Flour prices drop, Iranian tomatoes reach Taftan

Updated 16 Nov 2019


ISLAMABAD: A vendor sells tomatoes at a Bachat Bazaar on Friday. The vegetable scaled an all-time high above Rs300 per kg in some cities in recent days.—APP
ISLAMABAD: A vendor sells tomatoes at a Bachat Bazaar on Friday. The vegetable scaled an all-time high above Rs300 per kg in some cities in recent days.—APP

KARACHI: After increasing prices of various flour varieties by Rs15-20 per kg from April till Nov 12, millers are reducing rates of flour no.2.5 to Rs47.50, down a rupee from Rs48.50 per kg.

Prices of 10 kg bag for the same variety have been lowered to Rs480 from Rs490.

Meanwhile, the government has issued import permit for 4,500 tonnes of Iranian tomatoes. Some shipments have already reached the Taftan border which means that the vegetable is likely to reach markets by Sunday.

The reduced pricing and improved availability of these two edibles is likely to provide some relief to inflation-hit consumers.

No rate change for maida

Surprisingly, millers had kept fine flour and maida (super fine flour) rates unchanged at Rs54.50 per kg.

The government’s decision to release wheat stocks from Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to Sindh government coupled with decline in wheat prices in open market to Rs4,400-4,500 from Rs4,700-4,800 per 100 kg bag are the main reasons of price decline. In April, 100 kg wheat bag was available at Rs3,000.

The federal government would provide 400,000 tonnes to the Sindh government. The provincial government was under fire from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research for not procuring wheat from growers for the first time in country’s history.

Rates of two essential edibles set to go down

The federal government, however, woke up very late when the millers had already raised price of flour No.2.5 by Rs15 per kg, followed by a hike in maida and fine flour rates by Rs18 per kg and the 10kg bag by Rs150 from April till Nov 12, 2019.

“We may further cut prices by Rs1-2 per kg next week when mills start getting wheat for grinding after completing official paperwork,” Chairman Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), Sindh Zone, Khalid Masood assured.

Karachi needs 200,000-250,000 tonnes of wheat per month out of 350,000 tonnes total monthly requirement of Sindh.

When questioned why the Sindh government did not procure wheat from growers, he said that he was unable to understand the logic of the government which was claiming that it has 800,000 tonnes carryover stocks of last crop. Masood claimed that the Sindh government’s claim of higher wheat stocks only existed in official papers.

On November 11, Sindh Minister for Food Hari Raam Kishori Lal said that Passco had started supply of 100,000 tonnes of wheat to the provincial food department through their Khairpur and Noshehro Feroz facilities.

The food department had decided to issue prepaid challan to facilitate flour millers who, after purchasing these challans, could lift wheat quota directly from Passco.

He said sufficient stock of wheat is available with the Sindh Food Department, while 100,000 tonnes of wheat has been procured from Passco and supply of same started from Monday. An additional 300,000 tonnes had been approved by federal government on the request of Sindh government.

He claimed the food department had started supply of wheat to flour mills in October on subsidised price and 41,000 tonnes of wheat was released to flour mills/atta chakkis on Oct 25, whereas a record 150,000 tonnes are being released to flour mills in the current month (November).

The minister said that there was no reason for increase in atta prices in Sindh when wheat had been released on subsidised rates to flour mills.

Millers continued to lift wheat from the open market from April where the Sindh grain was also finding way to Punjab despite repeated request from flour millers to curb shipments to the big province.

The government later acted on the request. In contrast, Punjab government had imposed ban on wheat and flour movement to other provinces. Mill owners few days back had informed the Sindh government about illegal smuggling of wheat from Jacobabad to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Afghanistan.

All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers, and Merchants Association Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed said the government has issued import permit of 4,500 tonnes of Iranian tomato and some quantities have already reached Taftan border.

Imported tomato may find way into the Balochistan market by Saturday or Sunday which would then reach to other markets like Karachi, he added.

The price of tomato, which had touched up to Rs320 per kg in Karachi, now hovers between Rs240-250 per kg. “I am sure the price will decline after arrival of Iranian tomatoes in the markets,” he said adding that the government reacted very quickly on the request of the association for allowing imports.

When asked that previous imports of tomato from Iran could not provide any relief to the consumers, he said a limited quantity had arrived but it was also not clear whether it was legal or illegal imports.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019