ISLAMABAD-Expressing serious apprehension over wheat shortage, the Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security & Research Wednesday noted that wheat smuggling, especially to Afghanistan, is one of the major reasons behind it.

The committee meeting, chaired by Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah, discussed the overall crops situation after the devastation of floods. About rising prices of wheat flour, the members urged the Ministry to take appropriate measures to check rising inflation that has hit the common man. The Committee also showed concern regarding determining uniform minimum prices for wheat and called upon the Ministry to take appropriate steps for legislation so as to facilitate the decision for a uniform minimum support price for wheat. 

It was asserted that the sowing season for wheat begins from 10 October, 2022 and hence determination of uniform minimum support price must be ensured before that date. The need to take appropriate steps in this regard was stressed.

In the eventuality of difference of opinion related to determining minimum support price, the Committee recommended that a forum to discuss the matter and enter an amicable resolution of all disputes is created. While discussing cotton cess fee, the Committee was of the view that this has been the main reason for losses and that research in the field is wanting. This, it said, was an important issue and all out efforts must be made to determine the cess fee.  Regarding loans to facilitate farmers, the Committee recommended that all interest on loans given by ZTBL may be waived. Increase in loan facility was recommended for private commercial banks. The Committee stressed the need to follow up the matter with SBP.

Matters taken up included the Pakistan Tobacco Board (Amendment) Bill, 2022, that was passed with a majority decision by the Committee. Senator Sania Nishtar opposed the amendment and contended that the powers to constitute the Board and routine matters must be vested in the federal government. This amendment, she added, waters down the federal government’s authority. In addition the issue of cotton crop damage with regards to the flood situation; measures taken by the government to determine the minimum support price for wheat and steps taken by the government to constitute the Wheat Board were also taken up by the Committee. The meeting was attended by Senator Seemi Ezdi, Senator Sania Nishtar, Senator Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar, Senator Dr. Asif Kirmani and senior officers from the Ministry of National Food Security & Research along with all concerned.