Govt expects stability in prices of commodities within days

Updated 15 Oct 2020

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ISLAMABAD: Federal Ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Syed Fakhar Imam and Hammad Azhar speaking at a press conference on Wednesday. — APP
ISLAMABAD: Federal Ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Syed Fakhar Imam and Hammad Azhar speaking at a press conference on Wednesday. — APP

• Qureshi hails ‘prompt’ decision to import wheat to fill 1.7m-tonne gap
• Hammad predicts up to Rs15 cut in sugar price per kg

ISLAMABAD: Admitting that rising prices of wheat and sugar have added to the miseries of common people, three federal ministers have claimed that the government has started taking effective and practical measures, which will bring stability to prices of the commodities within days.

“This is my message on behalf of the government to a common citizen. We have realisation. We are cognisant that you (the people) have faced difficulties. The prices of sugar and flour have increased, which should not have been increased, but they did. The government is not ignorant,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi while speaking at a news conference with Minister for National Food Security and Research Fakhar Imam and Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar here on Wednesday.

“The federal government is cognisant and serious in bringing stability to the prices. We will take all required fiscal, financial or administrative measures to stabilise the prices,” he declared.

The three ministers held the news conference at a time when thousands of low-ranking government employees from various departments were staging a sit-in at the Parade Ground in front of the Parliament House to demand increase in their salaries in line with rising inflation in the country and a day after the issue of price-hike was thoroughly debated at a meeting of the federal cabinet.

Mr Qureshi, who is also the vice-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), warned that the government would not allow anyone to earn windfall profits through hoarding of the commodities. He said there was a group that always tried to take undue advantage of the situation created due to gap between the demand and the supply of the commodities “and they did it [this time too]”.

He said though bringing stability in prices was among the duties of the federal government, it could not do it alone. He said the provinces and the district administrations would also have to play their roles. He said it was the responsibility of the provinces to check hoarding and the district administration was responsible to ensure the display of the price lists at market places.

Mr Qureshi said the government had made a prompt and correct decision to import wheat to fill the gap of 1.7 million tonnes in its production. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan in a meeting on Tuesday directed the provinces to increase their wheat supplies to the mills, as there was no shortage of wheat in the country.

The foreign minister said Punjab had already decided to provide 2,000 tonnes of wheat to mills on a daily basis. He said it was good to know that the Sindh government had also decided to release its stocks, which would definitely provide relief to the people in Karachi and interior Sindh.

Mr Qureshi also admitted that farmers were getting the lower price of wheat in the country as compared to the international market prices. He said a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee had been convened on Monday to determine the support price of wheat for the next crop in line with the international prices.

Responding to a question about the criticism on the prime minister’s decision to give a role to the Corona Relief Tiger Force (CRTF) in checking the prices, Mr Qureshi said the CRTF volunteers had not been given the task to control prices but to monitor the ground situation as government officials always gave “all is well” reports. He said recent surveys had showed that real prices in the market were higher than official prices.

‘Imported sugar to bring down prices’

Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said the government had decided to start physical inspection to verify sugar stocks, adds APP. So far about 55,000 tonnes of sugar had been imported and further 100,000 tonnes would arrive over the next few days that would bring down the prices of the commodity by Rs10 to Rs15 per kg, he said.

Earlier, Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam said international price parity of wheat as compared to local market spiked the prices and created a room for third force to hoard the commodity for extra profiteering. He said a mechanism in collaboration with provincial governments would be evolved to check undue price hike and discouraging the nexuses of cartels and hoarders.

He said Punjab had released about 1.4 million tonnes of wheat to mills so far. However, he alleged that Sindh had not started its releases to mills despite repeated requests and if it started its releases well in time crisis of wheat would not have emerged in Karachi and interior Sindh.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020