recently imposed 100pc cash margin on the import of a number of items. This means banks now require importers to furnish foreign currency for the full purchase amount in advance on about 400 imported consumer goods, including vehicles, mobile phones and home appliances.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2017