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ECC decision

Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet took relief oriented decisions on Thursday, which included the release of 650000 tones of wheat on urgent basis from Pakistan Agriculture Storage Services Corporation (PASSCO) to this commodity defiant provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Sindh and Baluchistan and flat electricity tariff at Rs.11.97 for four months to lessen the financial burden on power consumers which is made on account of idle capacity payments to IPPs. The idle capacity trap becomes more strangulating when electricity demand falls during winter.
The cabinet expressed deep concern over the sharp rise in the price of wheat and wheat flour in the recent months and looming shortage of the commodity. Some ECC members set off alarm bells in the meeting and floated the suggestion of importing wheat as necessary supply augmenting measure to overcome the likely depletion of its available stock.
It is a matter of great worry that Pakistan had been exporting wheat for the past 18 years for which subsidy was being given to exporters but now it is confronted with its shortage. Because of this scenario few ECC members have to float the proposal of wheat import. Does this indicate a likely shortfall in its production due to weather condition and shrinking of areas for growing this cereal during the current sowing season? Because of climate change impact, pattern of rain fall has changed and wheat crop could not be sown in the rain-fed areas of the country whereas 15 days of sowing period remain. The sowing of wheat after November15 impacts its yield. Moreover, the rainfall in mid-season causes a considerable damage to the standing crop. There is dire need of evolving such varieties of wheat crop that suit the changed weather pattern. But unfortunately, the agriculture research centers have been made dysfunctional by the provincial governments either by not giving priority to agriculture sector or financial stringency. Productivity fall is not confined to the wheat crop alone. The heat wave has affected cotton crop, depressing its production by 5 million bales and rice production has declined due water shortages.
The introduction of flat electricity tariff for the four months in winter is an adhoc measure whereas permanent solution is required to bring down its price to the affordable limit if revival and turnaround of the economy is to be achieved. Although the share of hydel power in the overall energy mix has gone up from 30 to 38 percent and that of thermal power has decreased from 70 percent to 46 percent but electricity tariff is being frequently jacked up. To enforce yet another increase of Rs.2.97 in its tariff Central Power Purchasing Agency submitted a petition to National Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) on Wednesday which was not entertained.

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