LAHORE: Millers fear flour prices may go up by Rs5 per kg or Rs100 per 20kg bag as the government steps are leading to an increase in the wheat price in the open market.

In a joint statement on Monday, progressive flour millers Khaleeque Arshad and Majid Abdullah said the government was issuing them permits to procure wheat only from one district – Bahawalnagar.

As all private buyers are heading to one market to lay hands on the crop, it has disturbed the market and wheat which was available at Rs2,325 per maund before Eidul Fitr is now being sold at Rs2,550 per maund there, they said.

The increase in grain price would automatically hike the prices of wheat products and flour would be dearer by Rs100 per 20kg bag, they cautioned.

CS orders crackdown on wheat hoarders

To stabilise the wheat and flour prices, they suggested, the Punjab Food Department and the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) should shut down their procurement centres and allow the private registered firms, including flour mills, to make their purchases for their grinding for the May-September period when the government usually does not issue them wheat from its storages.

Else the government should issue early wheat to the mills at subsidised rates so that flour prices in the open market may be maintained, they demanded.

They alleged the food department with the help of the district administration was seizing their wheat consignments and diverting the trucks towards the department’s godowns though it had already procured 4.5 million tonnes of the commodity against its initial target of 3.5m tonnes.

Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Kamran Ali Afzal has directed all deputy commissioners to launch a crackdown on hoarders of wheat and recover the stock with the help of the special branch and hand it over to the food department.

The chief secretary issued these directions while presiding over a video-link meeting of deputy commissioners at the Civil Secretariat on Monday.

The administrative secretaries of industries, agriculture, food, livestock and the officers concerned attended the meeting whereas all divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners virtually participated.

The chief secretary has been issuing these directions for quite some time to the commissioners and deputy commissioners, but it seemed he felt compelled to issue the same directions time and again to keep the commissioners and deputy commissioners on their toes.

The chief secretary said the officers should continue taking steps to curb the smuggling of wheat and fertilisers. He said the welfare of people was the duty of government officials, adding he had started visiting districts to review the public welfare initiatives.

He stressed that all price control magistrates should perform their duties in a dynamic manner and only a notified officer would be authorised to conduct price checking.

Expressing sorrow over the death of four children in a boat accident at Head Baloki, the chief secretary directed the deputy commissioners to take steps to prevent incidents of boat capsize and cylinder blasts in their areas.

He asked the officers to set up initial response centres in bazaars to control health-related incidents caused by the severe heatwave and ensure adequate supply of drinking water to the areas facing water shortage.

The chief secretary also issued instructions to take stern action against those burning crop residues.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2022

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