LAHORE: Wheat flour has become scarce in some areas of the city though the government continues to release subsidised grains to flour mills to prevent a crisis.

“I’ve been running from pillar to post for the last two days to purchase flour for my tandoor, but to no avail. I’ve been left with only fine flour used for making naan and my customers for roti are returning home empty-handed,” says Rehmat, who runs a tandoor in a downtown locality.

Rehmat says he went to Akbari Mandi in search of the commodity, but could not get hold of even a single bag.

Flour millers have cut their supplies by half, claims Ishtiaq, the owner of a nearby provisional store. “Against my demand for 60 bags of 20-kilogramme each, I have been supplied only 30 bags. And these too were booked in advance and now I don’t have the supplies to sell even a couple of kilogrammes as loose product to small customers.”

The province has been facing a shortage of flour since harvesting of the new crop in May. The government has been in a state of denial about the crisis since then as a result of poor wheat yield this year. Though it has allowed import of grain and a couple of ships carrying consignments have already docked at the Karachi port.

But the measures are failing to arrest wheat prices, which have gone up to Rs2,100 per 40kg against the official procurement price of Rs1,400 per 40kg, or smoothen flour supplies in the market.

As the government made the millers – getting subsidised wheat from the food department stores – sell flour at a fixed rate of Rs860 per 20kg bag, mill owners attempted to deceive the government by introducing a 25kg packing and selling it at Rs1,350 per bag.

The Punjab flour millers’ association says they are being provided 16,700 tonnes of wheat daily by the food department that they are grinding and supplying to the market. It claims that provincial authorities are checking the flour supplies daily and cannot find any anomaly in the wheat supplies and flour production ratios.

It further says the government will have to increase wheat quota to overcome the flour crisis as the millers cannot purchase costly wheat from the open market to produce and supply flour at the official rates -- much lower than the production costs.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020

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