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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Flour Shortage: Govt to import wheat to tackle crisis

Government of Pakistan plans to import wheat to the country, in addition to the local production, but the strategy to tackle flour shortage in the country may backfire since the imported wheat stock is anticipated to clash with the local production of wheat in March and April.

The government of Pakistan is importing 0.3 million tonnes of wheat in Pakistan to tackle the flour shortage in the country. They announced that the first shipments will come into the country by February 15. The imports will be allowed without duty – in order – to keep price low.

The flour crisis looming for months worsened in January leading to higher prices. Currently, a one-kilogram bag of flour is available for Rs.70 following a six rupees increase last week. Flour prices jumped by Rs.4 in the first week of January. One 20kg bag in KP is now costing Rs1100 against the PM Khan earlier last month announced that it would cost around Rs800 in the utility stores. Most KP utility stores are saying they have no flour to distribute.

A massive public outcry followed the flour shortage and price hike across the country. Buyers complained that an unprecedented rise in flour price has affected the people with marginal incomes.

They blamed the flour millers and the Punjab government for the flour shortage in the country.

Read more: Artificial Price Hike: Lahore Overwhelmed with Soaring Prices of Vegetables & Essential Commodities

No flour shortage in Pakistan

The surge in flour prices created an impression of wheat and flour shortage across the country that National Food Security Secretary, Hashim Popalzai, rejected.

He called the recent strike of transporters the reason for the shortage of flour in the federal capital and four provinces because mills did not get wheat on time. He described the flour shortage ‘temporary crisis’ that will end in 15-20 days.

Adding that, the Sindh government did not pay heed to the advice to buy 14 million tonnes, earlier. He said the government has sufficient stock of 2.2 million tonnes of wheat against a total demand of 4.2 million tonnes.

He said, Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation, has released 4 million metric tonnes of wheat for Sindh but the provincial government has bought 1million metric tonnes. The crisis of flour shortage would be solved if the Sindh government buys the remaining stock.

His statement came in response to widespread criticism from opposition parties particularly PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, accusing federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan for stirring the flour shortage.

Bilawal claimed that PM Khan turned Pakistan into a wheat importing country and that the federal government had sent 40,000 metric tonnes to Afghanistan, deliberately creating the flour shortage in the country.

Read more: Artificial Price Hike: CM Buzdar Orders Strict Action to Curb illegal Prices

Jehangir Tareen also rejected Bilawal’s accusations and asserted that Passco was provided 4 million metric tonnes of wheat and it still has 3 million metric tonnes.

He assured that the government will transport 10,000 tonnes of wheat daily to Karachi and Hyderabad through National Logistics Cell, NLC.

PM Khan orders action against hoarders

Meanwhile, state institutions activated after PM Khan ordered to take strict action against those involved in hoarding flour and selling at higher prices. The provincial governments, chief commissioners and deputy commissioners were directed to begin a ‘grand operation’ against the culprits.

“It is absolutely incompetence of the government that has failed to control mafias, mainly the flour millers and those involved in smuggling wheat to Afghanistan via Torkham border,” said Pakistan Kissan Ittehad chairman Khalid Khokhar.

However, entities are passing on the blame to one and another for the flour shortage in the country. Flour mills association accused the flour grinding vendors of the flour crisis because they are not ready to sell the flour at price below Rs.70 per Kg at Rs.60 per Kg.

Read more: Prime Minister Imran Khan Orders Immediate Reductions in Roti & Naan Prices

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to import wheat met criticism on social media. A social media user highlighted that the decision to import the wheat will not benefit the country since it will coincide with the local production of wheat from Sindh and Punjab in March and April. This lower market price of the local produce will adversely affect the wheat producers.