ISLAMABAD: The Planning Commission on Saturday decided that safety guidelines would be outlined for workers of the industries that have to be kept operational during the current emergency situation to ensure the supply of essential commodities.
The decision was taken during a video conference that reviewed the situation and considered proposals relating to the management of supply chains of essential commodities. Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar presided over the conference.
The guidelines would be implemented in collaboration with the associations concerned. The ministry of industries was asked to closely monitor any issues faced by the industries identified for continued operation and address them in a proactive manner, while the ministry of commerce was directed to make assessments for the import requirement of such industries and remove the bottlenecks if any.
The meeting discussed proposals for ensuring continued operation of various industries, especially those included in the food and medicine supply chains, during the Covid-19 emergency. Matters related to continued supply of electric power and petroleum products were also discussed.
It was decided that the proposals finalised at the meeting would be shared with the provinces for their input before submission to the National Coordination Committee for final approval.
Ministers for power, national food security and economic affairs, Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Industries Abdul Razak Dawood as well as senior officials participated in the video conference.
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organi-sation (FAO) of the United Nations proposed a battle plan for ensuring global food supplies during the Covid-19 crisis. FAO’s chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen mapped out the ways the world could mitigate shocks to agriculture and food systems.
The Covid-19 pandemic had put the world on a crisis footing, with unprecedented actions to restrict movements and plans for radical deployment of public funds to combat the threat posed by a novel coronavirus that knew no boundaries. Success would entail coherent and robust plans for food systems, he said.
Outlining a framework for how countries could think about and craft these plans, Mr Cullen suggested that countries should immediately review their trade and taxation policy options — and their likely impacts — and work in concert with one another to create a favourable environment for food trade. Beggar-thy-neighbour policies, which popped up in the form of higher export taxes or outright export bans by some countries during the global food price crisis of 2008, must be prevented.
The bulk of food supply actions took place within countries, but there were still supply chains, which in the case of farmers were a complex web of interactions involving farmers and farm labourers, key inputs such as fertilisers, seeds and veterinary medicines, processing plants, freight distributors and retailers. A global pandemic would quickly strain such webs, so to prevent food shortages, every effort must be made to keep them intact and moving efficiently.
Visitors should be barred from production facilities as well as warehouses and wholesale markets. End-sale points such as supermarkets had begun reducing hours and rotating staff, while contact-free delivery services were becoming more widely used. E-commerce platforms had huge potential as China had demonstrated, he said.
Governments made a point of purchasing agricultural products from small farmers to establish strategic emergency reserves for humanitarian purposes, he added.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2020