KARACHI: Pakistani traders have finalized 12 deals for the import 0.7 million metric tons of wheat to avoid the commodity shortage in the country.

Overall, so far, the private sector has booked some 12 ships for the import of wheat at $282 to $295 per metric ton and the imported wheat is likely to reach Pakistan by the end of this month.

“These ships have been booked by the different consortiums of 6 to 8 companies as wheat is expensive and a single company cannot afford the complete ship of wheat,” Muzzammil Chappal, Chairman of Cereal Association of Pakistan said.

He said although the imported wheat has not yet arrived in the country, positive results have started coming and the price of wheat and wheat flour has started to decrease in the domestic market. Since the private sector has made deals for the import of wheat, the price of wheat grains has decreased by Rs 5 in the local market, he added.

It is being estimated that with the arrival of imported wheat, the commodity price will come down by Rs 20 to Rs 25 per kilogram, which will benefit the common man. Import of wheat by the private sector will also benefit the government as the private sector is importing wheat without any subsidy, Chappal said.

He said that traders and commodity importers had a zoom meeting yesterday with the officials of the Ministry of Food Security, in which the Additional Secretary was also present. During the meeting, the government officials said that if the private sector can import wheat as per required quantity or according to the country’s needs, then they must inform the government so that the government makes its wheat import plan.

He said the government did not give any clear answer regarding the import of wheat by the state-run grain trader - Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), however as per market estimates, TCP will also import 0.5 to 0.7 million metric tons of wheat during this year.

Regarding the private sector, the government clarified that there is no restriction on import of wheat by the government and the private sector can import wheat until March 2024, he added.

According to statistics, there is currently a shortage of about 2.45 million metric tons of wheat, while according to the market, the country is facing a shortage of about 3.5 million metric tons of wheat this year, and it is necessary to import wheat to meet this shortage and keep prices low.

Chappal said considering the current shortage, it is necessary to allow the private sector to import about 40 to 50 ships of over 2.5 million metric tons. He urged the federal government to issue an official notification that allows the private sector to import wheat.

He said that so far, the deals of 12 ships of wheat grains have been finalized while more deals of the same quantity will be finalized soon. Wheat being imported by the private sector will be immediately available in the market as stocking wheat will increase its import cost.

He said that imported wheat will cost Rs 100 per kg and it is expected that after the arrival of imported wheat, the price of wheat at the local level will come down to Rs 105 per kg.

He said that the margins on imported wheat are also very low, so traders will not be in a position to stock the imported wheat. “If three or four ships come together, we do not have such a large storage capacity and the interest rate is also 25 percent, so no trader will stock wheat”, he added.

He said during the previous year, the private sector had successfully imported wheat for domestic needs without any subsidy.