DEALERS and growers of food grains, such as wheat, flour, pulses, etc., create artificial shortages in the market by hoarding goods for considerable periods and selling them at exorbitant prices that are beyond the buying power of a large segment of society.

In such cases, it is the salaried class that suffers the most. The hoarders also create such a situation to defame the government which comes in the way of profiteering. The act of hoarding for hefty profits is condemnable on all counts.

Apart from causing problems to the people, hoarding also affects the quality of items stockpiled for selling later in the black market. When the food items are hoarded for a period of, say, even a week at temperatures more than 20 degrees Celsius and humidity over 40 per cent by piling up the packages one upon the other, it adversely affects their nutrient contents, particularly carbohydrates, proteins and, more importantly, vitamins.

Another ignored fact is that humidity and temperature levels in huge godowns, warehouses and storage spaces favour the breeding of billions of weevils and other toxic creatures as well as toxigenic fungi, like molds, mycotoxin, aflatoxin, etc. This adversely affects not only the nutritive quality, but also creates human health issues. When such infested wheat is milled, these creatures, along with fungi, are also milled. If someone eats a bread which is deficient in terms of essential nutrients and admixed with toxic creatures, one will feel tired and be incapable of doing much work.

Such a person over time becomes susceptible to infections and diseases of multifactorial nature, like diabetes, heart ailments, cancer, etc. Stunted growth in children due to protein-deficient bread has also been observed. It is the responsibility of the food ministry to look into this matter and enact strict laws against the hoarding of food items.

Alternatively, all food grains, in case of extreme unavoidability, should be tested in a research and development laboratory for compliance related to nutritional value and toxicity levels as per the US Food and Drug Authority (FDA) standards, before allowing them to be sold for consumption. Also, the rate of purchase from the growers or the dealers should be offered according to nutritional value and toxicity level.

Dr M. Qudrat-e-Khuda
Karachi

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2021

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