Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin on Friday said the government is committed to providing maximum relief to the masses. Reviewing the price trend of basic commodities, the finance minister stated the government is taking administrative, policy and relief measures to absorb the upward pressure on prices of basic food commodities amid COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in massive fall in global food production coupled with supply side disruptions worldwide, said a press release issued by ministry of finance. Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin also held a meeting with the SAPM on Food Security, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema at the Finance Division. This has affected Pakistan directly being a net importer of staple commodities namely wheat, sugar, edible oil etc. With this in view, the government is taking steps to maintain strategic reserves of wheat, sugar and pulses, he said. The minister said that direct subsidy is being provided to 12.5 million households which is roughly equivalent to 40 percent of the total population in the country on four essential food commodities He said that FBR has been directed to work out strategy to ensure measurable impact on the prices of ghee/vegetable oil in domestic markets soon. Moreover, sugar (0.6 MMT) and wheat (4.0 MMT) are being imported to build strategic reserves and Provincial administrations and departments concerned have been directed to sell both the commodities at government fixed rates, he said. Tarin said that all these measures have been taken to stabilise prices of the essential items during the short term. He said that the medium-to-long term strategy includes process re-engineering to increase the production of key crops to boost agricultural productivity. He said the government will devise a mechanism to provide enabling infrastructure for building agri malls, storage facilities and commodity ware houses to eliminate the role of middleman. This will ensure that farmers will get due share of their produce. The SAPM on Food Security Jamshed Iqbal Cheema apprised the finance minister about the arrangements being made to purchase 40,000 ton each of gram and moong for building strategic reserves of pulses. These pulses would be supplied through a chain of Utility Store Corporations (USCs) and Saasta Sahulat Bazaars to ensure smooth supply at reasonable rates, he said. A firmed-up summary to this effect will be placed before ECC for requisite approval next week. With reference to petroleum prices, the finance minister briefed that petroleum prices in Pakistan are the lowest in the region. At present, price of petrol is $0.703 per litre in Pakistan whereas its $1.391 per litre in India, $0.931 per litre in Turkey, $1.045 per litre in Bangladesh and $0.923 per litre in Sri Lanka. The government has sustained maximum pressure of increased international petroleum prices by keeping petroleum levy to minimum. It is a clear reflection that the government is fully cognizant of the impact of the fuel prices on the prices of basic commodities that affect people directly. The recent increase in petroleum prices was unavoidable following increase in the oil prices in international markets as well as recent depreciation of Pak rupee, he added.