ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Friday showed concerns over the rising trend of potatoes and tomatoes prices despite that government has allowed zero duty on the import of potatoes so that this commodity is available to the consumer at affordable rates.

The Finance Minister, while chairing a meeting on National Price Monitoring Committee, has directed Ministry of Food Security and Research to look into the matter as why there is increasing trend and suggesting remedial measures, having consultation with the provincial government to address this issue.

Senator Ishaq Dar said government has allowed zero duty on import of potatoes to breakup the commodity cartel. The Minister further emphasised on research in the cropping pattern of the pulses so that its prices also remain under control and in this connection directed Ministry of Food Security and Research to expedite inter cropping plan in consultation with provinces.

Finance Minister said that we are committed to take all measures to control the prices of daily needs with the support of provincial governments and other stakeholders so that cartels, profiteers and hoarders will not be allowed to make undue profit. Government has succeeded to keep inflation in single digit during 2013-14 despite that the economy was facing number of challenges such as high fiscal deficit, high borrowing for budgetary support, low credit to private sector and severe energy crisis. The government had focus on the economic reforms and took some difficult decisions to bring economy back on track. As a result of following the appropriate monetary and fiscal policies as well other administrative measures like monitoring of prices & supply situation in the country, the inflation has been contained. He enquired about shortage of essential items reported in Utility Stores. It was informed by MD Utility Store Corporation that due to subsidised rates in utility stores there is huge rush. The demand has increased manifold which created timely shortage but covered immediately.

The Minister reviewed the prices of Sasta Bazaar and open market and observed that in all provincial governments the Sasta Bazaar are providing commodities at lower rates than open market and appreciated the provincial govts. and ICT efforts in this regard. It was briefed to the Minister that Federal government is providing subsidy amounting to Rs 2 billion for the Relief Package during the holy month of Ramadan 2014. The essential consumer items are being provided on reduced rates through the Utility Stores all over the country. In addition the provincial government and ICT have taken following measures:

Government of the Punjab is providing subsidy worth Rs 5 billion on provision of Atta to people. 14 million bags of Atta are being provided on subsidised rates. 332 Ramadan Bazaars have been established for provision of essential items at discounted rate. 128 Juma/ Itwar Bazaars have been established at Karachi on regular basis. One Sasta Bazars in each Divisional headquarter has been established during the month of Ramadan.

Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has taken following measures: 150 regular Itwar/ Jumma Bazaars have been established in the province. 70 Special Sasta Bazaars are established during the month of Ramadan. Special meetings of District Price Review Committees is being convened on weekly basis in Ramadan to check the availability of essential commodities and also ensure stability of prices. Display of price lists of essential commodities will be ensured at prominent places in the shops/ markets so as to curb overcharging and profiteering by vendors, shopkeepers and whole sale dealers.

Government of Balochistan has taken following measures to control price hike in Ramadan. Juma/ Itwar Bazaars have been established in Quetta on regular basis. One Sasta Bazaars in each District is being established. Out of 32 Districts, Sasta Bazaars have been established in 16 districts. All the Deputy Commissioners have been advised to constitute District Price Control/ Monitoring Committees to review and notify prices of essential commodities and consumable items during the holy month of Ramadan. They will provide weekly progress report of the activities to the Monitoring Committees. Islamabad Capital Territory has taken following measures: Two Sasta Bazaars has been established at Bhara Kahu and Koral. 35 Fair Prices Shops have been established in the urban and rural areas of Islamabad.  Atta at these shops is available at Rs.660 per 20 kg bag which is hundred rupees less than the market.

The meeting reviewed the trend of inflationary indicators including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Food, Non-Food, Core, Wholesale Price index (WPI) and Sensitive Price Index (SPI). The CPI recorded at 8.2 percent during June 2014, similarly SPI and WPI also registered at 6.2 percent and 7.7 percent respectively. The SPI for the week ended on 3rd July 2014 recorded an increase 0.59 percent due to increase in prices of some commodities however out of 53 items, prices of 21 items registered increase while prices of 05 items decreased and prices of 27 items remained stable as compared to last week.