Underscoring the importance of maintaining strategic reserves of essential commodities, Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin has asked the provincial governments and departments concerned to work out estimates and procure wheat and sugar in a smooth and timely manner. The federal minister for finance and revenue said this while chairing a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) on Monday. Tarin also directed to review the entire supply chain from farmer to end-consumer for minimising difference between wholesale and retail prices for basic commodities with a view to ensure that farmer is paid well and consumer gets the maximum relief. The NPMC meeting reviewed the price trends of essential commodities especially wheat flour, sugar, edible ghee, chicken, eggs and vegetables during the last week. The secretary finance briefed the committee about the decline in weekly sensitive price indicator (SPI) by 0.40 percent whereas prices of 13 items recorded a decline and 26 items remained stable. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) briefed the finance minister about data collection methodology and updated on the recent changes incorporated to reflect price variation between wholesale and retail levels across different cities. The finance minister emphasised to extend the market coverage by including more cities and local areas including Ramazan Saasta/ Sahulat Bazaars. The data must represent and reflect prevailing price trends accurately, he stressed. During the meeting, the finance minister sought briefing from the representatives of the provincial governments regarding the efficacy of Ramazan Sasta Bazaars which have been set up to provide maximum relief to the masses during the holy month. The provincial administrations reported that by and large, the response has been very encouraging as people were making regular purchases and taking benefit of reduced prices of basic commodities. The finance minister urged the respective provincial administrations to chalk out a firm plan for strict monitoring of prices and availability of stock of basic commodities at Ramazan Saasta Bazaars to facilitate general public in Eid shopping which largely takes place during the last week of Ramazan. He further directed the provincial governments to keep the prices of basic commodities in check during the Eid holidays. The managing director Utility Stores Corporation (USC) updated the NPMC that all basic commodities are well-stocked across the chain of USC outlets including wheat flour, sugar, ghee and pulses at subsidised prices in compliance with the directives of the prime minister. The MD further informed that maximum buying across USC outlets takes place during the second half of the day. He requested the general public to visit Utility Stores outlets during morning hours to avoid large queues. The finance minister stressed the need to ensure availability of basic commodities at USCs throughout the country and urged people to benefit from the Mobile Utility Stores facility amid Covid-19 pandemic. Advisor to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, secretary food, secretary planning, joint secretary industries and production, senior representatives of the provincial governments, member PBS and other senior officers of Finance Division participated in the meeting.