Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has been directed to import wheat to meet the looming nationwide shortfall of the commodity, a move that will push prices down at a time when farmers are preparing to harvest the crop.

TCP opened bids on March 16 for wheat import in five shipments between April and August 2021. It received a bid of $323.9 per ton for shipment of 110,000 tons of wheat in April 2021.

Similarly, it received a bid of $321 per ton for the same quantity for shipment in May, $336.38 per ton for June shipment, $298.75 per ton for July and $285.98 per ton for August.

During a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, Committee Chairman Syed Naveed Qamar was told that there were fears of a nationwide shortage of wheat. Therefore, TCP floated a tender for import.

The Ministry of Commerce told the committee that TCP, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Commerce, had imported 100,000 tons of wheat while Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) imported 460,000 tons. During the meeting, it was highlighted that the average price of imported wheat stood at Rs45.6 per kg.

Qamar asked whether Pakistan would depend on imports now. He was of the view that wheat scarcity was being witnessed due to policies of the federal government and not because of farmers.

In this regard, he urged the government to incentivise wheat farmers like it did in the case of cotton farmers.

Qamar expressed concern that imported wheat was more expensive than the locally produced commodity and also inquired about the high wheat prices in Punjab.

Responding to his queries, TCP officials highlighted that according to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, there would be shortage of wheat in Pakistan.

They added that a tender for 300,000 tons of wheat import had been issued for August 2021.

TCP officials said that all wheat shipments had arrived on time and the federal government did not pay any demurrage to companies.

They said that the cost of imported wheat stood at Rs1,800 per 40 kg and the transportation cost came in at Rs7 per kg.

Regarding the formulation of policies, TCP officials told the meeting that it was the job of the federal government to draft laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2021.

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