Punjab Food Department may have released stocked wheat damaged by the recent flood and rains to flour mills.
It is feared that the mills grinded the wheat and sold unhealthy flour to citizens.
Provincial Food Director Shozeb Saeed, while talking to The Express Tribune that a whole region had been inundated.
He said that among the 17 procurement centres in Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan,
402,920 metric tonnes of wheat was stored at Shadan Lund and Fazilpur, of which 7,500 tonnes had been damaged by the flood.
However, no action has reportedly been taken against district food controllers and other officials over not transferring the wheat worth billions of rupees to a safe place.
Meanwhile, tandoor owners have been complaining of poor quality of wheat sold to them at subsidised rates in the designated green bags.
It is feared that besides the destruction of crops in the affected parts of the province, wheat stored in government warehouses was also damaged due to the flood and rains. The release of wheat to the mills continued without an audit of the damaged wheat. Some mills received wheat affected by dampness during the period.
Food department sources said about 150,000 sacks full of wheat lying at the Fazilpur procurement centre and 260,000 at Shadan Lund may have been damage
In order to assess the loss of wheat stored in the areas, the provincial food directorate issued a letter instructing the deputy directors of the department in the Bahawalpur, Multan and Sahiwal divisions
to form a team of divisional heads to inspect the rain and flood-affected government warehouses in the DG Khan division.
However, no steps were taken to transfer the wheat and the damaged commodity was allegedly supplied to flour mills in Okara.
Flour made from the wheat was also supplied to the markets on a large scale.
There are the strict rules regarding wheat storage, safety measures and steps to taken in case of an emergency.
However, a large quantity of wheat was reportedly kept in the open despite flood warnings after the rains. A strategy to save the stocks from the flood was also not enforced by the higher authorities, the sources said.
According to health experts, wheat affected by inundation, besides being harmful for humans, also created hazardous effects in the milk of animals that eat it.
The tandoor owners and citizens have been complaining in recent weeks about shortage and poor quality of the subsidised flour available in the markets.
Punjab Muttahida Naan Bai Association president Aftab Aslam complained that the subsidised flour supplied in green bags by the mills was not good even for animal consumption.
It was being produced from wheat affected by the flood and rains, while the amount of bran in it was also high, he added.
He said refined flour had to be added to the supplied variety to make the bread eatable.
Flour Dealers' Association president Haji Yusuf also said that some mills were supplying defective flour in the market.
"They do not waste the contaminated wheat, but mix it with the clean grain and grind it, resulting in substandard and unhealthy flour," he alleged.
The provincial food director said the wheat stored at the Shadan Lund centre had been tested by a laboratory and found detrimental to human health. It is being auctioned for disposal, he added.
A wheat sample from the Fazilpur centre was also being tested, he said.
The official insisted that comprehensive safety measures were in place at the storage centres.
"We have requested the Punjab food secretary to inquire into the delay in transportation of the wheat and its wastage," he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2022.
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