- Stampede for free flour during Ramadan kills 1 in Charsadda, while fruit prices surge and vendors violate the official price lists. Grocery prices skyrocket on the first day of Ramadan as the price control mechanism fails.
- Pakistan and Russia held two-day technical talks on crude oil import, but a formal commerce deal was not signed. Moreover, the government is working on a fuel pricing scheme to assist the poor in accordance with the fuel subsidy.
- The Election Commission has backed off from holding timely elections in Punjab by revising the poll date from April 30 to Oct 8 while the IMF confirmed that there are no provisions under the EFF program that would impede Pakistan's capacity to conduct elections.
- China has granted Pakistan a rollover of $2 billion State Administration of Foreign Exchange deposits for one year.
- Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers spoke by phone to mark the beginning of Ramadan, vowing to meet soon to implement a landmark bilateral reconciliation deal.
- The Federal Reserve raised interest rates from 4.75% to 5%, a ninth straight meeting and indicated there may be more hikes until inflation begins to cool down, believes Chair Powell.
COMMODITIES - CROPS, LIVESTOCK & HORTICULTURE
- Stampede at Flour Distribution: One person was killed and eight others injured during a stampede for free flour in an inflation-wracked country on Thursday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. [BR]
- Fruit Prices Surge During Ramadan: The prices of fresh fruits have skyrocketed with the start of Ramadan as vendors flagrantly flout an official rate list issued by Karachi Commissioner Muhammad Iqbal Memon for the holy month. [ET]
- Grocery Price in Ramadan: Groceries went further beyond the reach of the common man on the first day of Ramadan on Thursday as the price controlling mechanism failed to rein in the skyrocketing prices of consumer items in the retail market. [Dawn]
- Cotton Production Decline: Pakistan's cotton production is declining sharply, with its per-acre yield now just half of the productivity seen in regional countries. This is due to thin profit margins for cotton planting, leading farmers to switch to other crops such as rice, maize, and sugarcane. Economic policymakers are concerned about the continuous decline in cotton production over the years. [ET]
- Textile Machinery Import: Rs 3.18 billion was the import value of textile machinery in Feb 2023, down 75% compared to Rs 12.8 billion in Feb 2022. [ET]
AGRI-INPUTS, WEATHER, WATER & POWER
- Karachi Receives Rain Showers: Under the ongoing influence of a westerly wave which recently caused rains and hailstorm in most parts of the country, Karachi on Thursday received light to moderate showers bringing the temperature further down. [Dawn]
- Severe Weather Hits Balochistan: Heavy rains, thunderstorms and hailstorms lashed several areas of Balochistan, including Quetta and many districts, disrupting lives and traffic and dropping the mercury on Thursday. [Dawn] [Dawn]
- Snow Removal in Kaghan Valley: The National Highway Authority on Thursday began removing snow from the Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad Road four months after blizzards hit Kaghan valley blocking the key artery. [Dawn]
- IRSA Wate Release: 67,900 cusecs of water was released from various rim stations on Thursday. [ET]
- Pakistan's Local Tractor Industry: The Pakistan Business Council's report titled "State of Pakistan's Agriculture" highlights the problem of locally built low-powered tractors that are prevalent in Pakistan's agriculture sector. The local tractor industry was given protection from imports a few decades ago to promote local manufacturing. [ET]
- AJK-GB Bus Service Launched: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid on Thursday flagged off a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Gilgit to revive historical relations and harmony between the peoples of the two regions. [Dawn] [ET]
- Pakistan Submits GFATM Proposals: Pakistan's federal health authorities have submitted three funding proposals to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria (GFATM) grant. This marks the first time that both government institutions and non-governmental organizations in Pakistan are set to receive funding from GFATM. [The News]
- Pak-Russia Delay in Oil Deal: Pakistan and Russia held two-day technical talks on crude oil import, but a formal commerce deal was not signed due to unresolved issues. A senior official of Pakistan's Energy ministry stated that a commercial deal is expected to be signed in April 2023, as issues regarding SPV and mode of payment require further deliberation. [The News]
- Pakistan's Fuel Pricing Scheme: The government of Pakistan is working on a fuel pricing scheme to assist the poor, according to the petroleum minister. However, some economists are concerned that this program could impede an essential International Monetary Fund payout, which is necessary to prevent an economic collapse. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the government's intention to implement the fuel pricing scheme last week. [BR]
- Coal Plants in Tharparkar: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif launched two coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,650 MW in Tharparkar, aimed at making the desert an economic hub. The projects, costing $3.53 billion, will generate 11.24 billion units of cheap electricity annually and increase Thar's coal-based electricity production to 3,300 MW. [BR]
- Depleting Indus Aquifer Water: Pakistan and India are drawing water from the Indus aquifer faster than the rate of water recharges back into the aquifer, leading to a lowering of the water table back to or below pre-colonial times. This was disclosed by The State of Pakistan’s Agriculture Report 2023 jointly launched by the Pakistan Agricultural Coalition and Pakistan Business Council here on Thursday. [BR]
- Gas Shortage in Karachi During Ramadan: Karachi residents are facing another problem in the form of gas supply cuts during Ramadan, amidst high inflation and low incomes. Numerous complaints about gas load-shedding and shortages have been reported from across the city, raising concerns of a major cooking crisis during the holy month. [BR]
- Earthquake Aftermath: The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released a comprehensive report on the damages and losses caused by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit northern Pakistan recently. The earthquake resulted in 11 deaths, 79 injuries, and 172 damaged houses in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit Baltistan (GB), and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). [BR]
AGRI UPDATES & PAKISTAN POLICY
- ECP Delays Elections in Punjab: Only two weeks after issuing schedule for general elections in Punjab in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s order, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Wednesday, appeared to have backed off from holding timely elections in Pakistan’s largest province by revising the poll date from April 30 to October 8—causing over five-month delay in the elections. [BR] [BR] [ET] [PT]
- IMF Clarifies Pakistan Elections: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) confirmed that there are no provisions under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program that would impede Pakistan's capacity to conduct constitutional activities such as elections. The Resident Chief of IMF in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, stated that decisions on the feasibility, constitutionality, and timing of general and provincial elections lie entirely with Pakistani institutions. [The News] [The News] [ET]
- China Rollovers $2 Billion Deposit: China has granted a rollover of $2 billion SAFE (State Administration of Foreign Exchange) deposits for one year. “Yes,” Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar confirmed with a brief response when asked about getting rollover of $2 billion SAFE deposits here on Thursday. [The News]
- Private Sector Bank Loans Drop: Bank advances to the private sector plunged by 73% during the first 8 months of the current fiscal year suggesting a painful economic slowdown leading to massive retrenchments in key industrial sectors. [Dawn]
- Pakistan's Interest Rate to Increase: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is likely to raise the interest rate by 2% at the upcoming meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to unlock the stalled IMF loan programme. The staff-level agreement between the IMF and Pakistan was scheduled to take place on February 9. [The News] [BR]
- Pakistan's External Debt Burden: As foreign exchange reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) dwindle, the country’s external debt servicing requirements for repaying principal and mark-up in dollar amounts will be standing at approximately $3 billion in the last quarter (April-June) period of the current fiscal year. [The News]
- Pakistan Banks Raise Lending Rates: Commercial banks in Pakistan have raised the price of lending to the government by 1% point to an all-time high of 22%, which has increased the cost of running the crisis-hit economy. The government raised domestic debt of Rs 1.14 trillion by selling mostly three-month treasury bills to banks, as well as financing through six-month and 12-month papers, according to the State Bank of Pakistan. [ET]
INTERNATIONAL – OVERVIEW & MARKET OUTLOOK
- India to Drive Oil Demand: A change is on the horizon for oil demand, with India set to eclipse China as the most important driver of global growth — and potentially the last, as the world shifts to a greener future. A swelling population, which has likely already surpassed that of China, will help underpin that growth along with consumption trends. India’s transition from traditional gasoline and diesel-fueled transport is expected to lag other regions, whereas China’s adoption of electric vehicles is skyrocketing. Traders and producers looking to tap into diminishing global demand will be betting on the South Asian nation into the next decade. [Bloomberg]
- Federal Reserve Hikes Rates: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates at a ninth straight meeting and indicated there may be more hikes to come in a clear sign it’s confident that its bid to quell inflation won’t deepen a nascent banking crisis. The Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously to increase its target for the federal funds rate by a quarter percentage point to a range of 4.75% to 5% — the highest since September 2007, when rates were at their peak on the eve of the financial crisis. Officials are prepared to raise rates higher if needed, Powell said. The 2023 dot plot was unchanged, predicting a year-end peak around 5.1%. [Bloomberg]
- Jordan Condemns Israel's Map: Jordan has condemned the use of a map of Israel that included sovereign Jordanian territory by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during an event in Paris. The act was deemed as a "reckless incitement that is in violation of international norms and the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty." An Israeli missile strike destroyed a suspected arms depot used by Iran-backed militias at Syria’s Aleppo airport on Wednesday, a war monitor said, with authorities saying the strike put the airport out of service. [AA] [DP] [Dawn]
- France in Turmoil Over Pension Reform: French citizens continued their protests and strikes on Thursday, with transportation and refineries coming to a standstill due to widespread opposition to the unpopular pensions reform. The protests resulted in potential fuel shortages at Paris airports, accumulation of rubbish, and uncertainties over the upcoming state visit by King Charles III, as thousands took to the streets in protest. [BR]
- Saudi-Iran Phone Call for Ramadan: The Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers spoke by phone to mark the beginning of Ramadan, vowing to meet “soon” to implement a landmark bilateral reconciliation deal, Riyadh said on Thursday. [BR]
- Global Billionaire Count Drops: More than 400 people lost their billionaire status last year, most from China, as global monetary tightening, Covid-19 disruptions and Beijing’s crackdown on major tech companies hurt the super wealthy, a ranking of the world’s wealthiest showed. [Dawn]
PAKISTAN - REMAINDERS
- Opinion: The Significance of Groundwater - “Human beings cannot survive without freshwater. Besides rain, and glacial charged surface water sources such as lakes and rivers, groundwater provides another vital source of freshwater. Yet, groundwater reservoirs are being depleted and polluted at an alarming rate – an issue that merits much closer attention.” - By Syed Mohammad Ali [ET]