Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan says that a mafia is creating an artificial shortage of wheat and flour by purchasing the commodities from local markets to whiten their black money.
She revealed that 368 sales points and 181 truck points have been set up to ensure a smooth supply of flour to people. Furthermore, indiscriminate action is being taken against elements of hoarding flour. She said that more than 25,000 tonnes of wheat is being provided to 814 flour mills in Punjab on a daily basis.
Dr. Firdous said the government is successfully breaking the mafia’s network to get rid of people creating an artificial flour crisis.
She said the government is taking stern legal action against stockists, hoarders, and profiteers.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed the government to ensure the early provision of 400,000 tonnes of wheat to Sindh, out of which Sindh has received 100,000-tons.
The federal government is responsible for fulfilling the basic food needs of the people. She says the Sindh government showed negligence in purchasing wheat on time and failed to the manage demand and supply gap in the province.
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet is likely to take up the matter of wheat import today.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Hafeez Shaikh will chair the meeting to discuss matters pertaining to six different ministries. The measure is being taken to save the consumers from blackmail and profiteers if the strategic reserves of wheat are depleted.
Measures to Stabilize Wheat Supply
Minister for National Food Security and Research Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar said that sufficient wheat stock is available in the country to fulfill the domestic requirements and that the government will take strict action against those to involve in hoarding, profiteering or creating an artificial crisis in domestic markets.
He said the current shortage of wheat emerged due to multiple reasons including transporter strike in Karachi which had effected the supply in Sindh and a ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to curb its smuggling.
Both causes were distorting the demand and supply in local markets and were dually addressed.
He said that wheat supply for Karachi was enhanced to 10,000 metric tons from 9,000 metric tons and wheat laden trucks of National Logistic Cell have already left, adding that the federal government has assured the provincial government to provide 50,000 tons of wheat.
He said supply in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and supply to the province was increased from 4,000 metric tons per day to 5,000 tons. Besides, the private sector is also supplying 4,000 tons in provincial markets, he said, adding that the supply for KPK will be enhanced by 10,000 metric tons.
He said the government has fixed the price of wheat at Rs. 1,365 per 40 kg bag and has set the purchase target of 2.7 million tons of wheat next year. He stated that Sindh is witnessing a shortage of flour due to its own policies and failure in timely procuring the consignment.
The minister claimed that “effective” steps are being taken to stop the smuggling flour from the country as attempts to smuggle 40,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan from the Chaman border have been foiled.
Khusro Bakhtiar said that a special helpline is also established to monitor the wheat supply in local markets and wheat procurement targets were also enhanced from six million tons to eight million tons to keep the strategic reserves for local requirements.
The administration and food department has established check posts at all the routes leading to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to stop the inter-provincial smuggling of wheat.
However, Sindh Minister for Information, Archives and Labour, Saeed Ghani said that the whole country is facing a wheat crisis owing to the incompetence and disability of the federal government.
Sindh Minister for Information made it clear that the province faced a wheat crisis because of the transporters’ strike. He said that as the transporters were on strike for the last few days, the wheat stored in the warehouses of the Punjab and Balochistan could not be transported.