Punjab govt penalises millers, food officials amid looming flour crisis

Updated January 18, 2020

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Fearing a public backlash after mills and chakki owners raise prices of flour, the Punjab Food Department has sprung into action against flour millers and warned the chakki operators against ‘unapproved increase of Rs6 per kg in the wheat flour.’  — APP/File
Fearing a public backlash after mills and chakki owners raise prices of flour, the Punjab Food Department has sprung into action against flour millers and warned the chakki operators against ‘unapproved increase of Rs6 per kg in the wheat flour.’ — APP/File

LAHORE: Fearing a public backlash after mills and chakki owners raise prices of flour, the Punjab Food Department has sprung into action against flour millers and warned the chakki operators against ‘unapproved increase of Rs6 per kg in the wheat flour.’

On the other hand, tandoor owners have set a seven-day deadline for the government to control the flour price otherwise they will increase the rates of roti and naan.

The food department suspended licences of 15 mills and withheld wheat quota of 180 others following reports that these were either selling in the open market the subsidised grain consignments received from the government or simply smuggling the supplies out of the province.

An emergency meeting presided over by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took stock of the demand and supply position of flour in the province. Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry joined in through the video link.

The officials decided to take immediate administrative measures to restore the officially notified rate of flour and mobilised the food department and police apparatus to monitor misuse of the subsidised wheat supplies.

Tandoor owners warn of increase in roti, naan prices

The food department claims that following the instructions it has acted against 376 flour mills imposing Rs90.6 million fine and suspended licences of 15 mills and wheat quota of 180 others.

The food controllers Rohail Butt of Gujranwala, Sialkot’s Nasrullah Khan, Vehari’s Sagheer Ahmed and Faisalabad Deputy Director Kamran Bashir have been either suspended or removed from their offices for showing negligence in performing their duties and for being involved in irregularities in the wheat supplies.

The meeting decided to set up check-posts on the roads leading out of the province to curb hauling of the wheat supplied to Punjab mills on subsidised rates as well as containing smuggling of flour to Afghanistan creating shortage of the commodity in the local market.

The government has also instructed setting up 126 sale points in various districts of the province where flour will be sold at ex-mill rates for stabilising prices of the commodity.

At least 21 sale points are being set up in Lahore division, 55 in Rawalpindi, nine in Gujranwala, 17 in Bahawalpur division and 24 sale points in Sialkot district.

A monitoring cell has also been formed in the food department for monitoring of supply and demand of wheat and flour. Seeking daily report on the situation, he directed that the mills involved in selling government-supplied wheat in the open market must be sealed.

The chief minister warned the chakki owners against increasing the prices of flour otherwise action would be initiated against them.

Meanwhile, tandoor owners in the provincial metropolis have threatened increasing the prices of roti from Rs6 to 10 and of naan from Rs10 to Rs15. Naan-Roti Association president Aftab Aslam Gill has given a seven-day ultimatum to the government to control the wheat products’ prices otherwise they will be forced to shift the flour price hike onto their customers.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020