Centre asks Sindh to announce wheat release policy to stabilise prices

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ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Monday urged Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to immediately announce its wheat release policy to help stabilise wheat flour prices and curb inter-provincial smuggling of the commodity.

In a letter written by Federal Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam to CM Murad, the minister referred to his previous letter dated July 15, 2020, and Economic Coordination Council’s (ECC) decision dated June 22, 2020, wherein it was decided that provincial governments should immediately announce their wheat release policy 2020-21, in order to stabilise wheat demand and supply situation at affordable prices.

“Government of Punjab announced its wheat release policy on July 2, 2020, and started to release wheat to its flour mills, consequently resulting in stabilisation of prices in Punjab. During the meeting held on July 14, 2020, with the prime minister in chair, the chief secretary, Sindh was apprised that price differential, with open borders, is making the wheat gravitate towards Sindh due to higher floor price thereby putting pressure on the stock position in Punjab which may cause an increase in prices in Punjab too, ” the letter stated.

Fakhar said that the same phenomenon was also observed last year when the government of Sindh decided not to procure any wheat. “Thus, it was directed that government of Sindh shall finalise its wheat release policy to help stabilise the wheat prices.  However, it has observed that the price diffential still exists and is exerting pressure on wheat prices in Punjab, in addition to forcing poor people of Sindh to pay substantially extra and exorbitant rates for flour,” the letter added.

Fakhar said that the welfare of the people of Sindh shall always remain a top priority of its elected leaders and beyond politics.  “It is apprehended that any delay on the part of province, to announce its wheat release policy, would accelerate wheat prices further. During the aforementioned meeting, it was also observed that such significant price differential between the provinces, in the absence of any restrictions on inter-provincial movement of wheatflour points to hoarding and/smuggling. Such price differences cannot be explained by transportation costs alone, ” observed the minister.

“In view of the above and in the national interest, I would request and urge you again to take immediate and effective steps to curb the hoarding and smuggling and announce wheat release policy 2020-21 for your province to help stabilise the prices in Sindh and consequent stabilisation in other provinces especially Punjab, ” he concluded.

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