The Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) has rejected to talk with the Government of Punjab and has announced the shut down of wheat-grinding operations in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan from today for an indefinite period.
PFMA Central Chairman Asim Raza Ahmad, along with PFMA Punjab Chairman Abdur Rauf Mukhtar and others, at the PFMA head office claimed that they had reached the office of the Secretary Food Punjab for negotiations but canceled this meeting after they received information that their flour mills in Multan had been sealed.
Senior Punjab Minister Abdul Aleem Khan had said that ghost flour mills will be closed across Punjab and they will not get official quota of wheat from Food Department. He said that strict action will be taken against those mills which were only getting wheat quota from Government and not working properly.
Speaking at a press conference, PFMA Chairman Asim Raza strongly criticized authorities for seizing wheat and sealing the mills in Punjab, saying authorized private buyers were not being allowed to buy wheat from the open market.
He also claimed that wheat prices in the open market are increasing due to intervention of the provincial food department and all the responsibility of any shortage of flour will rest on the district administration and the government.
He alleged that the flour mill owners are being intimidated by disrupting the working of grinding units and lodging of cases against the owners. He further warned that there will be a shortage of flour and its prices will skyrocket in the coming weeks if the present policies continue.
He said that they are shutting down mills in Punjab, KPK and Balochistan as the wheat-laden vehicles of flour mills were forcibly stopped by the food department and forcibly unloaded at the official procurement centers.
Asim Raza Ahmad said that flour mills were being raided illegally while officials of the food department then publicize this raid as they had won Kashmir. He said that no mill is a ghost mill, every mill has its own building and machinery then how come these be called Ghost mills.
The wheat is currently available at around Rs. 1,600-1,800 per 40 kg in the open market against official price of Rs. 1,400, said PFMA Punjab Zone Chairman Abdul Rauf Mukhtar. He said the government was forcing them to sell flour at comparatively much lower price in the market which was not possible.
The upward trend in flour price was the direct result of increase in wheat prices, he said adding that monopolistic policies of the Food Department had negatively impacted dynamics of wheat trade in the price.
The Chairman held the secretary food and director food as responsible for the situation and said that now they will only hold talks with the Chief Minister and the Senior Food Minister Punjab.