ECC directs food ministry to meet 8.25MT wheat procurement target 

Committee also approves supplementary grants for defence, poverty alleviation and finance divisions

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday asked the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MoNFSR) to ensure procurement of wheat as per 8.25 million tonnes target set for the public sector this year.

The ministry was asked to closely monitor the wheat procurement process and actively engage with the provincial food departments and the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) in this regard.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who chaired the meeting, further asked the ministry to submit before the ECC a detailed report in the next two to three weeks on the progress of wheat procurement by PASSCO, provincial food departments and overall wheat production with the help of reliable data and figures in order to have a clear picture for better planning in the future.

The committee also called for exploring possibilities to extend more time to flour mills to procure wheat from the market, allowing inter-provincial movement, and preventing smuggling of wheat outside Pakistan.

Earlier, the ministry had told the ECC that the wheat procurement target for the wheat crop 2019-20 was set at 8.25 million tonnes, with 4.5 million tonnes to be procured by Punjab, 1.4 million tonnes by Sindh, 0.4 million tonnes by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 0.1 million tonnes by Balochistan and 1.8 million tonnes by PASSCO.

PASSCO and the provincial food departments have so far procured 3.96 million tonnes of wheat, approximately 48pc of the target, while the procurement pace is slow in KP and Balochistan.

Meanwhile, the ECC also took up another proposal by the ministry for fixing an intervention price for cotton and after a detailed discussion asked the ministry to come up with a comprehensive package focusing on cotton seed research, overall research and development, better water management, deregulation of the sector and zoning of crop growing areas to enhance productivity and competitiveness of the local crop.

Sources said the ministry had proposed to fix the cotton price up to Rs4,200 per 40kg, however all cabinet members rejected it with a view that market forces should determine the price as the matter discussed three months back led to a surge in the price to Rs5,500 per 40kg in the market.

The chair on the occasion said the ministry should come up with a comprehensive package with focus on cotton seed research, overall research and development, better water management, deregulation of the sector and zoning of crop growing areas to enhance productivity and competitiveness of the local crop.

ECC APPROVES FIVE TSGS, OTHER PROPOSALS

The ECC also discussed and approved five separate supplementary grants on different proposals submitted by various administrative divisions.

On two separate proposals for technical supplementary grants by the Defence Division, including Rs1.665 billion for the upgradation of Special Telecom Monitoring Project at Directorate of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Rs500 million for the construction of the Special Education School at the Defence Complex, Islamabad, were approved.

On a proposal of the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission, a technical supplementary grant of Rs10.476 million was approved as an assistance package for the family of Raees Anwar Abbasi, Senior Private Secretary (BS-19), Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission following his death on August 12, 2019.

On a proposal for a technical supplementary grant by the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, an amount of Rs12.143 million was approved following transfer of the subject of “Collection of Zakat and Ushr, disbursement of Zakat and Ushr to the provinces and other areas as per formula approved by the Council of Common Interest (CCI)”.

On another proposal for TSG by the Finance Division, ECC approved Rs306.615 million for the Office of Controller General of Accounts during FY20 for payment of dues on account of the Prime Minister’s Assistance Package.

Acting on a proposal of the Ministry of Interior, the ECC allowed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to allocate Rs3.05 billion to the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) on loan basis for payment of obligatory expenses for the second half of FY20.

The committee also approved a proposal for reconstitution of a committee formed by ECC in its meeting on 26th March 2020 for examination of incentive package for the National Electric Vehicle Policy by nominating Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar in place of PM Aviser on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood as its chairman.

Moreover, the ECC approved a proposal of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs for extension, due to the coronavirus pandemic, of free period from five working days to 15 working days for cargo and containers landing for period up to May 31, 2020.

The committee further approved another proposal by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs for technical supplementary grant of Rs58 million as compensation of the demolished structures of the Pakistan Coast Guards in order to provide 19 acres land, previously in the possession of the Pakistan Coast Guards and vacated for the Gwadar Free Zone and Right of Way of the Eastbay Expressway.

On a proposal of the Ministry of Energy for development of a new mechanism/criterion for disbursement of payments to the tune of Rs300 billion through CPPA-G to the power generators, ECC asked the Power Division to devise the requisite criterion for fair and equitable disbursement of payments to the power generators and come back to ECC for its approval.

Taking up a proposal of the Power Division, ECC approved shifting of most expensive loan from the books of Power holding Limited (PHL) to the government of Pakistan and taking up of Rs136.454 billion loan in FY20, while other loan to be considered in the following financial years accordingly.

On another proposal of the Power Division, the committee gave a go-ahead to the issuance of new sovereign guarantee by the Ministry of Finance in respect of fresh syndicated term finance facility for Rs41 billion through PHL for the purpose of set off/adjustment of existing PHL finance facility of Rs41 billion executed in pursuance of the ECC’s decision made on June 7, 2017.

ECC, on a proposal of the Petroleum Division, asked the Finance Division to transfer Rs11.7 billion in the NBP account for ensuring remittances to Kuwait as per schedule.

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The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]

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