HYDERABAD, Feb 16: Wheat flour is being sold here at Rs41 and Rs42 per kilo in the open market against the government fixed chakki flour rate of Rs36 and mill flour rate of Rs34.5 per kilo in retail.

Proper checks are not being carried out to restrain the retailers from fleecing the consumers. In almost all localities of Hyderabad retailers have been overcharging consumers for chakki flour.

Syed Babar Zaidi, a resident of Unit 9, said he had been buying a 10kg bag of chakki flour at Rs420 since January which was earlier available at Rs360 in retail.

District food controller of the Sindh food department Masood Siddiqui admitted that there was a possibility of price hike in retail, but he did not have price magisterial powers to control retail prices. He said that was the responsibility of the district government which retained price magisterial powers, and could fine or imprison shopkeepers for overcharging.

He said he paid surprise visits to atta chakkis (small flour mills) to check prices. He said he suspended the allocated quota of 11 chakkis found overcharging and not maintaining record of flour since Feb 11. He reiterated that he had the power to suspend an allocated quota or a food grain licence for any violation, including overpricing, substandard quality of flour etc. He said there was a reduction in prices at chakki and flour mills after Feb 10, when coordinator to the Sindh food minister Shahnawaz Magsi announced an increase of quota to 55,000 100kg wheat bags per month to chakkis from 27,000 bags after a meeting.

He said there was no shortage of wheat and wheat flour in Hyderabad as chakkis and mills were obtaining 55,000 100kg wheat bags and 90,000 bags, respectively, per month.

There was ample wheat flour in the market and there was no justification for price hike in the open market, he said.

He stressed that the district government must play its role in curbing overcharging.

Hyderabad deputy commissioner Agha Shahnawaz Babar said he had directed his subordinates to control prices in the open market and warnings had been issued to retailers in Qasimabad and Latifabad and in some cases they had been fined for overcharging.

He said he had asked food department officials to give details of all chakkis and their grinding capacities.

He said some chakkis had been closed, but they obtained the quota and sold it in the open market at higher rates.

Atta Chakki Owners Social Welfare Association Hyderabad president Mohammad Jawaid Qureshi deplored that coordinator to the food minister Shahnawaz Magsi had assured the association at a meeting on Feb 10 that he would arrange a meeting in Karachi between its office-bearers and food minister Nadir Magsi and their grievances would be addressed. He said no officials of the food department had since contacted the association.

He said he feared that there could be a shortage of wheat flour beginning next week as atta chakkis had lifted only 15,000 bags out of its quota of 55,000 bags from the food department. He said the chakkis demanded 150,000 bags per month.

He said there were 236 chakkis and seven roller mills. Only 55,000 bags of wheat quota had been allocated for Hyderabad under the ‘stone policy’, he said, adding that under the ‘liberal policy’, over 100,000 bags of wheat monthly had been supplied to Hyderabad till Dec 31. The stone policy was launched on Jan 1 by the Sindh food department and an artificial shortage of wheat flour was created by reducing the quota to 27,000 100kg wheat bags from the over 100,000 bags per month.

He said the chakkis went on a two-day shutter-down strike from Feb 7 to 8 and refused to lift the reduced quota. Later, the coordinator to the minister enhanced the quota to 55,000 bags per month.

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