Pakistan News

Punjab millers warn of flour shortage in December

LAHORE: Flour millers paint a gloomy picture of the sector after a couple of months, fearing the masses will turn violent over not finding wheat flour in the market.

“The federal government should immediately import wheat to ensure availability of flour in the market. Otherwise, people will come out on the roads and pelt stones at government offices as well as flour mills by December when shortage of the commodity will be at its peak,” warned Punjab zone chairman of the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), Asim Raza Ahmad.

Speaking at a meeting of the association here on Tuesday, he held both the federal and Punjab governments responsible for the current volatile situation of the flour market, as the millers had warned the government six months ago of at least three million tonne shortage of the commodity, but the authorities remained unmoved.

He said the private sector sprang into action soon after the federal authorities allowed wheat import, but the two governments were yet indecisive over the issue.

Mr Ahmad claimed that availability, and not the rate of flour, was the issue, which would touch its peak in December. He claimed that raids by various government departments on flour mills and stores apparently to check hoarding of the commodity were rather yielding opposite results and adding to the crisis as well as ruining the industry.

He wondered that the government had claimed to have procured a record 4.1 million tonnes of wheat during the season that ended in May, but within two months it was forced to begin releasing grain from its stocks against the previous practice of doing that in September each year.

Former chairman of the association, Rauf Mukhtar, said the millers had suggested in January to import the grain in the wake of a poor wheat crop, but the government overlooked the suggestion. He disclosed that the 0.5 million tonne shortfall in January had now touched 2.5 million and the situation was going from bad to worse.

Liaquat Ali Khan, another leader, said that as far as the flour mills were operating on the basis of the food department’s wheat quota, the crisis would not be over as the units earlier grinding the grain round the clock were not reduced to a couple of hours working.

Earlier, the meeting offered prayers for PFMA leader Habibur Rehman Leghari, who died the other day.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2020

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