LAHORE: To end the prevailing flour crisis which has affected the entire country, Prime Minister Imran Khan has, in principle, approved the import of 300,000 tonnes of wheat with 60% exemption from the regulatory duty.
According to sources, the government is also considering abolishing 5% advance income tax on wheat imports and reducing the allocated 200,000 tonnes of wheat to 100,000 tonnes for the Utility Stores Corporation.
PM Imran has also approved an additional 100,000 tonnes of wheat supply to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) from the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) stocks at the request of K-P chief minister.
With the additional quantity, the total supply of subsidised wheat from Passco to the K-P will reach 550,000 tonnes.
The current flour crisis has emerged in the wake of hoarding and illegal profit-making by vendors and flour dealers because of which consumers are facing a severe shortage of the commodity in the open market.
Even though flour mills have supplied 140,000 bags of flour to the open market in Lahore a few days ago to ensure adequate provision of the commodity, the desired results could not be achieved as dealers and shopkeepers have continued to stock up the commodity to make undue profit.
Sources also revealed that on January 10, 2020, the food department increased the daily quota of mills across Punjab to five sacks per roller body till January 25. However, due to the current situation, the period will be extended.
Market sources said in the last three weeks, the supply of flour to the market was very low and stocks were running out, therefore, it may take 10 days for the situation to return to normal.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Food Secretary Waqas Mehmood was optimistic about future improvement, saying that flour availability and supply would normalise in the next few days.
Apart from taking steps to overcome the flour crisis, the Punjab government has also developed software with the help of the Punjab Information and Technology Board to introduce an integrated system for flour supply and delivery to all mills.
The software has been designed to simplify the complex data sets and patterns in order to provide an effective way to monitor business performance on a daily basis.
It would provide information about official wheat arrivals, private wheat stocks, flour production and dealers and its delivery at shops. According to sources, the software will be handed over to the food department on January 24.
The sources reveal that each flour mill in Punjab will be provided with a specific login and password for the software.
It will be mandatory for each mill to add details related to procurement, packaging, stock, transport and delivery of flour in the software on a daily basis so that the complex system of flour manufacturing and delivery could be easily monitored.