Alarm as eatables import bill rises by 52pc

Published February 18, 2021
It is believed that prices of a few products are declining in the international market, which will translate into lowering import-led inflation in the country. — AFP/file
It is believed that prices of a few products are declining in the international market, which will translate into lowering import-led inflation in the country. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: The import bill of eatables widened by 51.9 per cent to $4.64 billion year-on-year in the seven months of 2020-21 over the same period last year, triggering higher-than-expected trade deficit, data compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) showed on Wednesday.

The share of the food items in the total import bill reached 15.84pc this year from 11.16pc last year, making the country dependent on imports to ensure food security, the PBS data showed.

It is believed that prices of a few products are declining in the international market, which will translate into lowering import-led inflation in the country.

However, the trade deficit is widening as the overall import bill of the country has been on the rise since Nov 2020 mainly due to the rise in the import bill of eatables. The import bill inched up by 7.17pc to $29.27bn in seven months this year as against $27.31bn over the corresponding months of last year.

The eatable import bill of all products posted growth in value and quantity during the period under review – a clear indication of shortage in domestic production.

Wheat, sugar, edible oil, tea, pulses were major contributors

Within food group import, the major contribution came from wheat, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea and pulses. The edible oil import witnessed a substantial increase during the period under review in quantity, value and per value terms.

$1.36bn spent on palm oil

The import of palm oil, which recorded a growth of 36.59pc in value in seven months this year to $1.36bn from $1bn over the corresponding months of last year. In quantity, a growth of 9.7pc was recorded in import of palm oil was noted during the same period.

The price of vegetable ghee and cooking oil posted growth during the last few months for domestic users. The Ministry of Finance has already directed the Ministry of Industries to take up the issue with the oil producers to contain the prices for domestic consumers.

However, the import of soybean oil increased 10.39pc in value and 13.96pc in quantity, respectively.

Pakistan imported 2.91m tonnes of wheat worth $794.59m in the seven months this year as against no imports last year. The bulk import of wheat was made to bridge the gap in supply and demands of the staple food in the market.

The federal government has also hinted at more wheat imports to build buffer stock to avoid shortage in the domestic market.

Machinery imports surge

Similarly, the import of sugar stood at 278,482 tonnes of sugar in the seven months this year as against 3,744 tonnes over the last year, showing an increase of 7,338pc. The import of sugar was aimed at bringing down the price of the sweetener in the domestic market to fill the gap in supply and demand.

The Economic Coordination Committee of the federal cabinet has already approved import of 500,000 tonnes of refine sugar and 300,000 raw sugar for the sugar millers to build carryover stock in the country.

The import tea posted a growth of 22.17pc during the seven months this year while that of spices increased by 30.56pc.

The growth is mainly due to drop in the import of these products under the transit trade and controlling of smuggling at border areas.

The import bill of pulses, dry fruits, milk products and other food products witnessed massive growth during these months.

The import of transport group posted growth of 47.77pc to 1.4bn as against $953.026m over the last year, marking a revival in local automobile production as well as the import of completely built-up units.

In the machinery group, power generating machinery import up by 40.21pc in the seven months to $1.011bn from $721.728m over the last year. It is mainly because of a revival of power projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2021

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