Pakistan moves to curb hoarding, smuggling of food items

April 25th, 2008 - 1:30 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, April 25 (IANS) The Pakistani government has set up a national task force to curb hoarding of food items, particularly wheat, and prevent their smuggling to neighbouring countries. Addressing a press conference here Thursday after a meeting of the Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA), Minister for Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Nisar Ali Khan said the task force, to be headed by the food and agriculture secretary, would monitor day-to-day procurement and availability of wheat in the country.

The FCA would, after two weeks, brief the top leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on the food situation in the country, he added.

The task force comprises chief secretaries of all the provinces, additional secretary interior and an official of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ secretariat.

According to Khan, food prices were going up globally, but the situation in Pakistan had deteriorated owing to failure of the previous government to announce the wheat support price on time and bring down rising prices of various inputs, including fertilisers.

He admitted that at 21.8 million tonnes, this year’s estimated wheat production would fall short of the country’s requirement by one million tonnes and said the government had decided to import 1.5 million tonnes wheat to meet the shortfall.

“The FCA also backed the Punjab government’s demand to maintain a ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat till the government achieves its wheat procurement target of five million tonnes,” Dawn reported Friday.

Khan also ruled out any further increase in the wheat procurement price that has already been raised to Rs.625 per 40 kg from Rs.510.

The minister said the government did not intend to ban the export of rice since it was a major foreign exchange earner, besides which the country had a surplus of 2.3 million tonnes.

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