Govt to set up a food security management body

The federal government on Thursday decided to set up a National Food Security Management Committee headed by the prime minister to obtain fastest data. This would be helpful in solving food security issues.

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It has issued the Pakistan Food Security Flow and Information Ordinance, 2021 under which an officer who failed to provide data would face up to six months in prison or a fine.

The food security management committee, chaired by the premier, will be set up under the ordinance.

Other members of the committee will include the chief ministers and chief secretaries of the provinces.

The body will meet at least twice a year and formulate as well as ensure the implementation of the national food security policy.

The committee will exchange information related to essential items and food security at the federal and provincial levels in a timely and expeditious manner.

A dashboard will be set up at the central and provincial levels for information exchange.

According to sources, the ordinance had to be issued because the provinces were not providing timely crop production data.

Receiving crop data in time will help in overcoming the crisis situation.

Punishments have also been proposed for the officers concerned for not providing timely crop data.

It takes several days to acquire crop data from traditional correspondence.

Statistics will be updated weekly on the dashboard created under the ordinance.

The ordinance also empowers the federal government to determine the prices of essential items, including wheat and sugar.

There will be an executive committee, to be presided over by the federal national food security and research secretary.

The executive committee will meet once in a month to ensure implementation of the decisions made by the management committee, the sources added.

“The idea was that there should be an institutional mechanism that would monitor prices as well as to ensure centralised database of the essential commodities,” according to an official of the national food security and research ministry.

The sources said that the law ministry had initially opposed the idea due to constitutional limits, as the subjects of agriculture and price control fell in the provincial domain. They said the law ministry only agreed to the proposal after it was pushed hard by the PM’s Office.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had recently allowed the withdrawal of the subsidy on wheat flour for urban consumers and agreed to increase the release price of the commodity to mills by over 32% to Rs1,950 per 40kg due to limited fiscal space.

“The wheat release price has been fixed at Rs1,950 per 40kg,” Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin earlier this week while addressing a news conference that was held to explain the reasons behind the soaring inflation and public debt.

The wheat release price in the last season was Rs1,475 per 40kg. The provincial governments issue wheat to the flour mills from its stocks at the release price.

The provincial governments supply wheat to the mills at controlled prices to ensure availability of the flour at relatively reasonable rates.

Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, special assistant to the PM on food security, said the decision to fix wheat release price at Rs1,950 per 40kg had been made in a meeting chaired by the prime minister. It was also attended by the representatives of provincial governments.

Originally published at The express tribune