Provinces to maintain wheat price at Rs1,200 this year

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security on Wednesday witnessed disagreement among provinces over the issue of fixing wheat support price for 2014, with Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan agreeing to maintain last year’s price while Sindh proposing an increase in the price. However, after a debate on the single-item agenda — support price for wheat — the committee built the consensus that the government should maintain last year’s price of Rs1200 per 40kg.

Pir Shafqat Hussain Jilani, a PPPP MNA from Sindh told ‘Dawn’ that Sindh had wanted to raise the wheat support price to Rs1350 per 40kg instead of Rs1200 per 40kg in view of rising cost of inputs but had to join ranks of other provinces to keep last year’s support price.

The committee members had asked the Ministry of National Food Security to announce the wheat support price for 2014 sowing season. During the meeting, the members agreed with Minister for National Food Security Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan that announcement of price at this stage, when sowing of wheat has already been completed, will benefit the middlemen and not the farmers.

Mr Bosan informed the committee that sufficient stock of wheat is available with the government to meet the requirement till the arrival of the new crop in the market.

The committee which met under the chairmanship of Malik Shakir Awan, recommended to the government to save growers from losses due to high rates of fertilisers, electricity and diesel, and to give subsidy to them as being given in neighbouring countries.

On the issue of strengthening the Ministry of National Food Security, the committee members unanimously expressed deep concern over the reduction in PSDP of the ministry from Rs24 billion to Rs750 million after the devolution.

The committee recommended that the departments of federal government like Sugar Board and Cotton Commissionerate which were previously part of the ministry should be merged with the ministry in order to streamline the working and performance of the ministry.

The committee was pleased over the award of GSP Plus status to Pakistan, and in this regard noted that the rates of cotton in the country are comparatively less than other countries. The anti-dumping duty and other taxes should be reduced to achieve the maximum benefit from GSP, it said.

The committee was of the opinion that cotton support price cannot be announced but calculated every year. Cotton cultivation area is insufficient, and the government should take measures to enhance the area under cotton cultivation in order to increase cotton production to meet the local and international requirements, the committee recommended.

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