Associated Press Of Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Jun 07 —Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin said Monday that owing to the international rising inflationary trend, the domestic price hike could not avoided as Pakistan was the net importer of staple food commodities including wheat, sugar, edible oil and pulses.
The federal minister was presiding over the meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) here, according to press statement issued by the Finance Ministry.
The minister said that during these testing times, the government had taken all possible measures to provide maximum relief to the masses during pandemic-induced global food inflation crisis.
He said, inflation and COVID-19 had been the two main concerns for global markets particularly during the second quarter of 2021.
The ongoing pandemic has forced the global economy into a state of complete or partial lockdowns and with the wider dissemination of vaccines, the situation is likely to improve and will eventually ease the inflationary pressures towards the end of the year worldwide.
There is a need to take into account a holistic picture vis-vis price hike at international and regional levels, he added.
While taking stock of the daily releases of wheat by the respective provincial governments, the minister strictly directed the provincial governments to continue daily release of subsidized wheat and ensure its availability to general public at affordable prices throughout the country in compliance with the directives of the Prime Minister.
While reviewing the prices of poultry, a significant decline in the national average of chicken prices is seen which is around 16% and could be attributed to the strict administrative measures taken by the respective provincial administrations.
Tarin lauded the corrective measures taken and reiterated the firm commitment of the government to ensure smooth supply of poultry at fair prices for the consumers. No anti-competitive practices would be tolerated, he affirmed.
Earlier, the NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, chicken, eggs, sugar, pulses and edible oil during the week under review.
While briefing the NPMC about weekly SPI, the Secretary Finance Division apprised that there has been a continuous decline in the weekly SPI over the period of last two consecutive weeks which is a positive sign indicating ease in inflationary pressures.
The weekly SPI decreased to 0.61% on 3rd June 2021 and 0.63% during the preceding week. The consolidated and coordinated efforts of the federal as well as respective provincial governments and departments concerned have yielded consistent results.
The committee was further briefed that declining trend in food inflation was being witnessed in the midst of tremendous price hike in international commodity prices during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic particularly the third wave.
The finance minister was briefed that as per international commodities’ prices comparison published by the World Bank the international price of sugar has increased by 58.3% (Year-on-Year) and escalated to 5.6% during the last month (April 2021-May 2021).
Similarly, the international price of Soyabean oil increased to whopping 119.20% in Year-on-Year comparison whereas increased by 23.5% during the last month (April-May 2021).
The COVID-19 crisis has played havoc with international supply chain scenario and fuelled food inflation all over the globe.
Furthermore, the international price trend in Palm oil indicate an increase of 102.6% (Year-on-Year) and 7.9% during the last month.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) presented a detailed analysis about price differential between DC rates and open market prices in 13 key commodities on the occasion.
A significant price variation was observed in prices of vegetables in some cities or districts across the country.
The finance minister directed the respective provincial secretaries and Islamabad Capital Territory administration to track the situation on ground and update the committee about the measures taken to minimize price differential on basis of data available next week.
He further directed to workout modalities to maintain strategic reserves of sugar and wheat to ensure smooth supply at affordable prices during the upcoming financial year.
He directed to initiate international procurement drive of wheat and sugar through public, private and government-to-government arrangements.
The government will import up to 4 million metric tons of wheat from July 2021 onwards to build a strategic reserve of wheat.
Similarly, the finance minister directed that Ministry of Industries and Production in consultation with Ministry of Commerce and Provincial Governments to present a firmed-up estimate for importing sugar before next NPMC.
The minister said stressed the government is fully cognizant of its responsibility regarding provision of essential items at affordable prices across the board.
Keeping in view the fact that Pakistan was a net importer of food, the government had taken all out measures to provide essential items through a network of Sahulat or Saasta Baazars, hefty subsidies through chain of Utility Stores outlets under Ramadan Package and is taking strict administrative measures to keep prices of basic items in check.