ISLAMABAD-The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has recommended the government to create a level playing field in the wheat sector by reducing the government’s role from the sector and gradual withdrawal of government from minimum support price fixing regime to increase agricultural productivity. The CCP has issued Policy Note to the government by recommending some measures in the wheat sector. The Policy Note digs deep into the wheat sector problems, the government policies, and the factors responsible for the recent wheat crisis. The Note recommends a gradual exit from the support price regime to encourage competition between traders, millers and stockists. The federal and provincial governments may consider reducing their role to ensure food security through strategic reserves, as well as maintaining fair and transparent competition, and helping to raise agricultural productivity through research based interventions. The Note says that Chakki mills cater for 2/3rd of the total supply of wheat flour to consumers, hence they should be provided a fair share in the wheat quota (until the Govt. exits the current system). This may be done gradually based on the grinding capacity of registered Chakki mills. 

The Chakki mills are small enterprises and provincial governments need to consider putting in place an effective and simple procedure of registration and quota allocation. Furthermore, provision of soft loans for installation of equipment and arranging training for their technical capacity may also be considered. The increased technical capacity of this small enterprise will help in increasing the economic activity and market competition. The Policy Note urges the government to address the issue of overlap in the regulatory regime by removing ambiguities in the role and responsibilities of regulators. It recommends that in each of the provinces, only one government entity should be given the clear mandate of enforcing quality parameters and ensuring adequate labelling and packaging. It also emphasises the role of Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) in updating the standardisation of wheat itself to provide parameters to provincial governments to monitor the quality of wheat. The Policy Note also addresses the issue of inadequate labelling that misleads a consumer by not providing product representation in a form that makes due disclosures to an ordinary consumer. It adds that the requirement for unambiguous labeling needs to be strictly enforced by the provincial governments.

Moreover, moisture, nutrient and other labelling requirements and the process used for grinding (dry or wet) of wheat needs to be clearly displayed on all sizes of wheat bags sold in the market. Another important recommendation is about streamlining the export policy and improving export potential of wheat. To this end, a strong crop monitoring, forecast and reporting system will be helpful whereas there should be strong communication between the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and the Provincial Food Departments, Provincial Agriculture Departments and other key stakeholders, so as to allow the Government to take timely and optimum decisions in respect of wheat export. The Federal Government may notify a consistent wheat export policy to allow expeditious export of wheat in years of abundant domestic supplies. In addition, the Government may help private traders to implement a wheat standard and branding to compete in specific segments of the international wheat market. The PSQCA may also consider working closely with regional countries to harmonise the wheat standards.