LAHORE: The Pakistan Flour Mills Association’s (PFMA) Punjab chapter on Monday postponed its strike for a week, claiming the food department accepted its demand of dropping the condition of lifting 25 percent wheat quota by a mill from the district other than it was located in.
The claim has, however, been denied by the food authorities.
The Rawalpindi division mills had reduced flour supply to the twin cities (Rawalpindi-Islamabad) by 80 percent since Saturday and the PFMA had announced a complete strike in the division from Monday, threatening to expand the protest province-wide if the demand was not met.
However, the strike was postponed for a week in Rawalpindi division and the mills restored the flour supply after ‘successful negotiations’ with food department and district administration, says a PFMA press release.
Secretary says millers were never forced to lift wheat from remote areas
A new round of talks between the association’s central leaders and the food officials will begin in Lahore on Tuesday (today) after which the millers’ body will announce its final course of action, it adds.
PFMA chief patron for Rawalpindi region, Tariq Sadiq, chairman Riazullah Khan and other leaders met the food director and other senior officials at the deputy commissioner’s office on Monday, where it was decided the mills would be supplied official wheat from the warehouses of the food department in Rawalpindi, Taxila, Gujar Khan and Sihala, and they would not be compelled to buy the wheat from any remote area, including south Punjab, the release says.
The PFMA was opposing the government’s decision to buy wheat from far-flung areas, as it would have resulted in a massive increase in the cost of doing business for the millers.
The millers claimed the food officials also promised to restore wheat crushing costs, which had been reduced recently.
Punjab Food Secretary Ali Sarfraz Hussain says the department never forced any miller to lift wheat from far-flung areas, rather they (millers) were themselves keen to lift the grain from Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar areas for its superior quality as well as the jute bag packing. A jute bag is later sold for Rs150 per unit.
“The department is ready to provide the millers wheat from its stores in Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin districts etc, and it is up to them to choose the station,” Mr Hussain told Dawn by phone.
The secretary claimed the millers from Rawalpindi division had, perhaps, been misled about the policy of lifting 25pc wheat quota from outside the district where a mill was located.
“Out of approximately 186 mills in the division, 53 are regularly lifting wheat as per the official policy in vogue for the last couple of years and till Saturday got 11,0000 tonnes of grain. The others were misled that the condition was being applied only to Pindi division mills (thus they resorted to protest),” Mr Hussain said, adding that now it was to be settled with the millers which locations they would prefer for lifting the wheat.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021