LAHORE: In a rare move, Punjab has decided to seek at least 1 million tonnes of wheat from the Pakistan Agricultural Storages & Services (Passco), a federal entity, to reinforce its grain stock and to pre-empt a likely shortage in February and March.

Punjab opened its wheat account with 5.2mt stocks for the crop year 2022-23 as it procured 4.5mt wheat in the last season that ended in May, while there was 0.7mt of carryover stock.

Punjab consumes around 0.5mt wheat per month and requires around 6.0mt to meet its requirements for the whole year.

For the first four months – June, July, August and September – of each crop year, mills grind their own purchased wheat and for the period between October and March when open market dries up, the government used to supply grain from its storages to maintain availability of flour in the market.

“Though we have had ample grain reserves available the demand for extra stock has been necessitated by the government’s decision of providing subsidised flour to consumers throughout the year and thus we have to release wheat to flour mills in June, four months earlier than the past practice,” Punjab Food Director Shozeb Saeed tells Dawn here on Thursday.

“We have written a letter to Passco last Saturday [June 18] requesting them to supply us one million tonnes of grain to meet this extra requirement, which carries approval of both the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister.”

Passco, which takes care of the requirements of wheat deficient areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Kashmir as well as of the country’s armed forces, has procured around 2.5mt of wheat this season. It also imports grain if need be to meet local requirements.

Replying to a question, Mr Saeed says they wish to get indigenous wheat from Passco for it being cost effective as the imported one will prove to be too expensive for the province.

About the price to be charged by Passco, he says they are waiting for a response from the federal entity to evaluate its offer and limitations regarding the supply of wheat.

Answering another query, the food director says that they are providing a maximum of 16,700mt wheat to flour millers for grinding and monitoring the onward supply of the subsidised flour by the mills by packing the commodity into 10kg and 20kg bags.

He says that the mills can grind and sell their own wheat, measuring about 1.5mt, in 15kg bags or 100kg sacks to distinguish it from the subsidised flour.

Each district, he says, is being supplied wheat from official storages as per its population and district authorities then offer a quota to each flour mill as per its installed grinding capacity.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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