Food dept, flour mills stick to their guns on wheat quota issue

Published November 15, 2021
There seems to be no letup in the tension between flour millers and the food department. — AFP/File
There seems to be no letup in the tension between flour millers and the food department. — AFP/File

LAHORE: There seems to be no letup in the tension between flour millers and the food department as the industry has decided to continue with its protest plan to pressurise the government into accepting its demands.

The Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) had announced on Saturday that the millers of Rawalpindi (and Islamabad) division would go on strike from Monday, while the units from other regions would follow suit from Tuesday.

The PFMA is protesting against “non-provision” of wheat quota by the food department.

The mills have already reduced supplies of subsidised flour to the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi by 80 percent for the last two days, cautioning the registered dealers about the strike from Nov 15. Whereas, the supply of the 15-kg flour bags produced from the millers’ own wheat will also be suspended from Tuesday.

Sources say the mills in Gujranwala and Sargodha divisions have declined the administration’s request to provide flour supplies to Rawalpindi-Islamabad to meet the expected shortage of the commodity to be caused by the strike.

They say the flour mills in Punjab are being provided 90pc less than the allocated quota, sufficient only for one-hour grinding, resulting in shortage in the market.

PFMA leader Asim Raza says a meeting of the association will be held on Tuesday (Nov 16) to take further decision with regard to the “violations of promises by the food authorities”.

“The food officials backed out of even those commitments they had made before the media in a press conference,” Raza alleges.

He further alleges that the food department officials rather tried to create a division among the millers “only to conceal their incompetence and follies” and demands that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar should take notice of the situation.

A spokesperson for the food department says that a few mill owners are attempting to create “an artificial flour crisis” as a pressure tactic for the acceptance of their “unlawful” demands.

The spokesperson claims that in violation of rules a section of the industry is reluctant to pick 25pc of its quota from the districts other than the mills are located in, though most of the millers are abiding by the law.

He asserted the government cannot be blackmailed by anyone and that provision of wheat across the province will be ensured without fail.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2021

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