The government is firmly committed to building strategic reserves of essential commodities such as sugar, wheat, pulses, edible oil and ghee to ensure price stability and prevent undue profiteering and hoarding, said Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin.

Speaking at a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) on Monday, he said that strategic reserves would ensure timely availability of basic commodities to bridge the gap between supply and demand.

The finance minister directed Ministry of National Food Security and Research Secretary Jamshed Cheema to devise a plan and present it to the committee for discussion and approval.

He also called on the food ministry to take immediate steps for the import of two million tons of wheat to ensure adequate stocks of the staple commodity in the country. Speaking on the occasion, Cheema briefed the meeting about a slight uptick in the weekly Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), which inched up by 0.03%.

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He pointed out that prices of six items decreased while rates of 22 goods remained stable. The committee also reviewed the monthly inflation trend and noted that the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which stood at 8.4% in July 2021, declined by 1.3 percentage points compared to 9.7% in June 2021.

Cheema also updated the committee about the wheat procurement drive. “Order for purchase of 220,000 tons of wheat has already been placed,” he said. Similarly, the Ministry of Industries and Production secretary outlined the efforts being made to import 600,000 tons of sugar to maintain buffer stocks.

“Tendering process has been initiated and adequate stocks of sugar will be available in the country till the next sugar season,” he added.

The NPMC directed the Ministry of Industries and Production to expedite the tendering process and update the committee every week.

Finance Secretary Waqar Masood talked about the prices of petroleum products in neighbouring countries. The committee commended the fact that per unit cost of petrol and electricity was the cheapest in Pakistan as compared to the regional economies.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2021.

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