A key economic body of the federal government on Tuesday approved measures to import over 100,000 metric tons of wheat to stave off shortages in the country as it allowed the release of banned luxury goods imported into the country until June 30. It also approved a policy to import goods of Afghan origin against Pakistani rupees.
Approval was also given for creating a committee to oversee the auction of next-generation cellular spectrums in the country.
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet at the Finance Division. Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, Federal Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister of State for Petroleum Division Musadik Masood Malik, federal secretaries and senior officers attended the meeting.
Ministry of National Food Security and Research submitted a summary for the award of the second international wheat procurement tender 2022, which opened on July 1, for the import of 500,000 metric tons (MT) of wheat.
Noting the lower price of wheat in the international market, the ECC approved a bid-offer of M/s Cargill Int. PTE /Cargill Agro Foods Pakistan to import 110,000 MT of wheat at a rate of $439.40/MT. The move is expected to cost the country $48.34 million.
Moreover, the ECC also approved a summary to purchase and reserve 120,000 MT of wheat for Afghanistan because of the situation there and at the request of the World Food Program (WFP). The wheat will be supplied from the imported wheat stock of Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (PASSCO) at the latest import price. The amount of wheat along with cost and incidentals will be charged in US dollars, it was decided.
Furthermore, it was decided that the wheat will be grounded into flour and packed into bags at Pakistani mills and then supplied to Afghanistan. In this regard, the ban on the export of flour to Afghanistan will be relaxed to the 120,000 MT which will be acquired for Afghanistan in the fiscal year 2022-23.
Imports from Afghanistan for rupees
The ECC also approved another summary from the commerce ministry to amend paragraph 3(1) of the Import Policy Order 2022, to allow the import of goods of Afghan origin in rupee and without the requirement of EIF forms for one year.
However, all such imports will be subject to the condition that Afghan exporters provide a Certificate of Origin issued by the Afghan Customs.
Continuing subsidy on 5 essential commodities
The Ministry of Industries and Production submitted a summary regarding the continuation of the Prime Minister’s relief package 2020, the Sasta Atta initiative for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the expansion of the Utility Stores network across Pakistan.
The ECC decided to continue a subsidy on five essential commodities while it directed the ministry to work out a feasible proposal for the program given its financial implications.
Banned luxury goods
The federal government in May had banned a slew of luxury goods which were being imported into the country, including foodstuff and large automobiles.
However, the Ministry of Commerce sought permission from the government for a one-time exception to release consignments of items included in the May 19 ban in SRO 598(I)/2022 but which have reached Pakistan or are expected to reach their payments.
The ECC, however, only approved the “hardship cases”, and granted the one-time special permission for the release of all such consignments which are currently stuck at the ports. However, the permission only extends to consignments which landed at Pakistani ports or airports on or before June 30.
The ECC reviewed and approved a summary submitted by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication to constitute an Auction Advisory Committee.
This committee, which will be headed by the federal finance minister, will oversee the spectrum auction(s) for next-generation mobile services (NGMS) in Pakistan – 5G.
Lumpy skin emergency
The federal food ministry presented another summary before the forum to declare a national disease emergency over the lumpy skin disease (LSD) affecting cattle in Pakistan.
After a detailed discussion, the ECC directed the ministry to prepare a cost-sharing plan after consulting all relevant provincial secretaries and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Import of timber
The ECC also considered a summary by the commerce ministry requesting a relaxation in the ban on the import of timber and processed wood.
Timber exporters claimed that theirs was a hardship case given that consignments were imported against contracts months ago and these shipments have already arrived at the port.
At this, the ECC decided to grant relaxation to the sector and allow them to import timber and wood products until August 31, 2022 (for the bills of landing issued till August 31, 2022).
The relaxation has been granted for timber and wood products included in Customs HS Codes 4401 to 4409 (wood strips for flooring, sheets for veneering and lamination, longitudinal strips of wood, wood for railway or tramway cross-ties, wood flour, wood pickets, wood in rough, wood charcoal, and fuel wood).
The ECC also approved a supplementary grant of the Economic Affairs Division worth Rs193.006 billion for the repayment of foreign loans.