Govt to finance high-yielding crop research to reduce imports

ISLAMABAD: The federal government will allocate funds in the upcoming budget 2021-22 to develop high-yielding crops to meet growing domestic demand and reduce dependence on import of basic food items.

This was decided by the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) meeting which constituted a two-member sub-committee comprising Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam and Industries Minister Khusro Bakhtyar to work out a lasting arrangement by exploring alternative options to reduce dependence on import of edible oil and other basic food items.

The meeting was chaired by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin. The panel was constituted owing to significant volatility in international prices of edible oil. CCP chairperson, Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Finance and Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, secretaries of finance, food security, chief secretaries of the provincial governments, a PBS member, Utility Stores Corporation (USC) managing director and other senior officers of various ministries attended the meeting.

Tarin informed the meeting that he would support fund allocation in the upcoming budget to upgrade existing research institutions and to establish state-of-the art research facilities to suggest alternative high-yielding crops.

He said there was an increased need for introducing modern techniques to revolutionise the farming sector, as the government was firmly committed to introduce innovation in every sector.

While reviewing the current price trend of chicken, the NPMC noted that the surge in chicken prices was driven by increase in supply and demand gap. Poultry farmers had been suffering losses over the past few months due to Covid-related supply disruption and poultry disease that in turn fuelled poultry prices, the price committee was informed.

The finance minister asked Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) Chairperson, Rahat Kaunain Hassan, to provide details of the inquiry that was under way with reference to some anti-competitive conduct leading to price hike in chicken feed that in turn increased prices of chicken.

Hassan apprised the minister that the process would be completed soon and recommendations would be shared with the provincial governments and departments concerned for appropriate counter-action.

Tarin directed that the whole process be accelerated, adding that speed was of the essence in findings and taking stern measures to check cartelisation, hoarding and undue profiteering effectively.

Minister for National Food Security, Fakhar Imam, briefed the NPMC about the government efforts to import four million metric tonnes of wheat during the current year. He also apprised the price committee that multiple options were under consideration for building strategic wheat reserves across the country.

The finance minister directed all respective provincial administrations to ensure daily release of wheat at subsidised rates without fail.

He directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to work out a mechanism and compile gap analysis (differential between wholesale and retail prices) along with weekly Sensitive Price Index (SPI) for key basic commodities to gauge price variation effectively.

The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week.

At a briefing on weekly SPI, the finance ministry said that prices of seven items registered a decline whereas 19 remained stable during the last week.

 

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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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