ISLAMABAD: The ministry of finance on Tuesday released Rs10 billion for the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) as part of the government scheme to protect vulnerable sections of society from the current inflationary impact.
USC Managing Director Omar Lodhi said in a statement that Rs50bn had been allocated for utility stores and out of it Rs10bn had been released by the finance ministry.
He said because there was a significant difference between prices of different items in the open market and at utility stores the number of customers at the latter had increased remarkably.
Due to subsidy on sugar it was being sold at Rs67 per kilogram at utility stores, whereas its price in the open market was above Rs80 per kg, he added.
He said utility stores had registered a record sale of Rs2.30bn during the first four days of this month.
Mr Lodhi said people belonging to low-income group and those with saving habits had expressed confidence in the quality of goods and service at utility stores.
This is the first tranche out of the Rs50bn package to the USC that is part of the relief measure announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan in the first week of March.
A financial relief worth around Rs1.2 trillion was announced to ward off the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the country’s people and economy.
Under the package to USC, utility stores are offering five essential items — sugar, rice, pulses, wheat flour and vegetable ghee — at subsidised rates.
While, the USC procures rice, pulses and sugar at open tendering, there are seven brands of ghee that are sold at subsidised rates to the government retail stores after negotiations.
However, to ensure smooth supply of wheat flour at subsidised rate, the federal government has directed Passco (Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation) to release 200,000 tonnes of wheat. Another batch of 200,000 tonnes will be released to the USC soon for sale of wheat flour up to Eidul Fitr as it will also include the Ramazan package.
The grinding of wheat is done by flourmills who qualify after tendering process.
The Rs50bn package has been used to clear the previous backlog in payment of bills since January, 2020, as well for fresh orders. The package has also helped the USC to enhance its inventories from around Rs2-2.5bn in January to its current standing at around Rs12bn.
“The target is to increase the inventory in USC storages and bookings up to Rs20bn,” a senior official of the USC said.
Meanwhile, the USC has finalised the summary of Ramazan Package that is expected to be forwarded to the Ministry of Industries and Production soon, to be placed in the next meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet.
The government will provide subsidies at 19 essential items, including milk, tea, gram flour, dates, soft drinks and spices, apart from the existing five items.
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020