LAHORE: Flour shortage has been growing in country despite availability of 4.5 million metric tones wheat stocks while weak governance, corruption and mistrust among the governments are the major cause behind it.
These views were expressed by the discussants in Jang Economic Session on ‘Flour Shortage - Public Worries’, here Wednesday. The panellists were Chairman Economics Department Punjab University Prof Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman, Flour Miller Khalique Arshad, NGO official Aima Mehmood, FAP convener on Wheat Committee Mirza Rasheed Baig, and President Lahore Flour Dealers Association Mian Muhammad Yousaf while hosted by Sikandar Hameed Lodhi and Intikhab Tariq.
Dr Hafeez-ur-Rehman said government failed to evolve effective policies and strategies while lack of coordination among government institutions also witnessed. He said free hand was given to profiteers due to reconciliatory policies of the government. He said flour was staple food but government failed to ensure its availability at control rates. He said benefits of increase in wheat production did not pass on to the consumers.
Khalique Arshad said increase in flour prices had added to the poor woes. He said government should provide agriculture inputs to the farmers at subsidised rates to control the prices of flour. He said Sindh government was not releasing available wheat stock timely into the market due to bad governance due to which burden was coming on Punjab wheat stocks. He said flour mills were also facing fortnightly increase in fuel rates due to which their problems worsened. Aima Mehmood said politicians gathered to protect democracy but never united to control inflation and ensure availability of basic edibles. She said 50 percent population of Pakistan was living below poverty line due to inflation. She said government instructed the PASSCO to supply one million tones wheat to provinces but no action was taken by it.
Mirza Rasheed Baig said the Punjab government was supplying 26,000 metric tones wheat daily to flour mills, so flour shortage should not exist. He said wheat sowing reduced due to increase in production cost. He said farmers also faced numerous problems to sell wheat to the government while middlemen were promoted.
Mian Muhammad Yousaf said that flour dealers were not responsible for hike in flour prices. He said dealers and sub-dealers earned only Rs 10 per flour bag profit. He said flour price would further increase with increase in minimum purchase price of wheat as new support price of wheat was announced at Rs 1,150 per maund (40kg) which will aggravate the poor people problems.