Washington, July 18 : The US is learnt to have agreed in principle to supply five lakh tons of wheat to help Pakistan deal with the food crisis which is now threatening to get out of control.
Pakistan is facing a shortage of about 25-30 lakh tons of wheat this year, and had sought five lakh tons of food grains from the US. It is also buying hundreds thousands of tons from the open market.
The Trading Corporation of Pakistan has so far awarded contracts for the supply of 656,000 metric tons of wheat to eight firms under two tenders, reported the Dawn.
Pakistan had formally appealed to the US for food assistance early last month when its special envoy MB Abbasi and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture Shahid Raja visited Washington. They discussed the possibility of seeking US assistance for dealing with the food crisis when they met members of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, and the possibility of concessionary credit facility with the committee's chairman Senator Tom Harkin.
The delegation brought a letter from PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for Senator Harkin, requesting 500,000 tons of wheat. But, since this was not the appropriate forum, Pakistan later submitted a formal request for assistance under the PL-480 programme to the US administration.
The US administration was now looking at various options to meet Pakistan's request, said sources in Washington.
Last week, when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington, the latter had assured him that the US would help Pakistan deal with the food crisis.