Rising food prices

The government has increased the price of petrol by Rs5.40 per litre, reaching the highest level in the history of the country. The claims of providing relief to the masses will be pushed aside as the prices of essential commodities are set to rise significantly.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry says the government has no choice but to increase petrol prices due to increasing rates in the international market. The finance ministry has also claimed that they have been providing maximum relief to consumers by adjusting petrol prices. However, the reality on the ground proves otherwise as prices have been rising unabated.

The ECC of the federal cabinet has approved a significant increase in the prices of essential commodities including flour, ghee and sugar. It has also sought to end the subsidies which were being provided under the prime minister’s relief package. The price of three essential commodities have been hiked including flour to Rs950 for 20g bag, ghee to Rs260 per kg, and sugar to Rs85 per kg. Such exorbitant increases will have a huge burden on the ordinary citizens struggling for basic meals.

The finance minister has said Pakistan has become a ‘net food importer’. The agricultural country which was the breadbasket now has to import food due to its nascent policies. There is 11 percent price hike and a 13 percent food inflation in the country. We are also importing basic stapes such as wheat, sugar and pulses while food prices presently are at the highest level in ten years.

Although the government has blamed past regimes for not prioritizing agriculture, it is necessary to introduce agriculture policies to control inflation and manage the reserves of essential commodities. The weak supply chain infrastructure, changing demographics, currency devaluation, and the transition towards a market economy are some of the factors contributing to food inflation.

We need better planning and forecasting to determine our needs and supply so that we can overcome the food security challenge and manage food inflation. We also need to counter any price manipulation in the market and should focus on the agriculture sector. This remains the biggest obstacle for the government and failure to do so will end all claims of providing relief to the masses.