ACCORDING to the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) state of the economy second quarterly report 2020, using polyethylene sacks and low quality polypropylene woven sacks results in the wastage of three to five per cent of flour, or Rs31 to Rs51 billion, every year.
In contrast, mandatory food-grade polypropylene, which is laminated on one side and woven on the other, reduces wheat flour wastage down to 0.05pc or 0.00768 tonnes, or just a meagre amount of Rs0.52 million.
Also, kraft paper cement sacks resulted in 11pc of cement wastage, valuing at about Rs31 billion in 2020-21.
Beside the financial losses, pre-used carcinogenic kraft paper cement sacks are continuously being used by the industry for packing flour and other food items, which is adversely affecting the health of the masses. This is a blatant violation of the food safety agreement between the government and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mandatory gazetted notification SRO 46 (KE) 2017, dated May 19, 2017 (PS: 3126), was issued by the former government, banning substandard flour and kraft paper cement sacks.
Owing to non-implementation of the above and some previous orders, billions of rupees are wasted every year in addition to the serious health risk to the low-income people. This can easily be controlled by just implementing the existing by-laws by the relevant authorities and taking strict action against violators.
Elsewhere, India and Bangladesh have prohibited polythene and kraft paper cement sacks for packing flour and other food items as well as cement. Instead, they introduced polyproplylene woven laminated sacks to prevent wastage of flour and cement, and also to protect the health of their peoples.
African countries have also made the move to the environment-friendly degradable polypropylene sacks to avoid wastage and to protect people’s health.
The ministries concerned and relevant authorities should take this issue seriously and ask the relevant departments what action has been taken so far against the manufacturers of substandard flour and cement sacks.
They should also ask the departments whether the power under section 14 of (PSQCA) Act VI, 1996, has been used to stop substandard and unlicensed sacks for packing flour and cement. If not, why?
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021