ECC okays additional wheat import for buffer stock

Published January 7, 2021
The meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also cleared about Rs2.7 billion worth of supplementary grants. — Reuters/File
The meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also cleared about Rs2.7 billion worth of supplementary grants. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Wednesday approved additional import of more than 250,000 tonnes of wheat for buffer stock ahead of the fresh crop produce in April and allowed removal of duty on 152 tariff lines.

The meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also cleared about Rs2.7 billion worth of supplementary grants.

On a summary regarding provision of additional quantities of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Utility Stores Corporation (USC), the additional secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research gave a detailed presentation about the availability of wheat stocks across the country and sought permission for additional imports.

The ECC approved additional wheat allocation of 200,000 tonnes for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 80,000 tonnes for AJK and 220,000 tonnes to the USC from stocks of Pakistan Agri­cul­tural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) as requested.

The ECC also approved the import of additional wheat to buffer up stocks till the arrival of fresh crop after seeking detailed input from all concerned.

The meeting decided that exact quantities for wheat import should be approved next week based on input from the provinces to avoid any confusion and waste of time. It was noted that next crop produce would start coming in by late March in Sindh followed by April in Punjab but sufficient buffer stocks should be in place to avoid any price hike in the meantime.

The ECC also finally approved a summary of the commerce ministry, seeking removal of additional 2pc customs duties on 152 tariff lines, mostly raw material, on horizontal basis under National Tariff Policy (NTP) 2019-24.

The matter had continued on the ECC’s agenda for many weeks but could not be cleared due to opposition from the revenue authorities on the grounds that such policy moves should come in the last quarter of fiscal year.

Therefore, the ECC, while approving the removal of 2pc additional duty, directed that budget cycle must be observed while planning important incentives for businesses and industries for smooth planning and subsequent implementation during the financial year.

In its summary, the commerce ministry had claimed that NTP 2019-24 stipulated that all proposals for levy, amendment or removal of tariffs including additional customs duties shall be examined at the Tariff Policy Centre and cleared by the Tariff Policy Board (TPB) and then be finally approved by the cabinet or the parliament.

In order to meet the NTP objectives and to spur ‘Make in Pakistan’ led export growth, import duties on raw materials and the intermediate goods, not manufactured in the country, were being rationalised.

The said process was initiated during the budget exercise and additional customs duties on 1,623 tariff lines, pertaining to the basic raw materials and the intermediate goods not locally manufactured, had been removed through the Finance Act, 2020.

In this fiscal year (2020-21), additional customs duties and regulatory duties on 164 selected HS codes of the textile sector were also removed by the federal cabinet. The rationale behind these decisions was to provide cheap raw material to local industry so that cost of doing business could be minimised and exports competitiveness enhanced.

In continuation of the same policy, the summary proposed removal of 2pc additional customs duty on 152 tariff lines, mostly raw material, used in the textile sector.

These items are currently subject to 3pc customs duty. The TPB believed the decision would help provide cheap raw materials to the industrial sector, reduce cost of doing business and improve competitiveness of Pakistani goods by correcting anomalies in the existing tariff regime.

The government had abolished import duties on 1,623 tariff lines pertaining to basic raw materials and intermediate goods through the Finance Act, 2020. Besides, additional customs and regulatory duties on 164 items related to textile sector, not manufactured in Pakistan, were also removed.

The commerce ministry had said recently that the government was gradually phasing out duties on industrial raw materials to revive troubled manufacturing sector and planned to abolish additional customs and regulatory duties on 30,000 items of raw materials this fiscal year.

The ECC also took up a summary of the maritime affairs ministry seeking permission for awarding contract regarding infrastructure facilities, sewerage system and water supply system in Gulshan-i-Benazir Township Scheme (GBTS) at Port Qasim Authority, Karachi.

The ECC approved the projects in conformity with the PQA Act-1973, in principle, and directed the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to settle the modalities for the award of contracts as per rules and directed that minister for maritime affairs who could not attend the meeting due to his visit to Mach, Balochistan to take responsibility for the compliance with procurement rules.

The meeting also deferred approval of the National Freight and Logistics Policy (NFLP) for next ECC meeting for comprehensive consultation process with key stakeholders including Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi who was also a key member of the National Logistic Committee.

The ECC approved Technical Supplementary Grant (TSG) of Rs30 million for the defence ministry for the purchase of spare parts for helicopters of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It also approved Rs2.268bn TSG for the Higher Education Commission for completion of various Disbursement Linked Indicators under a World Bank credit facility besides another Rs400 million grant for the Ministry of Law and Justice to establish additional courts in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2021

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