LAHORE - Circular debt in food sector has hit Rs 120 billion and the government does not have enough resources to purchase reaped wheat.

While the country is struggling with debts in energy sector, food sector is heading downhill.

Farmers are vulnerable to a huge blow despite good wheat yields. According to sources privy to the Finance Ministry, the federation owes Rs 70 billion to Pasco and Rs 50 billion to Punjab government as subsidy for wheat purchase.

On the other hand, Sindh government is paying Rs 50 crore every month to banks as interest after purchasing wheat yields.

It should be noted here that the country has around 30 lac tonne indigenous wheat while fresh yields are also ready for harvesting. Excess wheat can also not be exported due to lessened prices in international market. The issue has stumped authorities concerned as they do not know how to utilize excess wheat and buy fresh yields.

exports under threat DUE

TO Sugar mills cartel

In Karachi, The Pakistan Biscuits and Confectionary Manufacturers Association (PBCMA) has demanded of the government to withdraw the 40 per cent duty on import of sugar besides withdrawing Rs13 per kg rebate on its export.

Raees Ahmed, Senior Vice Chairman (PBCMA), said that in spite of significant decline in prices of sugar in international market, the sugar manufacturers are fast losing their export markets as they have become uncompetitive due to unjust import duty and rebate structure respectively on sugar import and export.

Moreover the benefit of reduction of prices of sugar has not been passed on to the poor domestic and industrial consumers because of huge tariff protection provided by the government to the sugar industry which is completely against the concept of fair and free competition. He also showed his dismay over the Competition Commission of Pakistan for not taking notice of the situation.

This state of affairs has given the sugar manufacturers the opportunity to monopolize the market of this basic commodity and also to cartelize by way of increasing the prices unilaterally by Rs10 per kg bringing the prices from Rs52 to Rs62 per kg in less than a short period of time, thus rendering the industrial consumers in particular in much difficulties because of sharp increase in their production cost. Raees Ahmed reminded that according to the decision of ECC, the subsidy on export of sugar and the increase in the import duty of this item would be withdrawn in case the local price increased by 10%. In fact the local prices have increased by more than 20%.

In view of the same, he urged the government to bring the import of sugar at zero-rated and withdraw the subsidy on the export of this commodity, so that the sugar may be available to the domestic and industrial consumers at competitive prices which may be a beneficial not only to the consumers but also the sugar confectionery products would become competitive in the international market enabling this sector to save export market share for several hundred million dollars.

Meanwhile, Minister for National Food Security Sikandar Hayat Bosan says practical steps are being taken for the development of agriculture sector of Balochistan. Talking to Balochistan Zamindar Action Committee in Quetta, he said environment of the province is feasible for olive and pistachio cultivation.

He said federal government plans to introduce the cultivation of these crops with the collaboration of the local farmers. Meanwhile, a delegation of Import and Export Association Balochistan also called on him and apprised the minister problems faced by the community.