KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet’s decision to fix the wheat support price for the financial year 2023 at Rs4,000 per 40kg from last year’s Rs2,200 has caused anxiety among stakeholders, who fear that the decision may prove a boon for the flood-hit growers, but a bane for consumers.

From March 2023 onwards, the price of wheat and flour would further increase after the implementation of the new wheat support price. At present, the 20kg wheat flour bag is available at Rs2,000-Rs2,200 as compared to Rs1,100-Rs1,500 in January. The rate of flour no 2.5, fine and chakki flour is now Rs110, Rs115 and Rs125 per kg, as compared to Rs70, Rs75 and Rs80 in January.

“I am shocked to see the fixation of Rs4,000 per 40kg, or Rs10,000 for 100kg wheat support price, ahead of the arrival of new crop due in March 2023. The Sindh government has taken an anti-consumer step to benefit growers,” Karachi Wholesale Grocers Association (KWGA) chairman Rauf Ibrahim said, fearing deep wheat and flour crises in coming months.

He said that after adding various expenditures like storage, transportation and bardana (wheat packing bag), the rate of wheat would swell to Rs12,000 per 100kg bag.

Say Sindh govt yet to fix issue price for flour mills; fear hike in flour, roti prices

Mr Ibrahim said the arrival of wheat in the open market had already slowed down at an alarming level due to floods and bad road conditions. After new wheat support price announcement, wheat supplies have further shrunk. Middle men were now active in hoarding the grain in anticipation of further price hike, he added.

He feared that the higher wheat support price would take flour and roti rates to new peak and beyond the reach of common men.

To avert any crisis, the Sindh government should release wheat to flour millers in the current month rather than in October, he said.

Surprisingly, he added, the issue price of wheat to flour millers has not been fixed yet while the support price for the growers has been fixed five months earlier than the new crop’s arrival.

The last year’s issue price fixed for the millers was Rs4,875 per 100 kg.

Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) executive committee member Aamir Abdullah said that the Sindh government had put aside consumers’ interests while jacking up wheat support price.

He said the Punjab government had been providing wheat to flour millers at Rs4,412 per 100kg for the last three to four months, while reports were coming that the issue price had now been raised to Rs5,750 per 100kg bag followed by an increase in the wheat support price to Rs3,000 per 40kg.

“There is no uniformity in wheat support price to the growers and issue price for the flour millers in the country,” he said.

Mr Abdullah said the provincial government had also delayed the wheat procurement drive to July-August from May-June period, and so far procured 0.9 million tonnes from the growers as against the target of 1.4m tonnes this year.

The officials posted on the checkpoints had either taken Rs200-Rs300 per 100kg bag as a bribe to release wheat to Karachi or diverted the quantities to government warehouses in the name of procurement drive, he said and added that as a result, monsoon rains and floods had washed away the grain in large quantities in interior Sindh due to lack of storage facilities.

He added that another problem emerged after destruction of rice crop in Sindh areas where growers used to eat roti made of rice. Now, extra pressure of demand would come on wheat.

Besides, hoarders will not have rice stocks due to crop damage and they will resort to stock piling of wheat which might further slowdown arrival of wheat in the open market of Karachi, he said, fearing flour price might cross Rs150 per kg in coming months.

SCA welcomes Sindh govt’s decision

Unlike stakeholders in Karachi, the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture appreciated the Sindh government for increasing the wheat support price to Rs4,000 per 40kg.

In their joint statement issued from Hyderabad on Monday, SCA president Miran Mohammad Shah and general secretary Zahid Bhurgari said that the Sindh food department should issue a notification for wheat support price as soon as possible.

They said that steps should be taken on a war footings basis to drain rainwater from agricultural fields so that wheat sowing could begin.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2022

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