ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin on Monday directed the Ministry of Industries and Production (MoIP) to hold a meeting with ghee and edible oil manufacturers and help transmit the declining trend of international oil prices to end consumers.

The direction came from the minister at a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) while reviewing prices of essential food items. Currently, per kilogram and per litre price of branded ghee and cooking oil respectively are between Rs320 and 330, while that of unbranded category range from Rs270 and Rs320.

Mr Tarin highlighted that prices of palm oil and soybean are on declining trend in the international market but its impact on the domestic market so far has not been observed. The government will take strict action if any obstacle is observed anywhere in the country, the minister said.

Modalities to maintain strategic reserves of sugar and wheat urged

Pakistan Vanaspati Manu­facturer Association statistics shows that the average monthly consumption of ghee and oils in Pakistan is around 400,000 tonnes. The production capacity of the organised sector was up to 350,000 tonnes whereas the remaining demand is filled by locally-grown oil seeds and the unorganised sector.

An official announcement said the meeting was briefed that as per international commodities’ prices comparison published by the World Bank, the international price of sugar has increased by 58.3 per cent year-on-year (YoY). Similarly, the international price of soybean oil increased to whopping 119.20pc YoY in comparison whereas increased by 23.5pc during April and May.

The Covid-19 pandemic has played havoc with the international supply-chain scenario and fueled food inflation all over the globe. Furthermore, the international price trend in palm oil indicates an increase of 102.6pc YoY and 7.9pc during the last month.

Going by the aforesaid international trend, the domestic price hike could not be avoided as Pakistan is the net importer of staple food commodities like wheat, sugar, edible oil, pulses etc. The government has taken all possible measures to provide maximum relief to the masses during pandemic-induced global food inflation crisis, the meeting was briefed.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research gave a detailed presentation regarding the production cycle of perishable items including tomatoes, potatoes and onions. The meeting was informed that two-thirds of the pulses demand is being fulfilled through imports thus there is need to build strategic reserves to ensure smooth supply, achieve price stability and reduce international dependence.

The food ministry was directed to prepare an emergency plan for establishing cold storages and warehouses in key areas where perishable food items are produced and also explore feasible options of collaboration including the Public-Private Partnership model in this regard.

Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa briefed the meeting about the value-chain analysis of essential items. Mr Tarin noted that there is a huge margin of profit being earned by the wholesalers who purchased from the farmers. He directed provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan to present the value-chain analysis of essential items in the upcoming NPMC and corrective measures to ease out price hike.

Mr Tarin further directed working out modalities to maintain strategic reserves of sugar and wheat to ensure smooth supply at affordable prices during the upcoming financial year. He directed to initiate international procurement drive of wheat and sugar through public, private and government-to-government arrangements.

The Utility Stores Corporation MD informed the forum that work was being done on a nati­onal plan of extending number of USC outlets. Mr Tarin directed the USC MD, in consultation with the government of Balochistan, to work out detailed plan for establishing stores acro­ss the province at spots where maxi­mum consumers may benefit by the essential items at subsidised rates.

Finance secretary Yousuf Khan briefed the meeting and informed that the weekly SPI increased by 0.28pc for the week ended on June 17, after three weeks of consecutive decline.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021

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