By Hina Kiyani
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin, chaired the meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) held at the Finance Division on Monday to review the prices of essential commodities.
The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Division, Secretary M/o NFS&R, Chief Secretaries of the Provincial Governments, Member PBS, MD Utility Stores Corporation, Chairperson CCP and other senior officers of various Ministries.
The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar, edible oil/ghee, pulses and chicken during the last week. While briefing the NPMC about weekly SPI, the Finance Secretary apprised that prices of 07 basic commodities registered a decline whereas 26 items remained stable during the week under review.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam updated the NPMC about the wheat procurement drive of the Provinces and PASSCO to ensure steady supply of wheat at fair prices during the current year. He further apprised the NPMC that Punjab is ahead of other Provinces in procurement of wheat to date.
Secretary M/o NFS&R informed the Committee that the summary to import 4 million metric ton wheat would be presented before the next ECC for requisite approval to build strategic reserves and to ensure smooth supply of wheat across the country. While taking stock of the situation, the Finance Minister directed all the Provincial Governments to ensure daily release of wheat at subsidized rates in compliance with the directives of the Prime Minister. He strictly urged the representatives of the Provincial Governments to ensure uninterrupted daily release without fail.
While reviewing the price trend of basic commodities in international markets, the NPMC noted that major driver behind increase in prices of items of daily use is massive international price hike due to ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The Year-on-Year comparative analysis indicated that price of Crude Oil increased by 178% in April 2021 as compared to April 2020.
Similarly, the prices of sugar in international market increased by 57% in year-on-year comparison. Furthermore, international prices of Palm oil, Soyabeen oil and Wheat also registered a continued upward trend which, in turn, led to sharp increase in prices of basic items in domestic markets.
Speaking on the occasion, the Finance Minister stated that COVID-19 crisis has fuelled food prices in international markets especially edible oil, sugar, tea and wheat. The Government is making an all-out effort to ensure smooth supply of basic items through a network of Ramadan Sahaulat/Saasta Bazaars and chain of USCs outlets to ease shortages and mitigate price spike in domestic/local markets.
The Chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) presented findings before the Committee regarding completion of recent inquiry in the Poultry Industry. The CCP underlined some anti-competitive conduct that led to surge in prices of Chicken feed, which, in turn, increased prices of Chicken.
The Finance Minister stressed that cartelization would not be acceptable at any cost. Stern action would be taken by the Provincial Administrations and Departments concerned to keep the prices of basic commodities in check.