ECC directs food ministry to import wheat, ensure availability at affordable prices

Food ministry says provincial govt’s and PASSCO have already achieved 79pc of wheat procurement targets

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Wednesday directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to accelerate efforts for the procurement of imported wheat.

The Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh while chairing a meeting of the ECC at the Prime Minister’s (PM) Office also directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to ensure the availability of wheat and flour at affordable prices in the country throughout the year.

The ECC also directed the food ministry to hold meetings with the major wheat importers and come up with proposals indicating the expected price of imported wheat and whether the government will need to provide subsidy to keep prices stable in the domestic markets. 

The food ministry informed ECC that provincial governments and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) have already achieved 79 per cent of their procurement targets and that more than 120 importers have so far expressed interest in importing wheat. 

The ECC directed the food ministry to extend the requested facilitation to importers, including waivers of different taxes and duties so that provincial governments, Trade Corporation of Pakistan and PASSCO can import wheat on an urgent basis to avoid shortages.

The ECC also allowed Asian Development Bank (ADB) to issue Pakistani rupee linked offshore bonds for international investors subject to completion of all formalities. The programme, according to the recommendation of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), shall be restricted to a maximum of $200 million. The local currency proceeds of the bonds will be used for financing long term infrastructure and energy projects in Pakistan.

Moreover, the ECC also allowed the Finance Division to release Rs1 billion to SSGC for undertaking gas supply to localities and villages falling within a five kilometre (km) radius of gas fields in order to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court.

The ECC also allowed equity investment outside Pakistan, amounting to Saudi Riyal 22.5 million undertaken by Eastern Products Limited. On this occasion ECC also approved an increase in the limit for investments abroad from $5 million to $10 million, subject to approval by the SBP, beyond which permission will have to be sought from the ECC.

For the implementation of the E-office Programme, the ECC directed the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to withdraw complaints against LMKR. It also directed the FIA to withdraw all inquiries pertaining to projects of LMKR subject to fulfillment of agreement clauses. 

Additionally, five development projects in the north west industrial zone and south west industrial zone at Port Qasim Authority were also approved by the ECC.

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