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Sugar crisis looms as ECC defers import of raw sugar

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday deferred the proposal to allow duty free import of 0.4 million tonnes raw sugar, official sources told Daily Times on Tuesday.

ECC, which met under the chairmanship of Adviser to PM on Finance and Economic Affairs, Shaukat Tarin here at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat reviewed Key Economic Indicators and overall pricing situation in the country.

ECC was informed that the sugar cane production in the country is expected to fell short by 6 million tonnes resulting in 0.7 to 0.8 million tonnes lesser sugar production than required. Keeping in view these figures, a proposal was considered in the ECC meeting to allow duty free import of 0.7 million tonnes and 0.4 million tonnes be imported in first phase so that sugar mills are able to produce required quantity within the country. However, due to the strong opposition by some federal ministers, especially from the sugar cane growing areas. The ministers argued if sugar is imported than it would have negative effects on the demand of sugar cane. The ECC had to defer the proposal till the estimation of sugar production from locally produced sugar cane is finalised, the official sources informed.

“Time is running out and if the ECC fails to react quickly, it can result in shortage of sugar and a possibility of sugar crisis from March onwards,” said the sources.

ECC directed Ministry of Industries and Production to review sugar’s national and international harvest and recommend an action plan regarding import of raw/refined sugar taking into consideration domestic farmers’ interests.

ECC reviewed TCP’s rice procurement and capacity besides considering export policy in view of bumper rice crop.

While considering Ministry of Petroleum’s recommendations for seeking ECC approval of the guidelines to monitor furnace oil pricing by OGRA, it directed Ministry of Petroleum and OGRA to jointly deliberate on the subject and resubmit fresh recommendations whether furnace oil should be regulated by OGRA. The proposal considered in the meeting also sought to shift the burden of inland freight margin of furnace oil directly to its consumers. It also seeks to increase petroleum dealers margin to some extent to encourage them to sell petrol to the consumers.

The ECC noted that inflationary pressures were registering gradual deceleration owing to sharp decline in commodity pricing in international market particularly POL and Palm Oil. ECC observed that the benefit of decrease in price of petroleum products was not evident in the commensurate decrease of local commodity pricing, and directed that steps be taken to provide relief to the common man.

ECC, however, expressed satisfaction that key prices of essential commodities were registering a decline. ECC deferred Ministry of Industries and Production’s proposal for issuing Revised Letter of Intent (LOI) to M/s Trans Polymer Limited for setting up Polyethylene Plant in Karachi till next meeting. It, however, directed Ministry of Industries and Production to complete its technical homework.

ECC directed MINFAL to use Gwadar port for enhanced transportation of wheat from ports to upcountry. ECC further directed MINFAL to ensure adequate wheat supply to deficit provinces and also keep a watch on stabilising nationwide wheat prices for the benefit of common man.

ECC decided to disband an earlier specially constituted committee under the chair of Finance Minister, represented by four Provincial Chief Ministers in consideration of its decision making mandate having been transferred to Daily Economic Monitoring Committee (DEMC). It was decided that in future DEMC should act as an extension of ECC.

Source: Daily Times

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