The government on Monday decided to import four million metric tons of wheat this year to meet the domestic consumption requirements and again “hard-pressed” the national data collecting agency to reconsider its inflation calculation methodology. Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin again asked the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to change its price methodology as he believed that the prices of essential commodities were over-reported, officials of the Ministry of Finance and PBS told The Express Tribune.
The PBS is under pressure as the government had not been able to control wheat, wheat flour and sugar prices that doubled in less than three years. Headed by Tarin, the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) took the decision to import four million metric tons of wheat. A summary will now be presented before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet for formal approval. The NPMC met two days after the PBS reported that inflation skyrocketed to 11.1% in April on the back of higher food prices. This happened despite the fact that Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to personally monitor the prices.
Ministry of National Food Security secretary briefed the committee about the arrangements under way to import wheat for building strategic reserves and to ensure steady supply during the current year, according to a statement of the finance ministry. A summary will be presented before the ECC for the requisite approval in this regard, it added. At the current price of $301 per metric ton, it will require a whopping $1.2 billion to import four million metric tons of wheat. The cabinet has already allowed import of three million metric tons of wheat for 2021- 22 but Tarin decided to increase the quantity by another one million tons, an official of the finance ministry said.
It was decided that the government would import two million metric tons of wheat through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan and one million metric ton under the government-togovernment deal. The private sector will be allowed to import the remaining one million ton by waiving off duties to bring down import prices, it was decided. At $301 per metric ton price, the landed cost of wheat will be Rs2,100 per 40kg while after including the transportation and handling charges, it will cost Rs2,400 at the current market prices, according to an official of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.
During the first nine months of this fiscal year, Pakistan imported 3.6 million metric tons of wheat costing $983.3 million, according to the PBS. The total leftover wheat stocks across the country were less than 400,000 metric tons. The meeting was informed that for the year 2021-22, the wheat consumption was estimated at 29.3 million metric tons.