• Allows import of 300,000 tonnes of urea for Rabi crops
• Disbursement of Rs3bn for emergency relief operations

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Thursday ordered the import of 300,000 tonnes of urea and decided to provide the federal government’s wheat stocks to the provinces with a 50:50 mix of local and imported quantities.

The meeting of the ECC presided over by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail also approved immediate disbursement of Rs3 billion for emergency relief measures and compensation to people affected by floods.

The meeting was informed that Fertiliser Review Committee early this week concluded that the government should arrange the import of 300,000 tonnes of urea for the upcoming Rabi season on a government-to-government basis after a review of the demand and supply position by all the stakeholders including federal ministries and agencies concerned, provincial agricultural departments and fertiliser manufacturers.

Based on the demand and supply situation, the ECC allowed the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to initiate the process for import of 300,000 tonnes of urea on a G2G basis by invoking exemption from procurement rules as permissible under rule 5 of Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) through cabinet approval.

The Ministry of Industries and Production had sought to share subsidies among the federal and provincial governments on a 50:50 basis. The ECC, however, decided that the provinces bear their subsidy share.

Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFSR) in a summary had sought allocation of local and imported wheat stocks lying with Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (Passco) among the relevant recipient agencies – Pakistan Army, Airforce, USC, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and provincial food departments.

Passco serves as a strategic organisation to procure wheat from Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan to build strategic reserves and to supply wheat to recipient agencies in case of emergency. Every year, at the request of recipient agencies, Passco makes allocation of wheat from its stocks.

The meeting was told that Passco was currently holding wheat stock of 2.499 million tonnes including 1.232 million tonnes of carryforward stocks. Last week, the finance minister decided that Passco should provide wheat to Utility Stores Corporation (USC) at the rate of 75pc of local and 25pc imported wheat while all other agencies are to be provided imported and local wheat on a 50:50 basis.

This decision was formally endorsed by the ECC with the directive that all agencies getting wheat including USC would pay the full cost of wheat (local and imported) along with incidental charges to Passco. Almost all the recipient agencies were, otherwise, demanding maximum wheat from local stocks, rather than imported wheat.

Emergency food disbursement

Separately, the ECC also approved immediate disbursement of Rs540 million to USC to meet emergency food requirements of people affected by floods through a supplementary grant. The Ministry of Industries and Production had sought emergency funds for USC for the provision of essential commodities in flood-affected areas.

The meeting was told that USC, in collaboration with provincial governments, was involved in the operation for the supply of essential food items in flood-affected areas across Pakistan. Due to the emergency situation and based on the preliminary need assessment, 113,700 ration bags amounting to Rs540m were required for emergency disbursement.

Compensations

The meeting also approved Rs3bn funds to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to meet its growing expenditure on account of procurement of rescue, relief, and rehabilitation of the calamity-stricken population across Pakistan. NDMA briefed the meeting about its activities and requirements of funds in the aftermath of the devastation caused by floods across the country, causing suffering to millions of people in terms of loss of life, property, livestock and standing crops.

It reported that “with the death toll rising with every passing day, ex-gratia compensation liability of NDMA had increased proportionately” although the government had earlier provided Rs5bn because of the massive scale of the disaster, there were additional needs for procurement of 200,000 tents for shelter less population and procurement of 100,000 dry ration bags and two million mosquito nets.

The ECC also approved more than Rs1.01bn technical supplementary grant to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation & Coordination for onward transfer to the Government of Afghanistan through an approved mechanism for running costs including the salary of the staff of three Pakistani hospitals in Afghanistan.

This included about Rs198m on account of pending salaries for seven months (October 2021 to April 2022) and Rs812m on account of running cost including salaries for another year (May 2022 to April 2023).

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2022

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