ISLAMABAD: With lower-than-targeted wheat sowing, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday allocated Rs201 billion procurement of 1.8 million tonnes of wheat through Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to bridge the shortages.
The meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar also approved a special grant of Rs10 million to long-time World Squash Champion Jansher Khan who is now suffering from multiple health problems including Parkinson’s disease.
The meeting was informed that wheat harvesting had already started in south Sindh and the provincial Crop Reporting Services (CRS) had reported total wheat sowing on 21.94 million acres or about 96pc of the target area. The shortfall was mainly because of crop substitution in Punjab — mostly a shift to sugarcane — and less sowing in Sindh due to standing rain and flood waters.
ECC also approves medical grant for sports legend Jansher Khan
Passco — the country’s agency responsible for maintaining strategic food stocks — reported public wheat stocks at 1.552m tonnes as of March 2. With the remaining import of about 0.6m tonnes out of the approved 2.653m tonnes, the total availability with Passco would be 2.164m tonnes. After taking into account, the projected release of about 0.639m from its stocks, Passco would have carryover stocks of 1.33m tonnes a the start of the new food year on April 1.
Passco’s outstanding liabilities against the provincial government, strategic organisations and food departments of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan stand at about Rs110bn. To procure local wheat with a 1.8m tonnes target, Passco would require Rs201bn at the procurement price of Rs3,900 per 40 kg approved by the ECC on March 1. This includes Rs175bn on account of procurement cost and the remaining Rs26bn for incidental charges and purchase of bardana etc.
The meeting was informed that last year, the ECC had assigned a procurement target of 1.2m tonnes to Passco that was later increased to 1.7m tonnes on the direction of the Prime Minister Office. This year, the Punjab government had already been requested to assign additional 16 tehsils for wheat procurement by Passco. The ECC, therefore, approved a cash
credit limit of Rs201bn to Passco to ensure wheat procurement of 1.8m tonnes.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2023