The minister for national food security and research has once again pressed economic policymakers to increase the wheat support price to Rs1,800 per 40 kg in a bid to encourage farmers to boost production and cultivate more area with the crop.
However, the policymakers have ignored the plea and have raised questions over the authenticity of data of availability and consumption of wheat in the country.
The food security minister demanded that the wheat support price should be set at Rs1,800 per 40 kg but the government fixed the rate at Rs1,650.
During discussion in a recent meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), the minister argued that the support price should be at least Rs1,800 per 40 kg, which could provide considerable incentive to the farmers to increase the area under wheat plantation.
Additional secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research stated that the existing stock of wheat was sufficient to meet the country’s requirement till April 1, 2021. However, additional quantity may be required to replenish the reserves of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco).
Adviser to the prime minister on commerce stated that the data of wheat availability in the country was very confusing.
There was a continued increase in demand for the commodity from various quarters. If the figures of wheat consumption were kept in view, shortage may be expected before the harvest of new crop in 2021, he said. These views were endorsed by the special assistant to prime minister on petroleum.
Meanwhile, adviser to the prime minister on institutional reforms and austerity pointed out that a considerable amount of foreign exchange had already been spent on the import of wheat.
Supporting his view, the finance secretary emphasised the need for framing a comprehensive wheat policy.
Therefore, the increase in consumer demand should be calculated on the basis of authentic data.
The ECC observed that in view of increased demand for wheat, the existing stock could apparently be enough to meet demand of the country.
However, by the end of March or mid-April 2021, the reserves might fall to significantly low levels.
Therefore, it would be appropriate to replenish the stocks well in time to avoid shortage and ensure price stability in the market.
A summary for the import of 380,000 tons of wheat for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Utility Stores Corporation (USC) was placed before the ECC on December 16, 2020. The ECC allowed the provision of 30,000 tons of wheat to USC and AJK each from Passco stocks as an interim arrangement.
It was stated that during a meeting of the price control committee on October 27, 2020, the prime minister approved, in principle, supply of 0.1 million tons of wheat to the government of KhyberPakhtunkhwa (K-P) in addition to earlier allocation of 0.5 million tons out of Passco stocks.
In compliance with the above decision, Passco has so far provided 396,487 tons of wheat to the K-P food department.
To stabilise prices, the K-P food department increased its daily wheat release from 4,000 tons to 6,000 tons to the flour mills and requested for the provision of the remaining quantity of 200,000 tons from Passco stocks.
The Ministry of National Food Security informed the meeting that AJK had requested for supply of 80,000 tons of wheat to cater to the need of its people for the next 80 days.
In addition, USC requested the provision of 220,000 tons of wheat, starting April 2021. Passco said that after meeting all requirements for the supply of flour at its stores including during the month of Ramazan, additional quantities demanded by K-P (200,000 tons), AJK (80,000 tons) and USC (220,000 tons), as on April 1, 2021, it would be left with 46,699 tons of wheat.
In order to maintain strategic reserves and meet any unforeseen eventuality, Passco proposed import of wheat equal to the quantity to be provided to AJK and USC.
However, keeping in view the international wheat prices, which were at high levels, as well as possible arrival time of wheat in the country ie March/April 2021, Passco called for deferring import of the commodity and reconsidering the same in June/July 2021 keeping in view the stock position and international prices.
The Ministry of National Food Security proposed, for ECC’s consideration, additional wheat allocation of 200,000 tons to K-P, 80,000 tons to AJK and 220,000 tons to USC from Passco stocks.
The ECC reviewed the summary submitted by the food security ministry and directed the ministry to review the proposal in consultation with the relevant stakeholders and submit a clear proposal for ECC’s consideration