ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Sunday decided to allow wheat import by the private sector without any restriction of limit and abolished 60 per cent regulatory duty on the import of wheat — the major staple food crop in Pakistan.
A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan also decided to abolish six per cent and two per cent additional duties currently applicable to wheat import. The waiver will also be applicable to the import of 0.5 million tonnes of wheat, already allowed by the Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet in March.
The meeting was called to discuss the measures to cope with the country’s needs of wheat and control flour price and also decided to lift ban on inter-provincial transportation of wheat to ensure its sufficient availability across the country.
Decides to abolish regulatory duty, lift ban on inter-provincial transportation of wheat
It was decided that the government would curb smuggling of wheat and flour and launch a crackdown on the hoarders.
Secretary of National Food Security and Research Omar Hamid Khan later told Dawn that harvesting of wheat in the country continued and so far almost 25m tonnes had been harvested. The wheat production this year was expected to be around 27m tonnes, he said.
Wheat import by the private sector would be need-based, he said and added that there would be no shortage of wheat in the country. The decision to allow import would not only help stabilise prices of wheat and flour but also eliminate the chances of hoarding, he said.
The meeting also discussed the volume of wheat crop in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, procurement by the provincial governments and available stocks and needs of the provinces.
The production target set for Punjab is 19.402m tonnes, for Sindh 3.852m tonnes, for KP 1.220 million tonnes and for Balochistan 0.983m tonnes.
According to official figures, the public sector has so far procured about 7m tonnes of wheat against 4.034m tonnes of last year, showing an increase of 38pc.
Informed sources said that the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation was facing difficulties in its procurement drive in 16 districts of Punjab as the provincial government was procuring wheat exceeding the fixed target.
Officials hoped that with new measures taken by the federal government, the availability of wheat and flour in KP would considerably improve.
Last week, Punjab Food Minister Aleem Khan had assured his KP counterpart that Punjab would provide wheat to KP according to its requirements.
All 350 flour mills in KP have been protesting against the ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat and officials hope that the mills would now get wheat according to their demand.
With the addition of carry forward stock of 0.605 million tonnes, the total availability of wheat has been calculated at the level of 26.062 million tonnes at the national level.
The FAO has forecast that overall, 2020 wheat production is expected to remain close to the five year’s average, but below previous expectations of a bumper output.
In a most recent report on Pakistan’s Rabi crops, FAO says unseasonal heavy rains in March and April, and localised hail over areas of the main wheat producing province of Punjab, delayed harvesting operations and caused damage to standing crops.
Above average rains have raised concerns over the worsening of the desert locust outbreak, which has been present in the county since the beginning of 2019.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2020