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Shehbaz for an end to wheat smuggling, theft

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday directed the authorities concerned to formulate an urgent strategy against the corruption and theft of wheat and for the construction of silos for storage.

The prime minister, chairing a high-level meeting to examine the wheat production, available stock and expected consumption, said the construction of silos would help curb theft and corruption.

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He told the meeting that despite being an agricultural country, Pakistan had been compelled to import wheat instead of meeting its own needs, just due to the wrong decisions and delayed strategies.

The meeting was told that wheat production of 26.173 million metric tons was expected this year against the target of 28.89 million metric tons, while the estimated consumption would be around 30.79 million metric tons.

It was told that reduced wheat cultivation, water shortage, fertilizer crisis due to the mismanagement by the previous government, and delayed announcement of wheat support price led to the reduced production of wheat by two per cent.

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The oil price hike and early rise in temperature due to climate change were also among the factors impeding the achievement of the wheat production target, the meeting observed.

The prime minister was also apprised of relief measures taken by the incumbent government, including subsidy on wheat supply to flour mills, availability of 10kg flour bags at Rs400 and provision of 200,000 metric tons of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to assess the wheat consumption of KP and ensure the provision of the required supply of the commodity in coordination with the provincial government.

The meeting was told that Punjab had achieved 91.66 per cent of the wheat procurement target, Sindh 49.68 per cent and Balochistan 15.29 per cent, while PASSCO had achieved 100 per cent of the target.

The prime minister said that the delayed announcement of wheat support price had not only led to reduced wheat production but it was also an attempt to directly oblige the hoarders.

He also asked Punjab to enhance its procurement target and directed the Food Security Division to import wheat in order to bridge the shortfall.

The prime minister also expressed his resolve to make Pakistan a wheat self-sufficient country through effective strategy.

Minister for Food Security Tariq Bashir Cheema, senior officers of PASSCO and Punjab chief secretary also attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Shehbaz Sharif said that as Pakistan offered huge opportunities for investment in the technology sector, foreign tech companies would be facilitated in all respects with regards to investment and expansion.

The current government intends to increase IT exports to Pakistan from $ 1.5 billion to USD 15 billion in the coming year and for that close collaboration with Huawei will result in the provision of training to the youth of Pakistan through various means, including setting up a university, he added.

The prime minister said this in a meeting with Yi Xiang, senior vice president of the Middle East and Africa Region of Huawei.

He emphasised that investments in the tech sector would increase employment and skills enhancement of Pakistani youth, especially women, as the government was focused on increasing the number of women in the e-commerce sector by providing them a suitable environment to get themselves trained and raise capital, read a statement.

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