HYDERABAD: As the Sindh government lags in attaining the wheat procurement target of 1.4 million tonnes, the authorities have launched a crackdown against traders and flour mills for allegedly stocking up on the crop. As a result, hundreds of thousands of wheat bags have been recovered from warehouses across the province.
In Ghotki's Daharki taluka, the authorities recovered 365,000 bags of 100 kilogrammes each from several mills on Friday, according to the Daharki assistant commissioner, who led the raids. He claimed that the mills had illegally stocked up on the wheat.
"Early wheat purchase and stockpiling prevented the food department from meeting its target," stated district food controller (DFC) Roshan Ali Panhwar, adding that once the district's wheat procurement target was reached, surplus wheat bags would be returned to the private buyers.
Meanwhile, in Larkana, the government's purchase of wheat had come to a near halt halfway through the procurement process before the raids for privately stocked wheat began on Thursday. Authorities recovered 90,000 bags from mills and warehouses in the raids, which deputy food director Abdul Ghaffar Shaikh valued at around Rs300 million.
Separately, in Kashmore-Kandhkot district, assistant commissioner Irshad Ahmed Khoso revealed that 16,000 bags had been recovered. According to DFC Ashraf Keerio, food department officials in the district had been given the task of procuring 900,000 wheat bags. "We have only achieved around 60 per cent of our procurement target and suddenly there is a shortage of wheat in the market."
In the meantime, 200,000 bags were seized in Saleh Pat taluka of Sukkur district, while Dadu DFC Qareebullah Soomro stated that 56,500 bags had been recovered in Dadu and Mehar talukas. The authorities also seized 28,000 bags in Matiari and 8,000 bags in Mirpurkhas.
Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau in Sukkur has initiated four references in a multi-billion rupee wheat scam, nominating district food controllers among others. Wheat stock of around 168,000 tonnes had gone missing from the provincial government's warehouses in 14 districts over the last few years, according to NAB and the Sindh government.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2020.