ISLAMABAD            -          The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has allowed the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to place an order for the import of 200,000 tonnes of wheat in the public sector following the import of 500,000 tonnes of wheat by the private sector in the country.

The ECC chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh gave the TCP a go-ahead for the import of 200,000 tonnes of wheat for PASSCO after the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Secretary Omar Hamid Khan told the ECC that 500,000 tonnes of wheat was also being imported by the private sector and the first shipment was already scheduled to reach the country’s port on August 26th 2020. It was observed that the arrival of 700,000 tonnes of wheat in the next couple of months would help defuse price volatility, overcome shortage and discourage hoarding of this essential commodity in the country. 

The ECC further tasked the Secretary National Food Security and Research alongwith Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar to consult with the Provincial governments whether they would like to purchase any amount of wheat at the rates offered to TCP by global suppliers since the global wheat prices generally remain on the lower side in the months of July and August.

The government has already allowed the TCP to import 1.5 million tonnes of wheat through a transparent open international bidding process, to meet the identified demand of 0.70 million tonnes of wheat by Punjab, 0.30 million tonnes of wheat by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 0.5 million tonnes required to replenish the strategic reserves of PASSCO. The wheat would be imported in a staggered manner to fetch the best price as well as to save carrying cost and meet the shortage as and when required.

It was noted that wheat stocks to the tune of 26.05 million tones, including 25.457 million tonnes from fresh wheat produce and 0.602 million from the carry forward stocks, were currently available in the country, reflecting a shortfall of 1.411 million tonnes.

The availability of wheat stocks in the public sector was reported at 6.32 million tonnes compared to 7.55 million tonnes during the corresponding period last year.

The ECC also took up a proposal for the import of sugar through the private importers in view of fast depleting stocks of sugar which currently stood at 1.2 million tonnes but were likely to exhaust by early November 2020, and decided to reduce the levy of sales tax and other duties on the import of sugar by the private importers to keep the landed cost at the lowest possible level to allow a fair and affordable price to the consumers.

Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that the ECC has ratified the proposal to reduce and remove the incidence of taxes at import stage of sugar.

This will facilitate private sector imports, improve domestic stocks and stabilise prices.

He said that withholding tax on import of sugar has reduced from 5.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent, value added tax at import: 3 per cent to 0 per cent and sales tax at import: 17 per cent to 1per cent.

On Twitter, the Minister said that the above will be time and quantity bound. The details to be notified shortly.

TCP has also been asked to retender for sugar with modified specs and conditions within one week.

The ECC also took up the issue of waiver of demurrage charges on Afghan Transit Trade cargo stranded at Karachi ports in view of the matter being a Force Majeure and the past three instances similar waivers, and asked the Ministry of Maritime Affairs to take up the issue with the port authorities and terminal operators for its amicable resolution.

On a proposal by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division), the ECC took up the issue of Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) expired agreement with Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) and gave principled approval for resumption of LPG/NGL and production from the JJVL plant under proposed conditions subject to their endorsement from the Office of Attorney General. Rational behind the decision was to reduce the import of LPG when domestic production was possible.

The ECC also discussed and approved a proposal by the Finance Division for fixation of dividend on SBP shares and allowed the bank to provide dividend at the rate of 10 per cent on the face value of SBP shares in the Bank’s annual accounts for the year ended June 30th 2020.