Thursday May 30, 2024

KP facing worst-ever flour crisis

By Javed Aziz Khan & Riffatullah
January 09, 2023
A representational image of people carrying flour bags after purchase from a sale point. — AFP/File
A representational image of people carrying flour bags after purchase from a sale point. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is facing the worst-ever flour crisis as a 20-kilogram bag is being sold for Rs 3,100 after the government failed to control the price of the staple.

Anger is growing among the public after tandoors increased the rate of bread. Besides bread, all the bakery items are being sold at high rates.

Tens of thousands spend hours daily to get the subsidized bags that are already short in supply in the market.

People suffer daily after prices of all the food items, medicines and other commodities have increased over the past couple of years while no measures have been taken by the incumbent and previous governments and all the concerned departments to bring them down.

“The government and its departments need to check all the lists who get daily quota from mills. There are reports that the common man suffers because many mills owners are selling most of the subsidized bags to own people through fake quotas who re-sell it at higher prices in the black market,” a dealer said alleged.

The inflation of all the food items is unprecedented and has affected millions of families, especially the lower middle class and the poor ones. The public blames both the federal and provincial governments as well as all the relevant departments for the failure to keep a check on the prices of all food items for the last couple of years.

A number of clashes were reported at flour dealers and tandoors for the last many weeks over the issue of prices.

In one incident in Pishtakhara a few days back, one passerby was killed when two locals clashed with a tandoor owner over the issue of the price of bread and then opened fire on him. Many others were injured during the distribution of subsidized flour.

People face humiliation for hours at the distribution points where subsidized flour is sold. The demand is higher than the number of bags being distributed.

Peshawar Mayor Zubair Ali told The News that there was no real flour crisis but the KP government had created an artificial one to turn the people against the federal government. He said even if the crisis were real then the KP government was responsible for it being a provincial subject.

He said the government should make public purchases so that the people know the real spending on the purchase of flour. “The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had governments both in KP and Punjab and they are responsible for the flour crisis,” added the mayor.

Zubair Ali said that the PTI’s attempt to blame the federal government for the crisis would be exposed soon, saying that if the federal government were to be blamed for the crisis then why was the KP government issuing rates for flour and other commodities? “It should have been left to the federal government”, he said and added that the godowns were full of flour and grains but the KP government was punishing the masses for political point-scoring.

He said the situation in Peshawar would have been different had the KP government not placed the devolved departments under the authority of the deputy commissioners.

Only just a couple of years ago, the 20 KG bag of flour from mills in Punjab was being sold for just over Rs 800. It jumped to 1,000 and continued to increase. In the last, less than one year, the price of a 20 KG bag has increased from Rs 1100 to Rs 3100.

A flour dealer Asad Khan told The News that the country may not face a flour shortage but the real problem had been created by the big dealers and mill owners who were responsible for the uncertainty in the market.

He said that he purchased 70 bags of 20 kilograms for Rs 3000 per bag in the morning but the fluctuation in the market forced the dealer to decline more orders at the same rate. The dealer said he had to pay Rs 3050 for placing more orders on the same day.

He said that it had become a norm for the mafia in the country to create artificial shortages of any commodity, disturb the market and then earn huge profits. The trader said the mills in Punjab have increased the rate of flour and they have no option but to raise the local price.

The dealer alleged that trucks were being forced to pay extra illegal tax while entering KP from Punjab. He alleged that the various departments’ officials in Punjab take up to Rs 30,000 per truck which contributed to the price hike as well.

He added that now the flour supply from Punjab had almost been stopped as they expected more profit due to the daily increase in the prices.

A retail shopkeeper Muhammad Ramzan said that he had purchased a 20-kg bag for Rs 2600 on January 5 but today’s price is Rs 3,100 for customers after making Rs 50 profit per bag profit.

A nanbnai, Muhammad Asif, has his own version. He said that a few days back he had purchased an 80-kg bag for Rs 12600, yesterday’s rate was Rs 14000 while today it cost him Rs 14500.

He added that he had to purchase a 15-kg LPG cylinder for Rs 3500 daily besides paying more than Rs 25000 bill for gas consumption, adding he had no other option but to raise the price of roti, which was now being sold for Rs 30.