‘Artificial’ flour crisis will end in few days: Bakhtiar

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ISLAMABAD
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar claimed that wheat flour prices will start reducing across the country in a couple of days as sufficient stocks were available to fulfil the domestic requirements of flour.
Addressing a press conference, Bakhtiar expressed a firm resolve to take strict action against those involved in hoarding, profiteering or creating an artificial crisis in domestic markets.
He said the current crisis emerged due to multiple reasons that included the transporters’ strike in Karachi — which affected the supply in Sindh’s local markets — and a ban on the commodity’s interprovincial movement between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to curb smuggling. Both causes were dually addressed and supply of grains was restored, the minister said, adding that the demand-supply gap had been bridged, the situation would be smooth in the local markets, and the wheat prices would also come down in a couple of days.
Bakhtiar informed that the wheat supply for Karachi was bumped up from 9,000 to 10,000 metric tons and the National Logistic Cell’s (NLC) trucks full of wheat had already been dispatched.
The federal government had assured its provincial counterparts to provide another 50,000 tonness of wheat from the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation’s (PASSCO) go-downs should the need arise, he said. He also added that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s supply — which was disturbed due to the inter-provincial checks — had also been realigned and supply to the province was raised from 4,000 metric tonnes a day to 5,000 tonnes. Further, the private sector was also supplying 4,000 tonnes in the provincial markets, he added, noting that the KP supply was to be improved by 10,000 metric tons from Monday. So far, KP had withdrawn 250,000 of the 450,000 metric tonnes of wheat, he said, and that another 100,000 metric tonnes were to be provided after the Economic Coordination Committee’s (ECC) approval expected during the Monday meeting. The minister said Punjab’s flour mills were provided 390 metric tonnes of wheat, with the total demand from Lahore and adjoining areas recorded at 180,000 bags of 20 kilos per day.
Of the total requirements, the food department was supplying 140,000 bags, whereas 35,000 bags were provided by the private sector.
The remaining 5,000-bag need was fulfilled from the local wheat-grinders, Bakhtiar said, adding that only five to six percent of the total consumption was fulfilled from local grinders. The government was setting up a mechanism to regulate these to ensure smooth pricing.
He mentioned that about 40,000 metric tonnes of wheat were smuggled to Afghanistan every month and special measures were taken to keep this in check to ensure uninterrupted supply in local markets.
Bakhtiar noted that a special helpline was established to monitor wheat supply in local markets and wheat procurement targets were also enhanced from six million to eight million tonnes to keep the strategic reserves.
In response to a question, he said the incumbent government had attached high priorities to the agriculture sector and initiated development projects worth Rs300 billion to enhance the output of major crops, including wheat.

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