Food import bill surges by over 53pc

Published July 20, 2021
A shopkeeper weighs sugar at his shop in Rawalpindi’s Ganjmandi area. — Photo by Mohammad Asim/File
A shopkeeper weighs sugar at his shop in Rawalpindi’s Ganjmandi area. — Photo by Mohammad Asim/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s food import bill grew by 53.91 per cent to $8.347 billion year-on-year during the previous fiscal year (FY21), mainly due to sugar, wheat, palm oil and pulses imports to bridge the shortfall in domestic production of agriculture produce.

The rising food import bill also triggered trade deficit that may cause some uneasiness on the external side for the government.

Data compiled by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) released here on Monday showed the share of food items in the total import bill reached 14.79pc this year, compared to 12.17pc last year, indicating the country’s growing reliance on imports to ensure food security.

In the budget for 2021-22, the government has proposed several measures, including allocation of billions of rupees for increasing per acre yield, reducing wastage and establishing big stores for keeping staple food items.

The total import bill inched up by 26.60pc to $56.405bn in FY21 as against $44.552bn over the corresponding period of last year.

Sugar, wheat, palm oil, pulses main items procured from abroad to meet demand at home

The eatable import bill of all products posted growth in value and quantity during the period under review, a clear indication of shortage in domestic production. Within the 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 44.91pc in value in FY21 to $2.668bn from $1.841bn over the corresponding months of last year. In quantity, 7.64pc growth was recorded in import of palm oil during the same period. The palm oil bill increased due to rise in international price of palm oil.

As a result, the prices of vegetable ghee and cooking oil posted growth during the last few months for domestic users. The import of soya bean oil rose by 65.98pc in value and 38.33pc in quantity.

Pakistan has imported 3.612 million tonnes of wheat worth $983.326m in nine months of last fiscal year as against no imports in the previous financial year. As no wheat has been imported in the months of April, May and June with the authorities expecting a bumper wheat crop, the ECC decided to import 3m tonnes for keeping buffer stock. It will now be imported in the current fiscal year.

Similarly, the import of sugar stood at 281,329 tonnes during 2020-21 as against 7,609 tonnes over the corresponding months of 2019-20, showing an increase of 3,597pc.

Import of tea posted growth of 8.96pc during the previous fiscal year while that of spices increased by 29.31pc. 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 for pulses, dried fruits, milk and other food products witnessed a massive growth during the period under review. The import of all other food items spiked 34.16pc on a year-on-year basis to $2.686bn and pulses 15.48pc to $709.729m.

In the machinery group, the total import bill reached $10.144bn in FY21 as against $8.787bn over the corresponding months of previous year, a growth of 15.45pc. Import of power generating machinery was up by 39.38pc to $1.913bn in the outgoing fiscal year from $1.372bn over the same period last year.

The second biggest contributor to the group is the mobile phones import that increased by 50.75pc to $2.065bn during FY21 as against $1.369bn over the previous year. However, the import of construction and electrical machinery dipped by 26.52pc and 25.37pc, respectively. The import of agriculture machinery posted a paltry growth of 0.83pc.

The PBS showed the oil import bill rose to $11.35bn in the FY21, indicating an increase of 9.09pc from $10.411bn over the previous year.

The petroleum product imports were up by 9.03pc in value in the FY21 and increased by 28.73pc in quantity. Crude oil import rose by 14.15pc in value and 32.02pc in quantity during the period under review while those of liquefied natural gas fell by 1.69pc in value. However, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) imports jumped 60.70pc in value in FY21 largely to plug a shortfall in local production.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021


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