ISLAMABAD           -       The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Monday allowed the private sector to import wheat to control prices of wheat and flour in local market and ensure availability of the commodity at reasonable price across the country.

The ECC chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also decided not to restrict the import of wheat to any limit by the private sector and further decided to monitor the situation on monthly basis to ensure availability of wheat and flour in all parts of the country at a reasonable price.

The meeting further decided that provincial governments would be requested to announce their “Wheat Release Policy” immediately.

Punjab would release 900,000 tons of wheat to flour mills of the province during the next two months at a release price proposed by the Punjab government in order to prevent surge in price of wheat/flour. Similarly, the government of Sindh would also be requested to announce its policy.

The ECC also decided that PASSCO would assess the immediate requirement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and arrange to improve supply wheat as per agreed targets. Meanwhile, movement of wheat would be facilitated between Punjab, KP and Balochistan.

The ECC decided that overall free movement of wheat should be ensured across the border and to ensure movement across districts and provinces. Private wheat importers may be facilitated and arrangements between importers and KP/Balochistan should also be arranged and calculate the impact of subsidy for the import, if any.

It has decided that the financial implications of import/non-imports by private sector should also be assessed. If there is no import by private sector, then the government should import wheat itself. Monitoring and supply provisions would be improved to ensure availability of wheat is available at shortage points and other market imperfections unconnected to supply and demand of wheat/flour should also be looked at. Focus on inter-relation between wheat and Atta and try to increase conversion rate from wheat to Atta.

The ECC approved a proposal by the Finance Division for TSG of Rs 1300 million to meet critical demands related to medical stores and utilities for the Pakistan Navy.

On a proposal by the Industries and Production Division, the ECC approved a package combining reduced duties and taxes for a period of three months to ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen gas and oxygen cylinders in the country for medical purposes. The ECC also directed the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination and Ministry of Interior to clear all the outstanding dues payable to oxygen manufacturing companies as per the legal provisions of contracts.

The ECC directed the concerned ministries and departments to ensure supply of oxygen for medical purposes by actively engaging with the oxygen plants and with hospitals for keeping the oxygen charges at the minimum level.