ISLAMABAD: The National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) on Monday directed provincial government departments to keep the prices of basic commodities in check and import four million tonnes of wheat for building buffer stock.
The NPMC at a meeting, chaired by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, declared that cartelisation would not be tolerated at any cost. Stern action should be taken by the provincial administrations and departments concerned to keep the prices of basic commodities in check.
The direction came from the finance minister when the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) presented findings of an inquiry into the poultry sector at the meeting. All those responsible for undue profiteering or hoarding would be taken to task, the minister said.
Food Security Secretary Ghufran Memon informed the committee that the summary to import four million tonnes of wheat would be presented before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) at its next meeting for requisite approval to build strategic reserves and to ensure a smooth supply of wheat across the country.
Tarin promises action against undue profiteering, hoarding in poultry sector
While taking stock of the situation, the finance minister asked the representatives of provincial governments to ensure uninterrupted daily release of wheat at subsidised rates as per directives of the prime minister.
Appearing before the price monitoring committee, the CCP chairperson presented findings of the recent inquiry into the poultry industry. The meeting was apprised of the anti-competitive conduct that led to a surge in prices of chicken feed that in turn increased prices of chicken.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Fakhar Imam updated the NPMC about the wheat procurement drive of the provinces and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to ensure a steady supply of wheat at fair prices this year. He claimed that Punjab was ahead of the other provinces in wheat procurement.
The NPMC also reviewed the price trend of essential commodities, especially wheat flour, sugar, edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week.
While briefing the monitoring committee about the weekly Sensitive Price Index (SPI), Finance Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal apprised that prices of seven basic commodities registered a decline whereas 26 items remained stable during the week under review.
While reviewing the price trend of basic commodities in international markets, the NPMC noted that major driver behind increase in prices of items of daily use was massive international price hike due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The year-on-year comparative analysis indicated that crude oil price increased by 178pc in April 2021 as compared to April 2020.
Similarly in a year-on-year comparison, the prices of sugar in international market increased by 57pc. International prices of palm oil, soybean oil and wheat also registered an upward trend that in turn led to a sharp increase in prices of basic items in domestic markets.
The finance minister said Covid-19 crisis had fuelled food prices in international markets, especially edible oil, sugar, tea and wheat. The government was making an all-out effort to ensure smooth supply of the basic items through a network of the Ramazan Sahulat or Sasta Bazaars and Utility Stores Corporation outlets to ease shortages and mitigate price spike in local markets, he added.
Adviser to the PM on Commerce Razak Dawood, Special Assistant to the PM on Finance and Revenue Dr Waqar Masood and federal secretaries also attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021