LAHORE: Wheat flour crisis may hit the market in a week because of the raids district administrations in the province are conducting on the shops selling the commodity at higher rates.

Flour millers claim that shopkeepers have begun refusing to accept new supplies after raids by administrations in various districts in the name of price control.

Leaders of Punjab chapter of the Pakistan Flour Mills Association Liaqat Ali Khan and Asim Raza say flour supply to the market will last only for a couple of days as most of the units could not procure wheat during the season and those having the stocks will consume in the ongoing week.

They say that the government wants to maintain flour prices at a rate when wheat was available at Rs1,300 per 40kg.

Wheat price in the open market has now crossed Rs1,400 per 40kg and the millers have no option but to pass the raise on to the consumers, they say, adding the government is adamant on forcing them and shopkeepers to maintain the flour rates.

Explaining the factors behind the wheat price hike, they say for the first time the government allowed poultry feed mills to purchase wheat from the market during the season, while flour mills were kept out of the race for the most part of the procurement drive and a major portion of whatever quantity of the commodity they could pick was again unloaded at official godowns as the government was failing to meet its procurement target, they allege.

According to them, the food department is also not announcing the issue price of wheat (the rate at which the government will supply the grain to millers later in the year) as the step can control the rising prices of the commodity in the open market.

They say the government fears that the issue price, if set at the prevailing market rate, will provide the millers legal reasons for increasing rates of their value-added wheat products.

The millers say flour price can be maintained only if food authorities begin supplying them wheat at Rs1,300 per kg, including the bag charges.

Meanwhile, Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry says the government will soon start checking stock of the flour mills and won’t allow anyone to create ‘artificial’ shortage of the commodity.

He says, “The government knows how to establish its writ.”

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019