KARACHI: The sale of subsidised flour at Rs650 per 10kg bag has been stopped by the Sindh government while chakki owners have also shut their operations against price fixing by the Karachi commissioner.
“The provincial government has stopped sale of subsidised flour from January 20 after withdrawing the subsidy,” Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Sindh zone chairman Aamir Abdullah told Dawn, adding: “We are now getting 100kg wheat bag at Rs8,500 from the government as against Rs5,825 when low-price flour bag was launched in September 2022.”
The ex-mill rate of flour No.2.5 is Rs95 per kg while it is being sold at Rs100 per kg as against the retail rate of Rs98 per kg fixed by the Karachi commissioner.
The PFMA chief recalled that the daily supply of 10kg flour bag had risen to 500,000 bags in Sindh from 300,000 to extend the benefit to the inflation-hit consumers. However, availability of subsidised flour could reach only 25-30pc people of Karachi despite an increase in the number of flour bags by the millers at 200-300 sale points from 90-95 points. The low-priced flour was not available at retail shops. Due to a big gap between the market rates and subsidised flour, long queues of flour seekers had emerged in Karachi and interior of Sindh at various sale points, resulting in riots and a casualty in Mirpurkhas. Besides, millers had also complained about lack of security at the sale points resulting in snatching of cash from the staff on the vans.
Despite an end to the subsidy, he said, the rate of flour is still cheaper in Sindh as compared to Punjab where mills are getting subsidised wheat at Rs5,730 per 100kg bag while flour No.2.5 rates hover between Rs120 and Rs135 per kg.
“The subsidy in Punjab is going waste as consumers are not getting any price relief,” he said.
Chakki owners have kept their operations closed in protest against the fixing of chakki flour at Rs105 per kg by the Karachi commissioner.
The price regulator has also started sealing chakkis in the city for failing to comply with the government’s decision to sell flour at control rate besides imposing heavy fines.
Karachi Atta Chakki Association general secretary Anis Shahid said: “It is hard to sell chakki flour at Rs105 per kg after getting wheat at Rs120 per kg from the open market.”
He said 4,000 chakkis had now closed in the city while 40-50 have been sealed. Even the closed chakkis were also being sealed by the commissioner. Besides, most of chakki owners also run general stores and their closure could create serious problems.
Mr Anis feared widespread unemployment if production activities were not resumed as around five to six people work in each chakki.He said the Karachi commissioner might be mistaken as flour mills produced flour No.2.5 which is commonly called as “chakki-like flour” which did not hold any reality. Chakki flour is produced by small stone chakkis in the city and they are being penalised and forced to maintain the price of Rs105 per kg.
Mr Anis said chakki owners produced flour by obtaining wheat from the open market and it was not justified to fix price as per practice in fixing price of flour No.2.5.
Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023