Wheat quota cuts proposed for AJK, NAs
By Javed Mahmood
SLAMABAD: The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is considering a cut in wheat quotas for Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK), Northern Areas (NAs) and the Ministry of Defence, a senior ministry official said on Friday.
“The decision to reallocate the wheat quotas to AJK, NAs and the Defence Ministry is expected to be taken in a meeting in Islamabad within a few weeks,” the official said.
“The AJK, NAs and the Defence Ministry have been asked to submit revised estimates of wheat requirements in the forthcoming meeting so that a realistic wheat quota can be allocated this year,” the official added.
He said the strategy was aimed at preserving wheat to pre-empt any possible shortage and ensure the commodity’s smooth supply to the three entities this year. The official said the decision to revise the quota was taken at a recent inter-provincial meeting of the Wheat Dispocal Committee, headed by Federal Food Minister Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind. The comittee consists of senior officials of the four provincial food departments.
The official said more than 0.55 million tonnes of wheat was being allocated to AJK, NAs and the Defence ministry every year. “This year the three entities did not exhaust their wheat quota which indicates that the allocation is more than their needs,” the official said.
Consequently, the Wheat Disposal Committee has asked the concerned officials of the three entities to submit latest estimates of wheat consumption before reallocating quotas.
The official said the committee was trying to meet domestic consumption with wheat stocks available with the provinces and the federal government.
In November, about 3.8 million tonnes of wheat was available with the Punjab Food Department, Pakistan Agricultural Supplies and Storages Corporation (PASSCO), Sindh and the NWFP, the official said. He added that these stocks were adequate to meet domestic needs till wheat from Sindh becomes availabale in March.
The Food Ministry official also said wheat hoarders had started offloading their stocks onto the open market after the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet allowed the private sector to import the commodity at zero duty.
He said prior to that decision, the private sector was hanging on to its stocks to create an artifical price hike in the market.
“After the ECC decision, the open market wheat prices fell between Rs 380 and 390 per 40 kg instead of Rs 400 to 410 per 40 kg earlier ,” he said.
The official said the ECC had deferred the import of wheat and asked the Food Minisitry to submit the exact stocks of the commodity availabale with the government and the private sector.
The official said the ministry would submit the latest position of wheat stocks to the ECC next week, enabling it to decide whther the government needed to import the commodity or not.