Govt to use all resources at its disposal to bring down food prices: PM

Updated 11 Oct 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said his government would use "all resources at its disposal" to bring down food prices, starting from Monday. — APP/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said his government would use "all resources at its disposal" to bring down food prices, starting from Monday. — APP/File

Amid a 1.24 per cent jump in weekly inflation due to an increase in essential food items prices, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday announced that his government would use "all resources at the state's disposal" to bring down food prices starting Monday.

The premier said his government was already looking at the causes of the hike in prices, including hoarding, smuggling or a rise in international prices.

"From next week we will have our strategy in place and action will begin using all state organisations and resources to bring down food prices," he tweeted.

Data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Friday showed that weekly inflation for the combined group in the period ending on Oct 8 increased by 1.24pc on the back of an uptick in prices of essential food items.

The PBS calculates the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) based on the prices of 51 essential items from 50 markets across 17 cities of the country.

For the lowest income group earning below Rs17,732 per month, the SPI increased by 1.56pc, while the SPI for the highest-earning group i.e. those earning above Rs44,175, recorded an increase of 1.08pc.

Items that witnessed a price increase during the week included: tomatoes, up 16.39pc; onions, up 12.78pc; eggs 10.78pc; chicken 5.34pc; wheat flour bag 2.78pc; potatoes 2.64pc; moong pulse 1.21pc; and sugar 1.03pc.

A look at PBS data shows that prices have been rising in the country for over a year largely because of disruptions in food supply chains and periodic hikes in the administered prices of electricity and gas rather than a surge in demand for goods and services.

In September, wheat price surged by 5pc and wheat flour price by 3.14pc from the previous month. Similarly, prices of almost all pulses and vegetables also increased.

Food inflation is still in the double-digits, posting a rise in the outgoing month. In urban areas, it jumped by 12.4pc in September on a yearly basis and an increase of 3pc on a monthly basis, whereas the respective price level growth in rural areas stood at 15.8pc on a yearly basis and an increase of 3.8pc on a monthly basis.

'Temporary food inflation spike in S. Asia'

Meanwhile, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that South Asia has seen a "temporary food inflation spike".

"Government will take all measures needed to reduce prices of essential commodities. Imported wheat and sugar will be released at control rates by provinces. All options are being examined for other commodities," he said in a tweet.

High prices on motorway rest area shops

Also on Saturday, the prime minister took notice of high prices of food items sold at rest-area tuck shops on motorways, especially M-1 and M-2.

According to a press release issued by the Prime Minister's Office, a number of complaints had been received about the issue on the Citizens Portal App. The PM Delivery Unit's policy desk analysed the complaints and found that "a very high and unjustified profit ratio is being maintained and prices being charged are high to an unreasonable extent."

It added that the prime minister had directed strict action be taken to "curb the practice of charging excessive prices on tuck shops located on all motorway rest areas".

He also directed that the National Highway Authority depute teams to maintain a regular check on prices and banners and stands be displayed at visible points at rest areas to encourage people to register complaints about high prices.