Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema Wednesday said that there is no shortage of wheat in the country and the strategic reserves are satisfactory.
Addressing a presser in Islamabad, the minister said that he will propose to the Prime Minister to provide wheat to the flour mills in Islamabad through Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (PASSCO).
The minister highlighted that the daily requirement of the forty flour mills in Islamabad is 38,000 bags of 20kg. Punjab government is not providing enough to these flour mills and resultantly there is a shortage of 17,000 bags per day, he added. He said that since the millers are buying from the open market to meet the shortfall, the price of wheat flour is rising.
He reminded that Punjab failed to meet its wheat procurement target for the year and approached the federal government to meet the shortfall. He stressed that the Punjab government should provide mills in Islamabad with the required amount.
Cheema said that there are 38 points in Islamabad where the government is providing wheat flour at a low price to provide relief to the public.
While talking about the delay in the announcement of the support price of wheat by the federal government, he said that the Sindh government has set the wheat support price at Rs 4,000 per 40kg, which is very high. He hoped that the issue will be settled soon in a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
He said that after the 18th Amendment, prices of essential items are controlled by the provincial governments. He stressed that provincial governments should take responsibility and take measures to ensure the food security of essential items and control prices.
The minister said that wheat flour mills are grinding less than their capacity across the country, which is resulting in artificially high prices. He stressed that the provincial governments should take action against them.
The minister said that there is no shortage of wheat in any province. “Provinces have sufficient stocks, but they are not releasing it,” he added. He said the government has imported wheat to provide to provinces and their demand will be met if they approach the federal government.
Cheema said that the import bill of oil seed import is expected to be $6 billion this year. He said the provinces should promote oil seed cultivation to reduce the burden on the exchequer.