ISLAMABAD  - The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday decided to set wheat procurement target at eight million tons for the 2013-2014 season, a move that would ensure wheat availability in the country at reduce prices.

The ECC, which met under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar at the Prime Minister’s office, considered the summary of Ministry of National Food Security and Research for fixing procurement target for the wheat crop 2013-14.

Therefore, the top economic decisions making body of the country has decided to set wheat procurement target at 8 million tons. The government would procure wheat from farmers .The break-up of wheat to be procured showed that 1.6 million tons of wheat would be procured by PASSCO (Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation). Similarly, the Punjab government would procure 4.5 million tons of wheat, Sindh 1.300, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.450 and Balochistan will procure 0.150 million tons of wheat.  Agri Forum Pakistan lauded the government’s decision of procuring eight million tones wheat. Agri Forum Pakistan (AFP) chairman Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal said, “The government has set good target, which will help in meeting the wheat demand of the country and stabilizing the flour prices”. Per kg wheat price should be around Rs 35, as government would procure 40kg wheat at price of Rs 1200, he said and added, “It will be government’s failure if wheat price went beyond Rs 35 per kg in the country”.

Sources informed that ECC did not discuss the issue of giving bailout package to Pakistan Steel Mills for the payment of salaries of the staff. The workers of financially-troubled Pakistan Steel Mills have not got their salaries from last three to four months. Sources were of the view of the committee might take the issue in its next meeting.

Meanwhile, the top economic decisions making body of the country also decided to extend the ban on the import of gold under SRO 760 up to 31st March 2014. There is already ban on the gold import from January 2014, which helps in controlling the rupee deprecation against the US dollar.

Finance minister directed the Ministry of Commerce to reexamine the issue holistically for submission of the matter before ECC in the next meeting. The finance minister also directed the Commerce Ministry to lift restrictions on the export of gemstones.

The meeting showed satisfaction over the performance of the Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) sector. The committee noted that LSM sector has recorded growth of 6.8% in July-December 2013-14 as compared to 2.3% in the same period last year. The ECC was informed that there is 78% increase in sugar production and 28% increase in fertilizer sector. Senator Ishaq Dar observed that LSM sector has performed well due to reduction in electricity loadshedding and enhanced supply of natural gas to the industry.

He said that the growth reflects renewed confidence of business community/industrialists on the economic policies of the government. Dar directed the officials of the Ministries of Commerce and Industries to ensure shipment of export quota of sugar up to 500,000 metric tons. He said that both the Ministries and State Bank of Pakistan should reconcile their data on sugar export. He also directed the Commerce Ministry to submit a comprehensive policy on sugar. Finance minister further directed the officials of the Ministry of Industries to present their recommendations and concrete measures before the next ECC meeting, which would achieve growth targets in LSM sector.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, the finance minister said that after coming into power the government of PML-N, in line with its manifesto, introduced several structural reforms in the economic sector to overcome the challenges it confronted. He said that today all economic indicators are on the positive trend. Growth is moving up, inflation is going down, foreign exchange reserves are growing, value of rupee is appreciating and the stock market is moving up. He added that the economic scenario of the country is moving in the right direction. 

The meeting was also attended by the Minister for Water and Power, Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for Commerce, Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal, Secretaries of the concerned ministries and senior officials of the government.