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May 20, 2019

Govt says wheat flour supply to be ensured at all cost

Lahore

May 20, 2019

LAHORE: Terming the complaints of flour mills owners about restrictions on wheat buying a mere propaganda, Punjab Food Department vowed on Sunday to ensure availability of flour in market at all costs.

Wheat is abundantly available in the market as well as in the government warehouses. There is no dearth of grain at a time when wheat is pouring in from every nook and corner of the province. If a group of flour millers wants to stop flour supply to market, it will essentially not affect supply chain as much. “We have arrangements in place to ensure wheat flour supply to market at all costs, said Punjab Food Secretary Naseem Sadiq.

How flour mills have been able to purchase 1.4 million tonnes of wheat so far in the province if curbs are in place in the market, he said. There is a flour mills in the Kasur district where 60,000 gunny bags of wheat have been stored. This massive volume of grains is more than the grinding capacity of the mill. No one seized this huge quantity of wheat, he said and added millers were stakeholders of wheat business and were playing their role accordingly.

On the other hand, Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) on Sunday said that their relations with the Food Department had become bitter due to confiscation of wheat purchased by flour mills. Habib Leghari, PFMA chairman, said that flour mills were left with no option but to stop supply of flour to market in protest if their demands were not met. “We have written a letter to the Punjab chief minister as well, informing him about the gravity of situation,” he said.

However, provincial government still considers that allegations of flour millers are baseless. Talking about the complaints of PFMA that feed mills have been given permission to buy wheat, Naseem Sadiq emphatically said no feed mills were allowed to buy wheat in the province. Even federal government recommended granting feed mills permission of purchasing wheat but how can we give preference to feed mills over human needs, he said.

Referring to scarcity of grain, the food secretary said, “We have carryover stock of 1.5 million tonnes while we have procured more than 2.4 million tonnes wheat so far. The annual requirement of wheat in the province is not more than 2.6 million tonnes so we have ample reserves already available with us to meet our demand.”

With clear intent, he maintained, “We tried our best to support growers while intervening in the market and that is why price of wheat has been over Rs 1,200 since start of the procurement.” “Farmers are being given due reward of their produce and we have strictly stopped exercise of claiming extra wheat from growers on account of moisture and margin of errors. Staff members of Food Department deputed at two different centres have been punished on the spot on account of excessively usurping wheat from the farmers,” he said.

Such farmer-friendly measures have yielded positive results and that is why growers are still preferring to sell their produce to Food Department, he said, adding “I am in the field and myself monitoring wheat procurement and flow of wheat in the open market. I was in Pakpattan where I witnessed wheat buying without any prior intimation to the quarters concerned. Later, I came back and attended departmental meeting and again returned to the field,” he said.

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