June 8, 2021: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Mr. Shaukat Tarin presided over the meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) held at the Finance Division on Monday.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister for Industries and Production Makhdum Khusro Bakhtiyar, SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Division, Additional Secretary M/o NFS&R, Secretary Commerce, Additional Secretary M/o PD&SI, Chairman FBR, Member PBS, Commissioner Islamabad, senior representatives of the Provincial Governments and other senior officers participated in the meeting.
The NPMC reviewed the price trend of essential commodities especially wheat flour, chicken, eggs, sugar, pulses and edible oil during the week under review. While briefing the NPMC about weekly SPI, the Secretary Finance Division apprised that there has been a continuous decline in the weekly SPI over the period of last two consecutive weeks which is a positive sign indicating ease in inflationary pressures.
The weekly SPI decreased to 0.61% on 3rd June 2021 and 0.63% during the preceding week. The consolidated and coordinated efforts of the Federal as well as respective Provincial Governments and departments concerned have yielded consistent results.
The Committee was further briefed that declining trend in food inflation is being witnessed in the midst of tremendous price hike in international commodity prices during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic particularly the third wave.
The Finance Minister was briefed that as per international commodities' prices comparison published by the World Bank the international price of sugar has increased by 58.3% (Year-on-Year) and escalated to 5.6% during the last month (April 2021-May 2021).
Similarly, the international price of Soyabean oil increased to whopping 119.20% in Year-on-Year comparison whereas increased by 23.5% during the last month (April-May 2021). The COVID-19 crisis has played havoc with international supply chain scenario and fuelled food inflation all over the globe.
Furthermore, the international price trend in Palm oil indicate an increase of 102.6% (Year-on-Year) and 7.9% during the last month. Going by the aforesaid international trend, the domestic price hike couldn't be avoided as Pakistan is the net importer of staple food commodities like Wheat, Sugar, Edible oil, pulses etc.
During these testing times, the Government has taken all possible measures to provide maximum relief to the masses during pandemic-induced global food inflation crisis. While reviewing the situation, the Finance Minister stated that inflation and COVID-19 has been the two main concerns for global markets particularly during the second quarter of 2021.
The ongoing pandemic has forced the global economy into a state of complete/partial lockdowns and with the wider dissemination of vaccines, the situation is likely to improve and will eventually ease the inflationary pressures towards the end of the year worldwide. There is a need to take into account a holistic picture vis-vis price hike at international and regional levels, he added.
While taking stock of the daily releases of wheat by the respective Provincial Governments, the Finance Minister strictly directed the Provincial Governments to continue daily release of subsidized wheat and ensure its availability to general public at affordable prices throughout the country in compliance with the directives of the Prime Minister.
While reviewing the prices of poultry, a significant decline in the national average of chicken prices is seen which is around 16% and could be attributed to the strict administrative measures taken by the respective Provincial administrations. The Finance Minister lauded the corrective measures taken and reiterated the firm commitment of the Government to ensure smooth supply of poultry at fair prices for the consumers. No anti-competitive practices will be tolerated, he affirmed.
PBS presented a detailed analysis about price differential between DC rates and open market prices in 13 key commodities on the occasion. A significant price variation was observed in prices of vegetables in some cities/districts across the country.
The Finance Minister directed the respective Provincial Secretaries and ICT administration to track the situation on ground and update the committee about the measures taken to minimize price differential on basis of data available next week. The Finance Minister further directed to workout modalities to maintain strategic reserves of sugar and wheat to ensure smooth supply at affordable prices during the upcoming financial year.
The Finance Minister directed to initiate international procurement drive of wheat and sugar through public, private and G2G arrangements. The Government will import up to 4 million metric tons of wheat from July 2021 onwards to build a strategic reserve of wheat.
Similarly, the Finance Minister directed that Ministry of Industries and Production in consultation with Ministry of Commerce and Provincial Governments to present a firmed-up estimate for importing sugar before next NPMC.
In his concluding remarks, the Finance Minister stressed that Government is fully cognizant of its responsibility regarding provision of essential items at affordable prices across the board. Keeping in view the fact that Pakistan is a net importer of food, the Government has taken all out measures to provide essential items through a network of Sahulat/Saasta Baazars, hefty subsidies through chain of Utility Stores outlets under Ramadan Package and is taking strict administrative measures to keep prices of basic items in check.