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State will swing into action to bring down food prices: PM

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that his government will use all the resources at the disposal of the state to bring down food prices from next week.

“Starting Monday, in the coming week, our government will use all resources at the disposal of the state to bring food prices down,” Prime Minister tweeted. He said government is already examining causes of the price hikes as to whether there is a genuine supply shortage or simply hoarding by mafias; smuggling, or a price rise due to international prices such as for palm oil, lentils and others.

Shortly afterwards, Minister of State for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar tweeted a graph to make the point that food inflation was witnessing a temporary spike in South Asia. “South Asia has witnessed a temporary food inflation spike. Govt will take all measures needed to reduce prices of essential commodities. Imported wheat and sugar will be released at control rates by provinces. All options are being examined for other commodities,” he tweeted. Hammad Azhar said imported wheat and sugar will be released at control rates by provinces to alleviate the inflationary pressure on the masses. 

The federal government earlier constituted a National Price Monitoring Committee led by the finance ministry. The last meeting held on the directions of the PM’s office discussed “the abnormal variation in the prices of perishable items such as tomatoes, potatoes, onions as well as other essential items like wheat, sugar and chicken.”

Both the main opposition parties, the PPP and the PML-N, have also criticised the government for the price hike. Latest Sensitive Price Index (SPI) released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) shows that weekly inflation for the combined group in the period ending on Oct 8 increased by 1.24pc on the back of an uptick in prices of essential food items. 

The PBS calculates the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) based on the prices of 51 essential items from 50 markets across 17 cities of the country. For the lowest income group earning below Rs 17,732 per month, the SPI increased by 1.56pc, while the SPI for the highest-earning group i.e. those earning above Rs 44,175, recorded an increase of 1.08pc.

Items that witnessed a price increase during the week included: tomatoes, up 16.39pc; onions, up 12.78pc; eggs 10.78pc; chicken 5.34pc; wheat flour bag 2.78pc; potatoes 2.64pc; moong pulse 1.21pc; and sugar 1.03pc. A look at PBS data shows that prices have been rising in the country for over a year largely because of disruptions in food supply chains and periodic hikes in the administered prices of electricity and gas rather than a surge in demand for goods and services. 

In September, wheat price surged by 5pc and wheat flour price by 3.14pc from the previous month. Similarly, prices of almost all pulses and vegetables also increased. Food inflation is still in the double-digits, posting a rise in the outgoing month. In urban areas, it jumped by 12.4pc in September on a yearly basis and an increase of 3pc on a monthly basis, whereas the respective price level growth in rural areas stood at 15.8pc on a yearly basis and an increase of 3.8pc on a monthly basis.

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