ECC allows export of 200,000 tonnes of wheat


ISLAMABAD – The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, on Monday, allowed the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Corporation (PASSCO) to sell 200,000 tonnes of wheat for export, disallowed institutional investment in the national savings schemes and set up a committee to decide on a subsidy worth Rs 4.6 billion to farmers on 225,000 tonnes of imported urea.
The ECC meeting was held under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Monday. An official source said that the meeting was informed that, during January to March, the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) had imported 125,000 tonnes of urea at a cost of Rs 2,102 per tonne from Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), while 100,000 tonnes at Rs 1902 per tonne had been imported through open tender.
The subsidy for open tender urea was Rs 932 per bag, while it was Rs 1132 per bag for SABIC if local prices of Rs 970 per bag were to be maintained. The meeting was informed that urea import at Gwadar Port was Rs 100 per bag, expensive than Karachi or Bin Qasim Port.
The source said that the Ministry of Industries had sought to fix imported urea prices, comparable with market prices. A detailed discussion with the committee failed to resolve the issue and, finally, a committee was setup under the Planning Commission deputy chairman including secretaries of Finance, Commerce, Agriculture, Industries and TCP chairman, for further deliberations.
ECC, the source said was given a presentation on the implementation of previous decisions from the committee. Two federal ministers Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Hina Rabbani Khar expressed concerns over the slow pace of implementation due to the bureaucratic red tap. The Finance Minister also observed that implementation was slow and instructed the concerned secretaries to expedite it.
Ministers also expressed concern that some of the summaries, recommended for consideration of ECC, did not follow the specified criteria. No mandarin was able to tell the committee who controls or determines the sale price of urea. The Ministry of Industries and Agriculture authorities were completely unaware of the situation, he added.
The ECC accorded approval for the sale of wheat stocks, lying with PASSCO. In its summary, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture had proposed that PASSCO be allowed to sell 200,000 tonnes of wheat, lying in the warehouses. Selling of wheat was permitted, as PASSCO has to procure 1.3 million tonnes of wheat from farmers.
The meeting also approved summary of the Ministry of Finance – that proposed discontinuation of institutional investment in the National Savings Scheme (NSS) except individual funds like pension, gratuity, superannuation, contributory provident funds and trusts, invested in the scheme. Restriction on investment of surplus government institution funds in NSS will provide them greater reliance on regularly auctioned government bonds.