KARACHI: Flour millers’ strike entered its fourth day on Friday, but Sindh Food Minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar claimed that out of total 85 mills in the city, more than 30 were still running.
“Some main leaders of the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), Sindh zone, are also operating their units at night,” the minister told Dawn, adding, “I won’t let any flour shortage or crisis in Karachi at any cost.” The minister also hinted at restriction on flour movement to Balochistan mainly. In this regard, he said he has already moved a summary to Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah for approval.
He blamed the flour millers for illegal movement of wheat to Balochistan due to which Sindh government had to impose Section 144 to curb this illegal shipment. Around 80 to 90 trucks carrying wheat had been finding way to Balochistan daily in night through Hub and Manghopir routes, he said. “I have already suspended four officials involved in this crime.”
Mr Dahar said the food department had procured over 550,000 tonnes of wheat from growers out of 1.3 million tonnes target. By this time last year, the food department had lifted only 292,000 tonnes.
Meanwhile, according to a random market survey, a number of trucks were seen unloading flour in many markets giving a clear signal that either the flour was arriving from mills located in interior Sindh (who are not on strike) or some mills were operating in Karachi.
Sources said that bread makers (nan, kulcha and sheermal) have so far been operational. A bread maker in FB Area, however, said he got the delivery of only 20 flour bags of 50kg each against the order of 100 bags at a price of Rs2,085 compared to Rs2,055 per 50kg bag prior to the strike.
“I receive flour bags through some agents instead of directly from the flour mills. Some flour is being delivered after midnight,” he said.
Karachi Wholesaler Grocers Association (KWGA) chairman Anis Majeed said the wholesale market started witnessing arrival of flour from Thursday night which means that some 20 to 25 flour mills in Karachi were grinding wheat to prepare flour.
On the contrary, PFMA (Sindh) chairman Chaudhry Mohammad Yousuf rejected the food minister’s stance about operations of over 30 mills, saying: “Only three to four mills, which are not members of the PFMA, are operating.”
He said that arrival of flour from interior Sindh flour mills is not a new phenomenon but this arrival just meets only three per cent of city’s demand of flour. He said that over 80 mills in Karachi grind 2m to 2.1m 100kg wheat bags every month.