ISLAMABAD: Calling for stern action against those involved in profiteering and hoarding fertiliser — causing food inflation — Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said there was a need to dispel the impression that there was a shortage of urea in the country.
Chairing a follow-up meeting to review the supply and demand situation of fertiliser in the country, the PM Office quoted him as saying that hoarding fertiliser could adversely affect crop production in the Rabi season.
The meeting was informed that 92,845 smuggled bags of urea had been confiscated by the governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, while a dedicated monitoring cell in the Ministry of Industries was keeping an eye on the fertiliser situation and helping in urea tracing and price control.
The meeting was told that an average supply of 19,000 tonne per day was ensured during the last week.
Visits ISI HQ for briefing on national, regional security; Bilawal rubbishes smuggling claim
It was also revealed that the federal cabinet had approved the import of 100,000 tonnes of urea from China at almost half the current international market rate.
PM Khan vowed to show no leniency to elements involved in profiteering and hoarding, adding that supply of fertiliser to farmers must be ensured.
Federal Ministers Shaukat Tarin, Khusro Bakhtiyar and Syed Fakhar Imam, Minister of State Farrukh Habib, SAPM Shahbaz Gill, executives from fertiliser manufacturing companies and other senior officials attended the meeting, while the chief secretaries of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa joined via video link.
Urea issue echoes in NA
The issue was also raised in the National Assembly, where Pakistan Peoples Party leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari declared that the country was facing a urea crisis.
In November 2021, he said government ministers had claimed there was an excess of urea in the country. However, by December growers were looking for urea, but it was not available in the market. He said this urea crisis will create a food crisis in the country in coming months.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he was flabbergasted by the statements of ministers, adding, “One minister said urea is smuggled to Afghanistan from Sindh. He does not know that on one side, there is the sea and on the other side is India, where our troops are deployed. If he says that the urea is being smuggled to Afghanistan then he should check the borders of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which are ruled by PTI.
“If urea is being smuggled, then the PTI government is responsible. The allegation on Sindh is a lie,” he said In response, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar told the National Assembly that a temporary and artificially created shortage of urea fertiliser did occur, but production remained at peak levels during the current year, adding that around 20,000 to 25,000 tons of urea was being produced daily.
However, he said that due to soaring prices of diammonium phosphate (DAP) fertiliser in the international market, farmers had started using urea in its place, despite the fact that it was not a substitute for DAP.
PM visits ISI HQ
Also on Wednesday, PM Khan was given a briefing by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) on national security and the regional situation, with a special focus on Afghanistan.
The prime minister visited ISI headquarters along with some cabinet ministers and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa was also present.
The prime minister has been regularly receiving the security briefings at ISI headquarters, but this was his first session since the new director general, Lt Gen Nadeem Nadeem Anjum took over.
“A comprehensive briefing followed by discussion on national security and regional dynamics with focus on ongoing situation in Afghanistan was given,” a statement issued after the session said.
Although Afghanistan has been the focus of most such discussions for some time now, this session comes amidst growing problems with the Taliban government of Afghanistan over border fencing.
In addition, the PM welcomes the United Nations’ $5 billion appeal for Afghanistan, which was launched on Tuesday.
He said that the UN initiative was the result of the outcome of a special meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers hosted by Pakistan.
“I have been making this appeal to [the] international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan where the people have suffered ravages of 40 years of conflict,” the prime minister posted on his Twitter account.
Also on Wednesday, PM Khan met with Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) leader Moonis Elahi and Minister for Industries Khusro Bakhtiyar to discuss the upcoming local government (LG) elections in Punjab, while Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmad Babar also called on him.
Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022