ISLAMABAD: There is no wheat shortage and currently the country has 5,080,747 tonnes of the commodity in stock, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said on Friday during a meeting with the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA).

The minister’s remark came in the backdrop of increase in flour prices despite wheat imports since August. On Wednesday, millers increased the price of flour no. 2.5 to Rs59 per kg. The price of fine and super fine flour (maida) was raised to Rs71 from Rs67 per kg. In the second week of September, the rates of flour no.2.5, fine and super fine flour were Rs57.50 and Rs61.50 per kg, respectively. The PFMA had attributed the hike in flour rates to wheat shortage in open market, saying that ‘millers were lifting limited quantities of imported and local wheat due to very high prices’.

“Official wheat yield stands at 25.2 million tonnes of which Punjab contributed the lion’s share of 2,958,310 tonnes, followed by Sindh with 1,259,395 tonnes, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 84,567 tonnes, while the remaining 65,082 tonnes was from Balochistan,” Mr Fakhr said during the meeting with PFMA Chairman Asim Raza.

The minister said Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (Passco) has 668,041 tonnes of wheat in its stocks. With a carry-over stock of 0.602 million tonnes, wheat shortfall has been estimated at 1.619m tonnes, he added.

“The magnified figure of wheat shortfall is fallacious and the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) stands by the wheat figures on behalf of provinces,” the minister added.

Another 0.840m tonnes of wheat will be imported by the public sector, while the private sector will be importing 1.09m tonnes of wheat by January 2021.

The PFMA chairman expressed his satisfaction over the official figures of wheat availability and hoped deficit will be covered by the wheat being imported currently. He said the government should enhance the wheat support price so that farmers should continue to grow wheat instead of substituting the grain with other crops.

“The MNFSR is working on an action plan to increase the wheat yield during the coming Rabi season. In this regard, the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSCRD) has tested 200,000 tonnes of seed from Passco. About 150,000 tones have been tested from Punjab Food Department for emergency,” Mr Fakhr said.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2020