ISLAMABAD: Repeatedly asking the Sindh government to release wheat from the official stock with a view to stabilising wheat flour price in the market to benefit the common man in the province, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said on Monday that the provincial government’s continuous refusal was creating problems for the federal government.
“We fail to understand as to why the Sindh government is trying to create wheat crisis in the country despite the fact that wheat production during the last Rabi season exceeded the target,” Mr Imam told a news conference here along with Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting at the PM House to discuss the wheat situation in the country.
“If the Sindh government releases wheat stock as soon as possible, the price of wheat flour in the market will decline. The federal government has written two letters to the provincial government to release wheat from its stock. In Sindh, the public sector has procured 1.25 million tonnes of wheat this year, whereas it did not procure a single grain last year,” Mr Imam said.
Minister blames province for crisis; ships carrying imported wheat to reach Karachi by Aug 25
He said the federal government had no role in demand and supply of the commodity, explaining that the price of wheat flour had increased only due to the reason that the Sindh government was not releasing its share of wheat.
The minister said all the provinces should cooperate with each other while the federal government would facilitate smooth supply of wheat across the country to ensure food security. Punjab has already started releasing wheat due to which the price of wheat flour in the province is stable. The Sindh government should also take measures in this regard, he added.
He rejected a perception that the government intended to increase the price of wheat and said there was no truth in it. Prices of wheat and wheat flour would stabilise in the market when the Sindh government would release its share of wheat, he added.
Mr Imam said hoarding and smuggling were the methods for creating scarcity of products and this signaled the existence of cartelisation and hoarding in the country. “It is the responsibility of the provinces to identify these cartels and take action to eliminate these hoarders and cartels,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, National Food Security and Research Secretary Omer Hamid Khan said that ships carrying imported wheat would reach Karachi by Aug 25. One million tonnes of wheat is being imported on a government-to-government deal basis. The Trading Corporation of Pakistan is importing around 2m tonnes of wheat which will cost Rs1,780 per 40kg, he added.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz criticised the performance of the Sindh government and said it had done nothing for the people of the province. “They are just playing politics. The handling of situation in Karachi following torrential rains in the city is an evident of the government’s performance. The situation in rural Sindh is deplorable where malnutrition among population is increasing,” he added.
Responding to a question, Mr Faraz said the Sindh government was not honouring its mandate. He advised the provincial government to improve its performance before governor’s rule is discussed.
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020