–Minister says govt will abolish GIDC on fertilisers to reduce urea price by Rs400 per bag
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar on Sunday said that sufficient wheat stocks were available in the country to fulfil domestic requirements of flour and expressed firm resolve to take strict action against those involved in creating an “artificial crisis” through hoarding and profiteering.
Addressing a press conference, the minister said that multiple factors were responsible for the wheat flour crisis. “Transporters’ strike in Karachi affected the supply of wheat flour to local markets in Sindh and the inter-provincial ban on wheat supply to curb smuggling caused a crisis in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP),” he said.
“Both cases disrupted the supply of in local markets and by addressing the root cause, we have been somewhat successful in bridging the gap between demand and supply,” he said, adding that the price of wheat flour would decrease in a few days.
He said that wheat supply for Karachi was enhanced to 10,000 metric tonnes from 9,000 metric tonnes and wheat-laden trucks of the National Logistics Cell had already left for their destination. He added that the federal government had informed the Sindh government that it can procure additional 50,000 tonnes from Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation’s (PASSCO) warehouses.
He also said that the supply in KP which was disturbed due to inter-provincial checks was realigned and increased from 4,000 metric tonnes to 5,000 metric tonnes per day. Besides this, the private sector is also supplying 4,000 tonnes in provincial markets, which means that by Monday, the supply would be able to reach 10,000 metric tonnes, he added.
“So far, KP has lifted 250,000 metric tonnes from the 450,000 metric tonnes approved for it,” he said, adding that another 100,000 metric tonnes of wheat will be provided to the province once the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) approves it on Monday.
The minister said that flour mills in Punjab were provided 390 metric tonnes of wheat, adding that the 180,000 bags of 20kg each per day were required by Lahore and adjoining areas. “The food department is supplying 140,000 bags whereas the private sector is providing 35,000 bags,” he added. He further said that the remaining 5,000 bags were procured from local wheat grinders and the government intends to regulate these as well to ensure smooth pricing.
Bakhtiar said that about 40,000 metric tonnes of wheat were smuggled to Afghanistan per month and special measures were also taken to curb this smuggling to ensure smooth supply to the local markets. He also said that a special helpline was established to monitor wheat supply in local markets and wheat procurement targets were also enhanced from six million metric tonnes to eight million metric tonnes to facilitate strategic reserves for local requirements.
He further said that the output of wheat crop reduced by 1.2 million metric tonnes last year which is why the government has decided to import wheat to create a buffer stock in the country. He said that the government has fixed the price of wheat to Rs1,365 per 40kg and it has set a purchase target of 2.7 million metric tonnes for the next year.
Responding to a question, he said that the incumbent government prioritises the agriculture sector and has initiated development projects worth Rs300 billion to enhance the output of major crops, including wheat. He further said that the government would also abolish Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) on fertilisers which will help in reducing the price of urea by around Rs400 per bag.