The federal government has exempted the import of three million metric tons (MMT) of wheat from duties, taxes, and Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules.
Sources said that the federal Cabinet accorded the exemption in its meeting on Tuesday, and it was decided that the government will import two MMT of wheat on a government-to-government (G2G) basis, while the import of one MMT will be done through an international tendering process.
In the case of sanctions on Russia, the Trading Corporation of Pakistan will be allowed to import the entire quantity of three MMT of wheat through international tendering.
The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) informed the Cabinet that the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) had directed it (the ministry) in its meeting on 26 January to consult the Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (PASSCO) to devise a plan for the import of 0.50 MMT of wheat to build strategic reserves and avoid untoward situations before the arrival of fresh produce.
The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) had fixed the wheat production target of 28.89 MMT from an area of 22.758 million acres in its meeting on 7 October 2021. Due to the diminished sowing area, drought conditions, 28 percent water shortage, low fertilizer offtake, and higher cost of production, the provinces could only produce 26.173 MMT, which showed a shortfall of nine percent against the assigned target of 28.89 MMT.
The public sector, including the PASSCO and the Provincial Food Departments, had reported their carry-forward stocks at the level of 1.85 MMT at the start of the new Food Year on 1 May 2022. The national wheat requirement for the Food Year 2022-23 is estimated at 30.79 MMT, including a quantity of two MMT of strategic reserves.
The situation regarding the over nine percent production shortfall; the Ukraine-Russia war; severe drought conditions in China, India, Afghanistan, and the Russian states; higher wheat pricing trends; higher oil and freight charges; high inflation at the national level; the volatility of the Pakistani currency; hoarding and smuggling issues; and sanctions on Russia; needs immediate actions.
The situation is worsening in the wake of the re-emergence of COVID-19 in China and European countries and its effects on the world economy and has increased the public wheat procurement targets of the PASSCO and Punjab as per a direction from the Prime Minister’s Office. However, an immediate remedy to this is to import the requisite quantity of wheat into the country to build up strategic reserves and stabilize the wheat and wheat flour prices.
A summary was forwarded to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the PPRA Board to obtain their views and comments as directed by the Cabinet Division.
The FBR stated that wheat is already under a concessionary regime and approved the exemption of sales tax. The PPRA Board also exempted the import of wheat from the PPRA rules in a meeting on 30 April.
In light of this situation, the MNFS&R has recommended the blanket approval of three MMT of wheat on a need basis depending on the demands of the PASSCO and the provincial governments.