ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s eatable import bill surged by 21.32 per cent to $5.63 billion in the July-January period compared to $4.64bn in the corresponding period last year owing to higher international prices and massive depreciation of the rupee.

The growth in food import bill was seen to bridge the shortfall of eatables in the domestic market. The share of eatables in the total import bill also posted growth during the current fiscal year.

The total import bill reached $46.62bn in the first seven months of this fiscal year against $29.26bn over the corresponding period last year.

The rising food imports and the consequent trade deficit are yet another source of worry for the government. Pakistan spent over $8bn on the import of edible items in the last fiscal year.

The import bill will go up further in the coming months because the government has decided to import 0.6m tonnes of sugar and 4m tonnes of wheat to build strategic reserves.

Overall import bill reaches $46.62bn in July-January

Within the food group, the major contribution came from wheat, sugar, edible oil, spices, tea and pulses. Edible oil imports witnessed a substantial increase in value terms. Due to rising world prices, the palm oil import bill grew by 55.75pc in value in 7MFY22 to $2.13bn from $1.36bn in 7MFY21.

As a result, the domestic prices of vegetable ghee and cooking oil also went up. The import of soyabean oil also increased by 34.70pc in value in 7MFY22 from a year ago.

However, the wheat imports fell by 21pc to 1.76 million tonnes in 7MFY22 against 2.96 million tonnes in 7MFY21. In January, the wheat imports grew by 17.67pc.

The import of sugar rose 49.84pc to 309,837 tonnes in 7MFY22 against 278,523 tonnes in 7MFY21. However, the import of sugar increased by 308pc in January from a year ago. The import bill of pulses, tea, and spices also grew rapidly during the period under review.

The import of medicinal products went up 452.95pc to $3.39bn in 7MFY22 against $614.520m. This is one of the major increases in imports of one sector mainly due to the import of Covid injections.

Oil imports surge

On the other hand, the import bill of oil increased by over 107.35pc to $11.69bn in 7MFY22 from $5.64bn over the corresponding months of last year. Also, the unprecedented increase in prices of petroleum products for domestic users was seen during the period.

Further breakup showed that the import of petroleum products went up by 124pc in value and 25.17pc in quantity. Crude oil imports rose by 81.27pc in value and a decline of 0.18pc in quantity during the period under review while those of liquefied natural gas increased by 117.19pc in value. Liquefied petroleum gas imports jumped by 44.86pc in value in 7MFY22.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2022

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