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ECC approves duty-free import of wheat

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet on Monday approved a proposal recommending the import of wheat without regulatory duty on an emergency basis, reported News.

The decision was made at a meeting of the ECC held in Islamabad under the chair of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. The ECC approved the import of 0.3 million metric tons of wheat.

The government decided to approve the proposal for import to save consumers from soaring wheat prices, even though sufficient stocks of the commodity are available.

The move will maintain minimum stocks of wheat at 0.2 million tons, as fears of a looming wheat shortage and hoarding have hiked the prices across the country.

Central Asian republics, Australia or other countries with surplus wheat production might be approached for the import. Prices of wheat have soared in Pakistan the past week.

Two official sources had said last week that several high-ranking officials had warned the government of the possibility of a wheat crisis as early as September last year. However, the government failed to take appropriate measures to avert the crisis.

Initially, the crisis appeared when the Sindh province decided not to procure wheat because different officials were facing corruption probes on account of procurement of wheat.

Meanwhile, Punjab had imposed a ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat. Keeping in view this whole situation, profiteers and hoarders started exploiting the situation and stock piling wheat.

When contacted, a top official of the government said the federal government could not be held responsible for the crisis because it was the domain of the provinces to procure wheat.

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