ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Wednesday said that all administrative measures were being taken to control and bring down prices of essential commodities including sugar and wheat. 

It also said that the government has made all arrangements for abundant supply of wheat and sugar in the market to bring down the prices of these two essential food items.  

The government is also considering to give a targeted subsidy on selected food items to the poor segments of the society, said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while addressing a joint Press conference alongwith Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam and Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar. 

He resolved that the government will take all administrative and financial measures to bring down prices of food items. 

“But only the federal government cannot control prices of essential commodities and the provinces should also have to cooperate in this connection,” he said. He said that federal government can also help in reducing prices while using the tool of reduction in taxes while provinces should have to take administrative measures.  

Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the news conference that the Punjab has decided to increase supply of wheat from 16000 tons per day to 25,000 tons a day. Flour mills have been asked not to keep wheat in stores more than a certain limit and grind the wheat and release it to the market, he added. 

He informed the Economic Coordination Committee and subsequently the federal cabinet will meet next week to review the wheat support price from existing Rs1400/40kg. “We are aware that the cost of production of the farmers has also increased. This decision will encourage them to grow more to avoid any shortage next time.” 

Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam on the occasion said that the country has a stock of five million metric tons of wheat and 1.7 million metric tons will be imported by January next year. 

“The private sector is likely to import 700,000 metric tons of wheat, whereas our total consumption is around six million tons,” he said. “So we have sufficient quantity of wheat in stocks and there is no shortage.”  

He said that last year, Pakistan’s wheat production was 25.25 million tons against the target of 27 million tons. The government allowed private and public sector to import the grain to meet the shortages, he added. 

He said that this year, the federal and provincial governments procured around 6.6 million tons of wheat against the set target of 8.2 million tons. “Climate change is the main reasons low of this low production.”  

The food security minister said that interestingly, international parity price of the wheat was high as compared to local price while speculation and hoarding has exacerbated the situation.  

Resultantly, the federal and Punjab government started releasing the stocks and since July, 1.4 million tons of wheat has been released, he said. But unfortunately, Sindh government did not release even a single grain, he  said. 

Imam said that since July, the government has been writing frequently to Chief Minister Sindh to start releasing supply wheat from its stocks to quell the hoarding of food staple by mafias, but it did not release it. Now the province has announced to start releasing wheat from October 16, he added.

Explaining about supplies of sugar, Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said Trading Corporation of Pakistan has imported 150,000 tons of sugar, which will be released on controlled rate around Rs 10 to 15 less than market rate, while similar quantity is being procured by the private sector. The government is also considering importing more sugar if required, he said. 

He requested the provinces to initiate legislation for this purpose making it obligatory for the sugar mills to start the crushing of sugarcane from 10th of November every year. He said it has been proposed to impose a fine of five million rupees on a sugar mill, which fails to start crushing season well in time. He also said that earlier the fine was Rs50,000 to 60,000 during each season. 

The minister said that in May 2020, the federal government was told that 0.3 million tons of sugar was surplus in the country but on 22 July, the provinces informed the center that there was 0.25 to 0.3 million tons of shortage of sweetener. 

“After verification, a strange development was observed that in Punjab, three-time more quantity of sugar was lifted from the mills against the normal lifting.” 

The minister said that in Punjab, the government has started physical verification of stocks at sugar mills, and for the last two months it has been asking Sindh government to start physical verification but so far nothing has been done.  

He said that the Punjab government had increased the sugarcane support price from Rs 190 to 200 per maund.  

Replying questions, Imam said that they had 30 to 35 days of wheat shortage, but the situation has been exploited due to hoarding and profiteering. 

When asked regarding role of Corona Relief Tiger Force in controlling prices of food items, Qureshi replied that that force would only provide the government a true picture of the essential items in market.

Earlier this week, the government received price list of essential commodities from the government officials in a meeting with the PM, but when it was checked in the market, the prices were higher as compared to the list, he added.