PESHAWAR: The price of a 20kg wheat flour bag went up by Rs30 here on Wednesday as the local millers stopped supplies to hundreds of points selling flour in different parts of the provincial capital at subsidised rate.

Flour dealers of the main Rampura Market told Dawn that 20kg bag of mixed quality flour was sold for Rs920-Rs930 in the wholesale level against the previous rate of Rs870-Rs880 and the 20kg fine atta bag at Rs1,000.

The Bara Road wholesalers and retailers were found to have fixed the price at will.

According to the dealers, sales points were set up in different localities to provide flour to people at the controlled price of Rs808 per bag but they’re closed at the moment.

They said wheat supply from Punjab had been suspended to the mills of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leading to the closure of sales points.

Millers insist situation caused by halt to wheat supply from Punjab

The dealers said the flour price had increased in Punjab, where millers continuously demanded increase in wheat quota at the subsidised rate but the government didn’t do so.

They added that the dealers of KP, too, had to purchase wheat at high price.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Flour Mills Association, Khyber Pakht-unkhwa, has warned a halt to the grinding of wheat over the suspension of supplies at subsidised rate from the provincial government.

It also feared a severe flour crisis in the province after Eidul Fitr.

“All of our 180 flour mills are to stop the grinding within a couple of days due to ban on wheat supply from Punjab KP flour mills,” association president Haji Mohammad Iqbal told Dawn.

He demanded the lifting of the ban on wheat supply from Punjab to KP to control flour price hike.

Meanwhile, the millers led by Mohammad Naeem Butt and office-bearers of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry also held a meeting at the chamber’s offices with SCCI president Engineer Maqsood Anwar Pervaiz in the chair.

They demanded of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to intervene and ensure the restoration of wheat supply from Punjab to KP.

The millers said the government of Punjab had imposed an ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘unlawful’ ban on wheat transportation to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that ban was a clear violation of Article 151 of the Constitution.

“Our province is deficient in wheat, so it mostly depends on Punjab to fulfil its needs,” a miller said.

He said wheat supply to local mills from the government’s godowns had come to a halt and that all mills would be closed under the prevailing circumstances as there was no other option to acquire wheat.

The millers said due to the unavailability of wheat on the market, they were unable to continue supplying flour to the markets at the subsidised price, which had led to the fear of flour shortage across the province.

“We had earlier warned the government to take up the wheat ban issue with Sindh, Punjab and federal governments but they paid no attention,” Mr Naeem Butt said.

He added that the entire responsibility rested with the provincial government.

The miller alleged that the current performance of the provincial government, especially food department, in the prevailing circumstances was very disappointing.

Mr Maqsood Pervaiz asked the government to lift the ‘inter-provincial’ ban on wheat supply from Punjab to KP to ensure the timely availability of wheat to local mills and fulfil the requirement of food commodity and avert any flour crisis in the province.

He said the economic and business activities had slowed down due to the prolonged coronavirus-induced lockdown, while the imposition of ban on the transportation of wheat and unavailability of wheat for local mills would lead to the closure of flour industry in the province.

The SCCI chief said the unavailability of wheat for KP flour mills was completely unjust and unbearable and that the ban on wheat transportation should be lifted immediately.

He urged Prime Minister Imran Khan, federal food minister and secretary and other authorities to take an immediate notice of the ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘unlawful’ inter-provincial restrictions on wheat supply and ensure the smooth availability of wheat of KP flour mills.

When contacted, food secretary Nisar Ahmad said the province had a stock of over 35,000 metric tons of wheat in its godowns but that was meant for emergency situation only.

“We regularly provide wheat quota to local mills but now Punjab has stopped supplies due to own requirements, so millers have to arrange wheat privately by themselves,” he said.

The official said the province’s mills had to depend 80 per cent on wheat from Punjab.

“KP markets have flour in sufficient quantity but wheat supply has been stopped by Punjab due to local procurement process,” he said.

The secretary said wheat harvesting had begun in KP, so millers should acquire it to operate mills until the regular supply was made from official godowns.

He said the relevant authorities were well aware of the situation.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2020

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