ISLAMABAD, Oct 17: The federal government has shown its concern over rising wheat prices despite the fact that the country has enough wheat stocks to meet demand in the current year.
However, the government expressed concern about the supply and demand situation and availability of this basic food commodity to masses, the Ministry of National Food Security and Agricultural said in a research report.
In view of the sound supply situation, the government has allowed the private sector to export wheat and its products. Taking advantage of rising prices of wheat in the international market, traders exported wheat and its products from the open market in the recent months.
The ministry says that after maintaining strategic reserve of one million tons, the country is left with 1.80 million tons of wheat in surplus.
The provincial governments have started releasing wheat to the flour mills since last month to help stabilise the domestic market. The release price was being regularly monitored by the provincial food departments and is adjusted in line with the emerging domestic and world situation to ensure ample supply of the staple food grain to ensure food security in the country.
The releases of wheat stock by provincial food departments have been slow this year since some stock was available with the private sector. This will further help improving the supply position of wheat, the ministry says.
This year, wheat stocks held by public sector has been 9.30 million tons including current procurement of 5.79 million tons and last year’s carry-over stocks of 3.51 million tons. The public sector, on average, releases annually 6.5 million tons to flour mills and other stakeholders.
Our Staff Reporter from Karachi adds: Flour mills in Sindh are likely to go on strike from Friday to protest against the low supply of wheat as well as its inferior quality by the Sindh Food Department.
Officer bearers of Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Sindh Zone are holding a press conference here on Thursday to announce their strike plan.
Flour mills are also not happy over increase in issue price by the Sindh government of Rs2,850 per 100 kg bag as compared to Punjab’s Rs2,800.
Meanwhile, sources said that a number of flour millers are insisting the Association members to refrain from going on strike and try to resolve the issues by holding talks with the government.
But many millers said that after receiving lukewarm response from the government they were compelled to lodge their protest by going on strike.
Sources said that many mills being the member of the association may open their mills despite announcing the strike.
A flour miller on condition of anonymity told Dawn on Wednesday that he had talked to some senior Sindh government and Food Department officials who had assured that efforts are being made for bringing uniformity in the issue price at par with Punjab after getting approval from the Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah.
Over 70 flour mills in Karachi grind at least 150,000 tons of wheat every month to produce various flour varieties to cater the need of 20 million population of the city. Some 10 new mills had arrived in the last two to three years and equally same number of mills is also coming up thus making around 90 mills in Karachi alone by end of next year.
Before going on strike, the flour millers had been frequently raising the prices of wheat flour linking it to rising prices of wheat in the open market.
The flour mills have also stopped lifting wheat from Food Department from October 15. During the press briefing the Association will also present a white paper regarding corruption in the provincial food department during the last four years.