As the flour prices in Pakistan began to skyrocket consumers all over the country criticize the government, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday came into action and ordered a crackdown throughout the country on elements responsible for “illegal price hike” and hoarding flour.
On Friday second time in a month — the price of flour went up by Rs6 per kg second time in a month throughout the country. Flour is being sold at Rs70 per kg in all major cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad. Flour Mills Association blamed the government for the price hike due to lack of subsidy.
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar on Sunday claimed that wheat flour prices will start reducing across the country by tomorrow (January 20).
PM Imran took notice of the matter and designated Jahangir Tareen and Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar to look for an immediate resolution over the inflation-related crisis.
The government will lift the duty on importing wheat in order to control soaring flour prices in the country.
PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen announced this after he and National Food Security and Research Minister Khusro Bakhtiar were tasked with looking into the crisis. The public is up in arms over the price hike and has been calling on the government to control it.
Prime Minister Imran Khan tasked Tareen and Bakhtiar with resolving the issue and their solution is to import more wheat.
The statement issued by flour mills association reads “The price was increased after a surge in wheat price,” “The situation has worsened because of the government’s new electricity and gas tariff,” it added.
Prime Minister ordered the officials to take required actions for stabilizing the prices of wheat flour and directed the concerned officials to act against people involved in creating an artificial crisis of flour countrywide.
To overcome this crisis situation, government has planned to release 0.1 million tonnes of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation and also ordered to import 0.3 million tonnes of wheat to fulfill to the need across the country.
Most Affected Province – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is most affected province by the flour crisis after Punjab stopped supply to KP to resolve its own crisis.
As per the details, there was only two days of stock stock left which led to a price surge of Rs5 per kg. Flour dealers said that Punjab has banned the delivery of flour completely which led to this crisis..
In this crisis situation, the provincial information minister, Shaukat Yousafzai, has asked the people of his province not to eat ‘fine flour’ which ‘gives cancer as per the minister’ imported from Punjab. He advised the people instead choose ‘local whole-wheat flour’. Apparently this is not the first case on which the KP minister has come up with such a stupid response to a problem.
He also questioned naanbais (tandoors) as why they prefer fine flour from Punjab instead of local subsidized flour.
In response information minister KP Shaukat Yousafzai, a naanbai said that the locally produced flour is of poor quality, which is why they prefer flour coming from Punjab.
As the situation worsened Naanbai Association Peshawar has announced to go on strike across the province next from Monday as the talks with local administration ended without any conclusion on the roti price.
“If the roti price wasn’t increased by the administration in line with the escalating price of wheat flour, naanbais would close shops for an indefinite period,” Naanbai Association Peshawar.
Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government officials held a meeting in order to ensure uninterrupted supply of wheat and flour from Punjab to KP.
In this meeting, KP Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz told his counterpart about the severe problems being faced at borders during transportation of flour and wheat from Punjab to KP.
Chief Secretary Punjab Azam Suleman Khan has assured that all necessary measures would be taken to resolve this crisis and orders have already been issued to relevant authorities.
Both provinces agreed that officers of food departments of Punjab and KP would work in liaison to ensure the wheat and flour availability at all times.
Chief Secretary of Punjab has assured to KP that as soon as data of flour mills that supply flour and wheat to KP is received would be shared with the concerned authorities to ensure free transportation.
KP Chief Secretary said that cooperation would be extended to Punjab for cross-border movement so that Flour and Whear smuggling can be controlled.
Wheat and Flour Crisis in Punjab
After the unapproved price hike, the authorities in Punjab have warned the chakki operators and flour mills against illegal increase of Rs6 per kg in the wheat and flour prices in Pakistan.
The food department has already suspended licenses of 15 flour mills and withheld wheat quota of 180 others on reports that they were either smuggling the supplies out of the province or selling in the open market the subsidised consignments provided by the government.
An emergency meeting was held which was presided over by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar looked at the demand and supply position of flour in the province.
Punjab government officials have decided to take immediate measures to restore the officially notified prices of wheat and flour. Food department along with police have been mobilized to keep check on the misuse of the subsidized wheat supplies.
Food department said that following the orders it has acted against 376 flour mills and imposed Rs90.6m fine and also suspended licences of 15 mills and wheat quota of 180 others.
Tandoor owners have set a 7 day deadline for the government to control the wheat and flour price or they will increase the rates of naan and roti. They have threatened to increase the prices of roti from Rs6 to Rs10 and naan from Rs10 to Rs15. President Naan-Roti Association Aftab Aslam Gill has given a 7 days deadline to the government to control the wheat products prices or they will be left with no choice other than increasing the price of Naan and Roti.
Wheat and Flour Crisis in Sindh and Balochistan
Sindh and Balochistan are facing a shortage of wheat and a subsequent increase in the price of the commodity. The flour mill owners have accused the provincial food departments of creating a wheat crisis in provinces.
Sindh government has purchased 300,000 tonnes of wheat from the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation. 70,000 tonnes had been brought to the metropolis, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said on Sunday. CM Sindh has claimed that they have procured the wheat from Punjab and Balochistan in advance but due the countrywide strike by transporter the situation has worsened.
Murad Ali Shah also ordered the Bureau of Supply & Prices to play their role to stabilize flour and wheat prices all over province, especially in Karachi and Hyderabad. Further, through his chief secretary, he also directed all deputy commissioners to control the artificial price hike in their respective areas, particularly of the flour.
Criticism on Flour Prices in Pakistan:
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, slammed the hike in prices of wheat flour across Pakistan.
The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz president asked the government to reveal the truth behind as why Pakistan is facing a shortage of the basic food commodity.
Shehbaz Sharif said that it was the right of the people to know exactly what happened to wheat stocks of the country.
Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto also condemned the hike in the prices of basic food item and said that “the government was too incompetent to provide relief to the people”. He added “the government warehouses were full of flour, but it was not unavailable to common people”. He said “the increase in flour prices twice this week was a testament to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s incompetence”.