ISLAMABAD: Showing concerns over the fall in cotton production and low wheat yield, the National Standing Committee on Commerce on Thursday asked the relevant ministry to bridge shortfall with timely imports to contain price hike in domestic market.
The meeting, chaired by committee chairman MNA Naveed Qamar, suggested to the Ministry of National Food Security & Research to fix minimum support price for cotton to encourage its production in the country. Cotton yield fell to 6 million bales in the current year from 12m bales owing to multiple reasons.
Secretary Food Ghufran Memon briefed the committee over the import of wheat to bridge the demand in local production. He said this year’s wheat production is estimated at 26.04 million tonnes while the demand is 29m tonnes. Last year, 25.25m tonnes of wheat was produced.
He further said that 1.2m tonnes of wheat seeds and 1m tonnes of wheat are in strategic reserves. “We have imported 3.6m tonnes. We will import wheat from Ukraine and Russia this year,” he added.
Five years ago, wheat support price was Rs1,600 per 40 kg which was increased to Rs1,800 before sowing of the crop begin this season.
Mr Qamar said the procurement price in Sindh is higher than other provinces, therefore wheat will go to the province. However, Secretary Food said that Sindh has the capacity to buy 1.2m tonnes wheat, therefore, it will not buy from any other province.
Contrary to this, Punjab’s target is 3.5m tonnes.
On the issue of cotton, the committee recommended the MNFSR to fix minimum support price for cotton.
Secretary Food informed the committee that the ministry has already proposed the minimum support price for cotton, however it was not considered. There is a shortfall of 5-6m bales in cotton this year.
The government has also allowed duty-free import of cotton and cotton yarn to meet the demand of the value-added sectors. Cotton still accounts for 72pc and synthetic 28pc of the international trade market, Commerce Secretary Saleh Farooqi said.
MNA Javed Ali Shah said, “India and other countries have reached Bt cotton 6. We are still at Bt cotton 1.”
Mr Qamar and Chairman Trading Corporation Pakistan (TCP) Riaz Memon also traded strong words over the increase in salaries of employees. The committee had summoned the corporation chairman to increase the salaries of TCP employees.
Mr Memon informed the committee that work is being done to increase the salaries of employees. However, he complained that employees are abusing him. He went on to say that recruitment in TCP were made on political grounds since 2011.
“The salaries of TCP driver and deputy courier is much higher than other agencies,” the chairman TCP said. He said the NA committee should not give him instructions. “TCP is an independent body. If pressure mounts on me, I will resign,” he said.
Mr Qamar asked the TCP chairman to leave the meeting in case he could not follow the instructions of the standing committee. “This Parliament is supreme and everyone here is accountable,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021