ISLAMABAD: The federal government ratified an ordinance against hoarding of basic food items and goods on Friday.
The move comes a few months after the sugar and wheat crises caused prices of basic food items to skyrocket across the country.
The prime minister presided over a meeting focused on curbing smuggling and hoarding of basic food items. As per the ordinance, those found guilty of hoarding will be slapped with a three-year imprisonment sentence and a heavy fine.
The prime minister directed the government to seek help from intelligence agencies in identifying smugglers and hoarders. During the meeting, he said that stern action against smugglers and hoarders was necessary as these crimes ultimately resulted in the poor paying a heavy price.
During the meeting, the prime minister reportedly said that stern action against hoarding and profiteering was unavoidable as the offences damaged the country's economy.
He called on the government to appoint honest and trustworthy officers to keep in check hoarding and similar offences. PM Imran asked the government to monitor the situation regarding food prices on a daily basis and ensure no administrative hurdles thwarted the government from performing its duties.
PM Imran has, on several occasions in the past, warned that the government will take strict action against those found involved in profiteering and hoarding.
"Those who want to make money from the hunger of the poor, the state will take strict action against you. The state will make an example out of you," he had said last month during his address to the nation.
Sugar, wheat crises in the county
In January, prices of wheat surged across the country after it emerged that the staple food's quantity had decreased significantly in markets across the country.
The News had reported that the wheat crisis originated in Sindh and then spread to other provinces. It said that corruption probes against officials in the Sindh government discouraged many in the province from the procurement of wheat that would otherwise have increased existing surplus wheat stock. At one point, the reserve stock was as low as 0.2 million tons.
The problem was exacerbated by a decision to export 200,000 to 400,000 tons of wheat, keeping in view surplus stocks on the basis of estimates presented by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, but the actual exports of wheat crossed 640,000 tons.
Shortly after the wheat crisis ended, sugar prices went up as the product was found scarce in short supply in markets across the country. Hoarding and an artificial increase in the prices of the commodity were cited as the main reasons for the surge in the prices of the product.