RAHIM YAR KHAN: Flour mill owners have purchased 2.5 million sacks of wheat from the government but still there is a shortage of the commodity in the market.
The food department of Rahim Yar Khan is only left with 92,000 sacks of wheat and the district’s 65 flour mills have been receiving 19,500 wheat sacks daily.
Only two days’ stock is reportedly left in Bahawalpur and the departments concerned appear to be struggling to identify the cause of the shortage.
However, Pakistan Flour Mills Association Chairperson Chaudhry Abdul Rauf Mukhtar said the mills are ensuring the supply of cheap flour in this difficult scenario. There is no flour crisis, after the arrival of the new wheat crops in the next two days the flour will become cheaper and be available in a large quantity.
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He said in a statement that the mills will supply flour at lower rates to philanthropists. In case of any problem or complaint about the supply of flour, the association will take immediate action.
He said the mills are taking steps to supply flour at affordable prices as a national duty at a time of difficulty.
The situation will improve with the arrival of new wheat in the next few days and a large quantity of flour will be available in the market. He said that the new crop of wheat is being purchased in Punjab for about Rs1,475 per 40kg, whereas in Sindh it is being purchased at Rs1,450.
The crisis will end in the next two to three days when the new wheat reaches the market and flour will be available in bulk.
The leader of the association appealed to the mill owners to sell flour at affordable prices to philanthropists who give ration free of charge to the poor amid the lockdown enforced to curb coronavirus.
Reportedly, Rahim Yar Khan has more than 65 flour mills. The food department has broken records by releasing more than 2.5 million wheat sacks to the mills at the official rate of Rs1,375 between August 19, 2019, and March 29, 2020.
The price of wheat in the market continued to rise to Rs2,000 per maund till the end of the wheat procurement season in 2019.
However, to keep the prices stable in the market, the government provided the wheat to flour mills at the official rate of Rs1,375 which is Rs700 less than the market price, hence the warehouses of food department in Rahim Yar Khan are now empty.
After collecting 2.3 million sacks of wheat from Rahim Yar Khan, flour mills were provided 15,300 sacks from the Bahawalpur food department’s warehouses daily.
After rumours of flour shortage started circulating in the market, the government once again increased the wheat quota by 20 to 25 sacks for the flour mills.
After the increase in quota, 19,500 sacks of wheat are being provided to Rahim Yar Khan's flour mills and the Bahawalpur food department is left with 39,000 sacks of wheat.
After the stock in Bahawalpur ends, the flour mills of the Rahim Yar Khan will be provided wheat from Rajanpur district. The food department in Rajanpur possesses 40,000 sacks of wheat.
Sources revealed that the food department will provide wheat at economical rates to flour mills till April 9. If there is a flour shortage in the market after that, it is likely to persist.
For the first time in Rahim Yar Khan's history, the flour mills obtained such a high quantity of wheat but despite all this, there were problems of flour shortage as well as quality in the market.
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The flour again disappeared from the market on Monday and no officer arrived despite complaints. Citizens could not even find expensive flour at the grocery stores, and at sale points of the food department.
There are reports that large quantities of wheat and flour were smuggled.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that the inquiry reports on the flour crisis would be made public, but this issue appears to have been ignored due to the situation created by the coronavirus.
District Food Controller Abdul Majid has said that wheat from official stocks is released only under government policy. He said that new crops have begun to come into the market and things will get better.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2020.