LAHORE: Flour millers have threaten to suspend supply across Punjab from Feb 11 if the food department did not stop arresting the industry people and implicating them in wheat quota misappropriation cases, while the department insists its action has eased supply of the commodity in the market.
Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Punjab chapter chairman Iftikhar Mutto told the media after a meeting of the body’s executive committee here on Monday that food department had illegally suspended the wheat quota of 13 mills in Lahore in a day, in violation of its own SOPs (standard operational procedures), affecting flour supply in the city.
He said that managers of various mills were arrested, while ‘false’ cases were instituted against many others on charges of misappropriation of wheat quota given by the department for grinding and its onward sale in special green bags on subsidised rate.
Flanked by Liaquat Ali Khan, Mian Riaz and others, Mr Mutto asked had they invested billions of rupees in the flour milling business only to be called thieves, saying this attitude of the department could not be tolerated.
Food dept claims action eased availability
He blamed the newly-posted food secretary for the action against the mills on ‘frivolous’ charges.
He said the department had, in consultation with the milling industry, prepared the SOPs for release of wheat from food department godowns, its grinding and sale, besides suggesing punishments for violation of the same.
He said the industry had no issue if the mills were inspected and penalties imposed in case of any violation of the SOPs, but the factories must not be sealed.
He alleged that specific flour mills were being targeted by the department during the inspection drive.
He warned if the action against mills was not stopped, flour supplies to the market would be suspended from next Saturday (Feb 11).
The industry representatives expressed their reservations at the “uncalled for” action, adding the millers were ready to adopt a joint line of action on the issue.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the food department claims that the action against the mills was taken over irregularities in the SOPs for grinding of wheat released by the department to them on discounted rates.
He also defended the inspection of mills being carried out by the department across the province, claiming the step had ensured smooth supply of flour in Punjab.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2023
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