Provinces told to curb hoarding

Published March 6, 2020
Expre­ssing concern over shortage of onion and ginger in the country, the government on Thursday asked the provinces and district administrations to depute special teams to check hoarding and black marketing of all essential kitchen items. — APP/File
Expre­ssing concern over shortage of onion and ginger in the country, the government on Thursday asked the provinces and district administrations to depute special teams to check hoarding and black marketing of all essential kitchen items. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Expre­ssing concern over shortage of onion and ginger in the country, the government on Thursday asked the provinces and district administrations to depute special teams to check hoarding and black marketing of all essential kitchen items.

A meeting of the National Price Monitoring Commi­ttee presided over by Finance Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch expressed satisfaction over a “general decline” in prices and observed the trend was expected to continue over the coming weeks.

According to sources, the meeting was informed that price of onion ranged between Rs80 and Rs100 per kg while ginger was being sold at Rs400 per kg because of a shortage. The outbreak of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in China has adversely affected the supply of ginger.

The committee was also told that a formula aimed at addressing price disparities among districts was in the final stages of formulation.

Representatives of the Competition Commission of Pakistan said that under a decision of the NPMC taken in February 2015 detailed consultations had been carried out to control hoarding, profiteering and cartelisation in essential food items.

It had been concluded that in the aftermath of adoption of the 18th Amendment, laws needed to be changed to improve competitiveness in the prices of foodstuff and agricultural produce and registration of godowns because a series of responsibilities had shifted to the provinces, but enabling laws were still missing. It was explained that over the past four to five years, enough consultations had been conducted for turning a set of provincial laws into an upgraded and uniform law.

Under the uniform formula for pricing, the committee was informed that wholesale rates could be fixed where price components were the same or similar, like farm gate prices, freight, wastage factors, packing and transport while range-bound retail rates could be suggested and displayed with quality indicators.

The formula also proposed creating agricultural supermarkets, minimum support price for essential items, incentives for food processing and canning and exemption from application of price control laws to hyper markets.

The committee expressed surprise over a Punjab government report, which said the retail sugar price in the province averaged Rs76 per kg but some participants reported that ex-mill price in Chiniot was about Rs80 per kg. The committee ordered an investigation to address the discrepancy and explain how retail price could be lower than ex-mill rate.

The meeting at the Finance Division was attended by the representatives of provincial governments, Islamabad Capital Territory, ministries of industries, interior, law and justice and human rights, planning, development and special initiatives, national food security and research, Federal Board of Revenue, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and Utility Stores Corporation.

While discussing the trend of Consumer Price Index (CPI), the meeting observed that prices of food items such as pulses, fresh vegetables and wheat, which had been the main drivers of inflation, saw a downward trend on the monthly basis. The meeting was informed that CPI inflation decreased by 1 per cent on month-on-month basis in February 2020 over January 2020.

However on year-on-year basis, the CPI was recorded at 12.4pc in February 2020 over February 2019 and July-February CPI inflation on YoY reached 11.7pc (6pc last year). The finance secretary said the government was committed to reducing inflation and more steps were under way.

It was observed that the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), which monitors the price movement of 51 essential items on a weekly basis, recorded a decrease of 1.16pc for the week ending on Feb 27, 2020. During the week, 13 items recorded decline in their prices while 25 items remained stable. This was the third consecutive decline in SPI during the month of February 2020.

The committee also discussed the price movement of these items among the provinces and ICT and observed variations in price level.

The meeting also discussed the outbreak of novel coronavirus and its impact on demand and supply of essential items and said all the relevant authorities should monitor the provision of essential food items at affordable prices, keeping in view the coming holy month of Ramazan. The participants vowed to remain vigilant to check the profit margins between the wholesale and retail levels.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2020

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