The Senate National Food Security & Research Committee on Tuesday regretted the non-determination of the common minimum support price of wheat amongst all the four provinces and said that as to why the farmer should even grow wheat when the local farmer is not even being given the cost of the imported wheat at harbor. The committee remarked that this is the reason why we had to import 2.6ml tons of wheat costing millions of dollars. The committee was informed that the import land cost of the wheat at harbor is 3800/ 40kgs making it approximately 4000 after transportation. The committee expressed displeasure on the non-seriousness of the Federal Cabinet on the issue “two months have lapsed and the committee is informed that no steps have been taken in fact it continues to be pending before the Federal cabinet and no decision so far is taken.” remarked chairman committee and further said that it is a matter of grave importance since the harvesting season is fast approaching and the local farmer does not even know what minimum support price of wheat will he receive. The committee previously recommended to the ministry to consider taking the issue to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) which is a constitutional forum for resolving such matters but surprisingly that too has not been considered. The committee urged the ministry to take this issue on priority basis and take appropriate steps for its resolution as it is very adversely impacting the agriculture sector and economy as a whole. The Ministry briefed that the proposed MSP per 40 kgs by the provincial governments is 3000 however the Sindh Cabinet unilaterally announced the MSP at Rs/- 4000/kg, in compliance the Ministry of food security and research moved a summary to the ECC of the Cabinet with recommendation of MSP of wheat crop at 3,000/40 kg or 3,200/40 kg which decision by the federal Cabinet is still awaited.
The Committee also showed serious concern over the acute shortage of “atta” in all the four provinces, and inquired on the steps taken to meet the shortage and the reasons of the hike in prices to which the ministry informed that there is no short fall of public wheat stocks, as the stock is sufficient to cater for the national requirement till the end of April, 2023, with a total of 9,821,853 MT and 5,547,111 MT stock released and 4,274,742 MT Balance stock. However the ministry informed that the low public wheat releases by provinces despite sufficient public wheat stocks , slow lifting of wheat from PASSCO’s stock by provinces , Non uniform announcement of MSP by provinces, underutilization of grinding capacities of flour mills inconsistent policies smuggling and hoarding are reasons causing wheat crisis in the country. The committee observed that such crisis is an example of not being able to properly address the use of demand and supply. The committee recommended that the acute shortage of atta in all the four provinces be taken on emergency basis and intimate the secretary committee within 15 days.
On the matter of the progress in relation to recovery of cotton Cess from the Textile Industry which is the main source of cotton research the committee was informed that the employees of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), are receiving 70 pc less payer pension because of no funds available and this is the position since 2016, the committee was informed that 78 writ petitions are pending in the Lahore high court but there is no stay order and yet the deputy commissioner is not taking action under the land revenue act for recovery if arrears of land revenue, when asked by the committee whether the provincial government of Punjab has approached for seeking assistance in recovery. It was informed that the Chief Secretary has not been approached. The committee therefore requested the ministry to immediately take up the issue with the chief secretary Punjab and request him to address this issue on an urgent basis pertaining to the recovery of cotton cess as arrears of land revenue, in accordance with law. The Ministry also informed that a proposal to collect the cess through the Federal Board of Revenue is also under process, as the FBR is already collecting cess while exported from the provinces of Pakistan to any place outside Pakistan and remitted to PCCC.
On the progress report, in relation to non- payment of salaries for a number of months to the employees of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), the committee was informed that a total Rs. 82,24,69,688 Rs/- liabilities of PCCC on account of pay and pension are pending.
"The Prevention of cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, 2022" introduced by Senator Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan, was also taken up and discussed at length over the issues of road side bird selling and pain inflicted upon them during the process of capturing and selling. The committee also discussed in detail the wild and domestic animal definition. Dr. M Akram, Animal Husbandry Commissioner informed the committee that the animal act deals with the welfare of domestic animals however bird hunting and road selling comes under the purview of the wild life act. The committee after vetting upon the matter was informed by the ministry that a similar bill is pending with the Senate standing committee on interior and said that before a decision is taken it has to be determined whether it should be considered by the committee or reference be made to the standing committee on interior on the same. The matter was deferred
"The Pakistan Animal Science Council Bill, 2022" introduced by Senator Rana Mahmood ul Hassan was also discussed in the meeting. On the proposal for setting up the Pakistan Animal Science Council the ministry informed that there is already a regulatory body , monitoring veterinary education through the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC) and therefore before a final decision is taken it may be confirmed that there would be not 2 bodies regulating the same mandate. The committee sought report from the Inter Provincial and Coordination Ministry in the next 3 days to facilitate the committee to take the final decision on the matter.
On the matter of Report to be submitted by the Secretary of the Ministry as per his undertaking given in the meeting of the Standing Committee held on 30.12.2021 on Tender Notice No.2-11(1)/2021-22/FPMU, dated 04- 10-2021 for the supply of 840,000/ Exotic Olive Plants, the ministry informed the committee that the party in question is not technically qualified and was therefore not considered in this regard. The matter was disposed of.
On the briefing of the Committee on the letter of Chairman Sectoral Council for Meat and Dairy titled "Food Insecurity Lurking Large", the ministry informed that the issue is primarily pertaining to the ministry of Climate Change; therefore it would be appropriate that the matter may be referred to the Senate standing Committee on Climate Change.
The matter of hike in prices of urea fertilizers which adversely affecting the agricultural output and steps taking to contain prices of Urea so that it can be available at the price which is affordable to the farming community was also discussed. The chairman committee recommended that the urea must also be subsidized.
The meeting was attended by Senator Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar, Kamran Murtaza, Rana Mahmood ul Hassan and Senator Palwasha Mohammad Zai Khan. Senior officials from the ministry and other attached departments were also in attendance.