- A magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck areas across Afghanistan and Pakistan with multiple deaths and injuries were reported.
- The government has announced a Rs 5 billion Ramzan discount package at utility stores, while the Sindh government is to grant Rs 2,000 to 7.8M families for subsidized flour.
- Pakistan has received $242 million from the United States to support flood relief while ECC approved a Rs 27 billion grant to avoid a formal default of PSO.
- LHC has granted Imran Khan protective bail in two separate cases, while a joint session of the Parliament will be held today to discuss the country's political and economic situation to ‘establish the writ of the state.’
- Pakistan must complete additional tasks before unlocking a $6.5 billion loan programme to avoid default while the IMF was not consulted on the government’s announcing a fuel subsidy.
- Moscow is ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
- The Biden administration is set to unveil tight restrictions on new operations in China by semiconductor manufacturers that get federal funds to build in the US with the $50 billion CHIPS and Science Act.
COMMODITIES - CROPS, LIVESTOCK & HORTICULTURE
- Import of Pulses: Rs 19.3 billion was the import value of pulses in Feb 2023, up 180% compared to Rs 6.87 billion in Feb 2022, according to the PBS. [ET]
- Fruit Export: Rs 6.3 billion was the export value of fruits in Feb 2023, down 17.2% compared to Rs 7.6 billion in Feb 2022, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. [ET]
- Discounted Commodities at Utility Stores: Govt. has announced a Rs 5 billion package to offer discounted daily-use commodities at utility stores during Ramzan. The discount will be available to both targeted and general consumers, with Rs 1.15 billion allocated for subsidies to BISP-registered consumers and Rs 3.84 billion for discounted rates to general consumers. [Dawn]
- Devastating Impact on Harvests: Rain and hail storms in Pakistan damaged wheat fields and flooded highways in several districts, including Multan, Vehari, Lodhran, Muzaffargarh, Kot Addu, and Layyah. The crops were covered in water, and the harvest of vegetables and fodder was affected. Harvesting of wheat was halted in some areas, and mango orchards were also hit, reducing flower output. [Dawn]
- Sindh Govt Offers Ramazan Relief: In order to extend relief to the poor during Ramzan, the Sindh government has decided to provide a grant of Rs 2,000 each to 7.8 million families for buying flour at subsidized rates. The relief will be extended to families having a monthly income of Rs 50,000 or less. Under the initiative, Rs 2,000 per family will be provided for one month. [BR] [Dawn] [ET] [The News]
- Pakistan's Fuel Subsidy: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was not consulted on the government’s recent move to announce a fuel subsidy, the lender’s key official in Islamabad has said, adding that it was seeking “greater details” on the scheme, Bloomberg reported. [Dawn]
- Wheat to Gilgit-Baltistan: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday approved the immediate release of 25,000 MTs of wheat to Gilgit-Baltistan for the months of March and April, 2023 to avoid shortage of wheat in the region, especially during the holy month of Ramzan. [The Nation] [PT] [ARY]
- Pakistan's Textile Industry Faces Crisis: The unavailability of cotton and restrictions on opening Letters of Credit (LCs) for imports have severely affected the textile industry's exports and caused widespread unemployment. The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) warned that the sector was on the verge of default as production and earnings were significantly below their potential, and raised the issue in a letter to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jameel Ahmad. [ET] [ARY] [The Nation]
AGRI-INPUTS, WEATHER, WATER & POWER
- Earthquake Hits Pakistan: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck areas across Afghanistan and Pakistan, resulting in at least 13 deaths and several hundred injuries. The tremors were felt as far as New Delhi, India. In northwest Pakistan, nine people were killed, and 44 others were injured, leading to hospitals in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province being put into a state of emergency. [Geo] [BR] [Dawn] [ET] [Al Jazeera] [BBC]
- Karachi Braces for Heavy Rainfall: Meteorological analyst Jawad Memon has forecasted heavy rainfall in Karachi on March 23, with thunderous clouds already forming on Tuesday, leading to drizzles and light rain in the city. The formation of clouds is expected due to heat and humidity under the western wind system in the metropolis, with some parts of the city already receiving light rain. [Geo] [The News] [The News] [Dawn]
- Thar Coal Power Project: Today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will attend a ceremony as the chief guest to celebrate the completion of a mega coal-fired power project in Thar Block-1. The Thar Coal Block-1 Power Generation Company announced that the Commercial Operation Date (COD) for the 2X660MW Coal-Fired Power Plant Project in Thar Coal Block-1 will be marked at the event. [BR]
- US Aids Pakistan Flood Relief: Pakistan has received $242 million from the United States to support flood relief, recovery efforts, disaster resilience and food security and the US-Pakistani diaspora contributed about $42 million to the total. On Tuesday, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome highlighted the valuable contributions of the diaspora and the private sector at a US Agency for International Development (USAID) conference aimed at building back better for flood-affected communities in Pakistan. [Dawn]
- Pakistan State Oil in Financial Crisis: An emergent meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a special grant of Rs 27 billion (about $100 million) for payments to Kuwait Petroleum Corporation to avoid a formal default of the national fuel supplier — Pakistan State Oil (PSO). [Dawn]
- Pakistan's Economic Assistance: The Minister for Planning and Development of Pakistan, Ahsan Iqbal, announced that Pakistan is expected to receive confirmation of economic aid from friendly countries within a few days, which is the final requirement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before a staff-level agreement can be reached with the Fund. [BR]
- Sage Ventures Invests in K-Electric Indirectly: Sage Venture Group Limited, a special purpose company registered in the British Virgin Islands, has acquired substantial stakes in the Infrastructure Growth and Capital Fund LP, which holds an indirect material stake in K-Electric Limited. The acquisition was authorized through legal proceedings in a court in the Cayman Islands, according to court documents. [The News]
- Webinar on Locals Near Gas Fields: Speakers at a webinar on the plight of local communities located near oil and gas exploration fields in Sindh asked the provincial government to protect local people from pollution emitting from gas fields and spend funds provided by exploration companies on the welfare of the locals. [Dawn]
- Piling Up of Gas Bills: The decisions of different governments to divert expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the residential consumers in winter in a bid to address gas shortages have resulted in piling up of huge consumer bills of Rs 200 billion. [ET]
- Pakistan Faces Safe Water Crisis: More than 10 million people, including children, living in flood-affected areas remained deprived of safe drinking water, the United Nations agency for children warned on Tuesday, six months after the devastating floods ravaged parts of Pakistan. [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET] [The Nation] [UN] [Al Jazeera]
AGRI UPDATES & PAKISTAN POLICY
- Joint Parliament Sitting Today: A joint session of the Pakistani Parliament will be held on March 22 to discuss the country's political and economic situation, as well as the ongoing smear campaign against the army chief and national institutions abroad. Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the campaign, calling it intolerable and part of a larger conspiracy against Pakistani institutions. [BR] [The News]
- Imran Khan Granted Protective Bail: The Lahore High Court has granted PTI Chairman Imran Khan protective bail in two separate cases, one involving two FIRs filed against him on terrorism charges and the other involving two call-up notices issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for different inquiries. The protective bails were granted by two different division benches of the court led by Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Baqar Ali Najafi, respectively. [ET]
- Pakistan Faces IMF pressure: Pakistan must complete additional tasks before unlocking a $6.5 billion loan programme to avoid default, according to the IMF. The Pakistani government is under pressure to secure financing support assurances from countries that have promised it. Sri Lanka secured financing this week and Bangladesh is carrying out IMF-mandated reforms. Pakistan is the only South Asian country yet to secure a bailout from the multilateral lender. [The News]
- SBP Raises Interest Rates: The State Bank of Pakistan's (SBP) record increase of interest rates on treasury bills and Pakistan Investment Bonds (PIBs) failed to attract foreign investment, despite an increase of 300 basis points to 20% on March 2. Experts said that while the decision favoured investors, it made borrowing too expensive for the government. [Dawn]
- REER & NEER Dip in Pakistan: Pakistan's Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) Index and Nominal Effective Exchange Rate (NEER) Index both declined in February 2023 as compared to the previous month, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). REER measures the price of a basket of goods relative to major trading partners, while NEER is an index of bilateral nominal exchange rates. [BR] [ET] [The News]
- Pakistan Approves Grant for Kuwait Petroleum: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Pakistani Cabinet has approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs 27 billion for Kuwait Petroleum Company. The meeting was chaired by Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar. [BR] [ET]
INTERNATIONAL – OVERVIEW & MARKET OUTLOOK
- Putin & Xi Discuss Ukraine: Moscow is ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia over the Ukraine conflict, President Vladimir Putin told Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday during talks at the Kremlin. Speaking on the second day of Xi’s state visit to Moscow, Putin also said the two leaders had discussed the proposed Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which would ship Russian gas to China. [BR] [Dawn] [ET]
- Oil Prices: Oil prices rose on Tuesday, following a recovery from a 15-month low the day before, as measures to stabilize the banking sector eased concerns of a banking crisis that would impact economic growth and cut fuel demand. As of 12:40 p.m. ET (16:40 GMT), Brent crude was up 50 cents, or 0.7%, at $73.29 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) gained 84 cents, or 1.2%, to $68.48. [BR]
- US-China Microchips Batlle: The Biden administration is set to unveil tight restrictions on new operations in China by semiconductor manufacturers that get federal funds to build in the US. The $50 billion CHIPS and Science Act will bar firms that win grants from expanding output by 5% for advanced chips and 10% for older technology, and place a spending cap on investments in advanced capacity in China. The curbs are part of Washington’s efforts to thwart Beijing’s tech ambitions while securing its own supply of the components that underpin revolutionary technologies. [Bloomberg]
- IMF Approves Sri Lanka Bailout: Sri Lanka must not allow entrenched corruption to undermine a bailout for its bankrupt economy, the IMF said on Tuesday after signing off on a $3 billion loan for the crisis-hit nation. [Dawn] [Al Jazeera]
- South Africa National Shutdown: South African security forces have arrested 87 individuals over public violence in the 12 hours preceding planned protests by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party. The EFF, the country's third-largest party, has called for a national shutdown to protest against power cuts and demand the resignation of President Cyril Ramaphosa. [Al Jazeera] [TRT] [Nasdaq]
- Afghanistan Starts School Year: Afghanistan's school year started on Tuesday, as the UN children's agency renewed calls for teenage girls to be able to rejoin the classroom. [ET] [Reuters] [The News]
PAKISTAN - REMAINDERS
- Meezan Bank Recognised as the Best Islamic Bank of the Country, Again. [BR]
- SHC Seeks a Plan to Remove Encroachments, Protect Karachi’s Land. [Dawn]
- Opinion: Climate Catastrophe Looms Large - “There is a date for what is the end of the world as we know it, and it is only about 10 years away. This week the United Nations released a report that revealed how the world’s inability to reach its climate goals means that by the early 2030s, climate events will have become so extreme that humanity will not be able to adapt.” - By Rafia Zakaria [Dawn]