ISLAMABAD: The federal government will allocate funds in the upcoming budget 2021-22 to develop high-yielding crops to meet growing domestic demand and reduce dependence on import of basic food items.
Ahead of the budget, the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) has constituted a two-member sub-committee comprising Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam and Industries Minister Khusro Bakhtyar to work out a lasting arrangement by exploring alternative options to reduce dependence on import of edible oil and other basic food items.
The decision was reached at the NPMC meeting chaired by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. The panel was constituted owing to significant volatility in international prices of edible oil.
Mr Tarin informed the meeting that he would support fund allocation in the upcoming budget to upgrade existing research institutions and to establish state-of-the art research facilities to suggest alternative high-yielding crops.
NPMC tasks Fakhar, Khusro with finding ways to cut reliance on food items import
He said there was an increased need for introducing modern techniques to revolutionize the farming sector, as the government was firmly committed to introduce innovation in every sector.
While reviewing the current price trend of chicken, the NPMC noted that the surge in chicken prices was driven by increase in supply and demand gap. Poultry farmers had been suffering losses over the past few months due to Covid-related supply disruption and poultry disease that in turn fuelled poultry prices, the price committee was informed.
The finance minister then asked Competition Commission of Pakistan chairperson Rahat Kaunain Hassan to provide details of the inquiry that was under way with reference to some anti-competitive conduct leading to price hike in chicken feed that in turn increased prices of chicken.
Ms Hassan apprised the minister that the process would be completed soon and recommendations would be shared with the provincial governments and departments concerned for appropriate counter-action. Mr Tarin directed that the whole process be accelerated. Speed was of the essence in findings and taking stern measures to check cartelization, hoarding and undue profiteering effectively, he stressed.
Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam briefed the NPMC about the government efforts to import four million metric tonnes of wheat during the current year. He also apprised the price committee that multiple options were under consideration for building strategic wheat reserves across the country. The underlying rationale was to ensure steady supply of wheat at affordable prices, he added.
The finance minister directed all respective provincial administrations to ensure daily release of wheat at subsidised rates without fail.
He directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to work out a mechanism and compile gap analysis (differential between wholesale and retail prices) along with weekly Sensitive Price Index (SPI) for key basic commodities to gauge price variation effectively.
The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week.
At a briefing on weekly SPI, the finance ministry explained that prices of seven items registered a decline whereas 19 remained stable during the last week.
Besides the minister for national food security and CCP chairperson, Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtyar, Special Assistant to the PM on Finance and Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, secretaries of finance, food security, chief secretaries of the provincial governments, a PBS member, Utility Stores Corporation managing director and other senior officers of various ministries attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2021