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A Chain of Crises
A Chain of Crises

A Chain of Crises

Rains, flood create a shortage of wheat across Pakistan’s largest province

One of the effects of the massive damage caused to the road infrastructure due to torrential rains and flooding is shortage of flour in Pakistan’s most backward and sparsely populated province as supply of wheat and flour from other parts of the country has come to a halt in a number of areas.

Rains and floods also destroyed a large quantity of wheat stored in go-downs in different districts. At places, rains also damaged the wheat that farmers had put away “for a rainy day”.

Profiteers have also started trying to exploit the situation by stocking wheat and flour, further exacerbating an already precarious situation with flour – a staple food – becoming increasingly inaccessible to the poor.

This week Nanbais – flatbread makers – of the provincial capital also announced a strike for an indefinite period due to unavailability of flour at the official retail price. Later, they postponed the protest after negotiation with the provincial government officials.


The provincial government has failed to take any concrete measure to mitigate the flour crisis despite the fact that the media has been continuously highlighting the shortage of wheat and the skyrocketing flour prices. A recent press statement issued by the chief minister’s office said Chief Minister Abdul Quddus Bizenjo had taken notice of the flour crisis and directed the relevant authorities to resolve it.

However, his opponents accuse him of only paying lip service without taking any practical steps. In the wake of the floods, the CM has mostly confined himself to Quetta except for a few helicopter rides in which he took an aerial view of the devastation.

However, Quetta Corps Commander Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor visited a number of flood hit areas to supervise the rescue and relief efforts on behalf of the Pakistan Army.

According to the standard set by the World Food Programme (WFP), an individual needs 124kg of flour annually. Balochistan with a population of 12.2 million needs 12.5 to 15 million sacks of wheat annually. The government of Balochistan procures one million sacks from local growers in Naseerabad and Jaffarabad districts. These sacks meet only 5% to 6% of the population’s needs.

A majority of the population in the northern districts of Chaman, Qila Abdullah, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Sheerani, Musa Khail, Loralai, Dukki and Ziarat and southern districts of Gwadar, Kechh, Punjgoor, Kharan and Washuk depends on the wheat transported from Sindh and Punjab.

The central districts of Mastung, Kalat, Soorab, Khuzdar, Kharan and Lasbela and the eastern districts of Naseerabad, Jafarabad, Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Sohbatpur, Jhal Magsi, Sibi and Kachhi districts produce enough wheat not only to feed their population, but also to sell in the market of the adjoining areas.


Once Gwadar, Turbat and Panjgoor districts used to be fed by Iranian wheat and flour, but now its population depends on flour transported from neighbouring Kharan districts and Karachi and Quetta.

The Iranian government has placed a complete ban  on smuggling of wheat into Pakistan but other goods including fuel are allowed to cross into Balochistan. Once a large quantity of flour and wheat as well as fertilizer was used to be smuggled into neighbouring Afghanistan via Chaman, Qila Abdullah and Qila Saifullah districts.

The district administration also used to issue wheat permits to the population in the light of census reports. However, after fencing of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and other security measures, smuggling of these items has reduced to a considerable level.     Some food department officials said the provincial government delayed procurement of wheat. After numerous reminders, the provincial finance department allowed the food department to procure wheat in the last week of April.

“By the time money was released to the food department, the traders at Naseerabad and Jaffarabad markets had already sold out their wheat stocks. Later, the department procured three lac sacks by raiding the premises of growers and flour mills with the help of district administrations,” said a source.

Another official of the food department said growers of the province failed to achieve their target of 10.5 lac metric tons this year and could produce only 7 lac metric tons due to a cold wave that badly affected the crops causing less production and poor quality wheat.

“The torrential rains and heavy flooding later damaged the wheat stocks of small, medium and big farmers, adding to the miseries of growers,” he said


“The situation is going to become more critical in the coming weeks as the chief minister is much busy in pleasing his allies and the MPAs instead of paying attention to real issues.  This crisis may force the people to take to streets and ransack the government go-downs,” the official added.

When contacted, Director General Food Zafarullah Baloch admitted that there is a flour crisis in the province and a 20kg flour bag is available for Rs2,500 instead of Rs1,400, the official rate.

“The department could purchase only 3 lac sacks of wheat this year instead of one million sacks. The department would soon start providing wheat to flour mills from the government stock.

“Four lac sacks are available with PASSCO [Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation] and this stock would also be purchased soon.

“Flour would soon be available in the market at the official rate of Rs1,400 per bag. We will not let profiteers take advantage of the situation,” he said.

No role of opposition


Despite unavailability of a basic necessity like flour and the provincial government’s inability to offer any substantial relief to people in the wake of the floods, none of the opposition lawmakers was ever found criticizing the Abdul Quddus Bizenjo government.

Interestingly, the Bizenjo government is the first government in provincial history to deal with 23 opposition lawmakers (MPAs) as usually, most of the lawmakers in the Balochistan Assembly become part of the ruling coalition. This opposition comprises 11 MPAs from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), nine MPAs from the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) and one MPA each from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and an independent.

However, despite this the Bizenjo government has managed to tame these opposition members by offering them various perks and privileges in addition to allocating funds for their constituencies in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).


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