ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Food Security Mehboob Sultan has blamed the Sindh government for the surging prices of wheat and flour in the province.
Addressing a news conference on Thursday, the minister said for the first time in history the Sindh government did not procure even a single grain during the last procurement season.
The Sindh government officials had informed the federal ministry that 1.6 million tonnes of wheat would be purchased but failed to carry out procurement during the last wheat crop.
Punjab and Sindh are the two provinces which grow wheat during rabi season.
Only Sindh government can provide the answer as to why it did not procure last wheat crop, the minister said. In fact, non-procurement of wheat by the Sindh government resulted in wheat and flour prices to surge in the province, the minister added.
The Sindh chief secretary and the food secretary had requested the federal government for supply of 400,000 tonnes of wheat for the first time in history which according to them would be sufficient for the province.
The federal government immediately approved the release of wheat from the stocks of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco). These stocks will be released from Passco godown in Khairpur.
Mr Sultan and federal secretary will be visiting Khairpur on Friday to oversee the release of wheat to Sindh government.
The federal government will bear incidental costs worth Rs1.6 billion for the supply of wheat. As per the formula of bearing 50 per cent cost of incidental expenses, the federal government will spend Rs1.9bn on supply 450,000 tonnes of wheat to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Rs211m on supplying 50,000 tonnes of wheat to Balochistan, the federal minister explained.
Statistics referred to by the minister show that a 20kg bag of wheat flour costs Rs810 on an average in major cities of Punjab, Rs1,113 in Sindh, Rs981 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Rs970 in Balochistan.
The federal government has asked Passco to release 200,000 tonnes of wheat to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) to sell wheat flour at controlled price. In addition, the USC has also been asked to supply wheat, sugar, ghee, pulses and rice at controlled price to consumers throughout the country.
‘Tomato crisis to end soon’
The minister was confident that the tomato crisis would come to an end within weeks when fresh crop from Sindh hits the markets. This year, Sindh has a bumper tomato crop, he said.
To ease the situation, the government has allowed import of tomato from Iran for a limited period and it is expected that prices will settle down during next few days, he said.
About the tomato crisis, he said it is usual that a period of gap in production comes during the year when prices of certain commodities shoot up. Unfortunately due to unfavourable weather conditions, there was a loss of wheat crop during last season, he recalled.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019