Salman Khan
Salman Khan

ISLAMABAD: The import bill of eatables ballooned by 50.29 per cent to $5.344 billion year-on-year during the first eight months of 2020-21 to bridge the shortfall in domestic production of agriculture produce.

The higher-than-expected food import bill also triggered trade deficit which would cause some uneasiness on the external side for the government, data compiled by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) showed on Tuesday.

The share of food items in the total import bill reached 15.76pc this year, compared to 11.29pc last year, making the country dependent on imports to ensure food security.

The trade deficit is widening as the overall import bill of the country has been on the rise since November last year, mainly due to an increase in the import bill of eatables. The import bill inched up by 7.67pc to $33.897bn in eight months this year as against $31.483bn over the corresponding months of last year.

The eatable import bill of all products posted a growth in value and quantity during the period under review, a clear indication of shortage in domestic production. Within food group import, the major contribution came from wheat, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea and pulses. Edible oil import witnessed a substantial increase during the period under review in quantity, value and per value terms.

Import of palm oil recorded a growth of 34.03pc in value in eight months this year to $1.585bn from $1.182bn over the corresponding months of last year. In quantity, a growth of 7.71pc was also recorded in import of palm oil during the same period.

The prices of vegetable ghee and cooking oil posted a growth during the last few months for domestic users. The industries ministry has failed to correct the prices and production of vegetable ghee and cooking oil also dropped in seven months this year. However, import of soybean oil increased by 7.49pc in value and 11pc in quantity.

Pakistan imported 3.328 million tonnes of wheat worth $915.902m in eight months this year as against no imports last year. The bulk import of wheat was made to bridge the gap between supply and demand of staple food in the market.

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

Similarly, import of sugar stood at 278,733 tonnes in eight months this year as against 4,358 tonnes over the corresponding months of last year, showing an increase of 5,817pc. Import of sugar was aimed at maintaining the supply of whitener in the domestic market to fill the gap between supply and demand.

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

Import of tea posted a growth of 16.94pc during eight months this year while that of spices increased by 31.32pc. The growth is mainly due to a drop in import of these products under transit trade and controlling of smuggling at border areas.

The import bill of pulses, dry fruits, milk products and other food products witnessed a massive growth during the period under review.

Import of transport group posted a growth of 56.65pc to $1.696bn during eight months this year as against $1.083bn over the same period last year, marking a revival in local automobile production as well as import of completely built-up units. Of these, import of CKD/SKD road motor vehicles stood at $1.322bn during eight months this year as against $838.803m over the corresponding months of last year, showing an increase of 57.7pc. Import of CBU stood at $206.219m this year as against $112.853m over the last year, showing an increase of 82.73pc.

In the machinery group, the total import bill reached $6.086bn in eight months this year as against $6.008bn over the corresponding months of last year, a growth of 1.29pc. Import of power generating machinery was up by 40.13pc to $1.21bn in eight months this year from $863.729m over the same period last year. It is mainly because of revival of power projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2021

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...
Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...