ISLAMABAD, Jan 7: While discussing the country’s worst-ever food crisis, the caretaker government on Monday found fault with the smuggling/export and large-scale hoarding of wheat and flour due to the fact that the commodity in Pakistan was the ‘cheapest in the world’.
Moreover, it was informed that another reason for the crisis was a jump in flour price from Rs360 to Rs490 for a 20-kg bag. It was decided that the loadshedding to flourmills would be planned and coordinated with the Water and Power and Development Authority.
The meeting was assured that the crisis would be over in two to four weeks. Flour is being supplied at utility stores for Rs260 per 20-kg bag.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mohammedmian Soomro presided over the meeting. It was attended by the federal minister for food and agriculture, food ministers from Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP, deputy chairman of the planning commission and Federal Board of Revenue chairman.
The prime minister took serious notice of the reports of massive hoarding of food items. He asked the provincial governments to specifically monitor the releases and milling of wheat as well as establish centres for sale of flour. Besides, he said the provinces should also enhance their capacity of storage of wheat so that the government always had sufficient wheat in reserve.
The meeting was informed that the shortage was caused as about one million tonnes of wheat was smuggled and 1.7 million tonnes hoarded.
Additional half a million tonnes of wheat will be imported in accordance with the decision of the Economic Coordination Committee if required after taking into account its availability.
It was decided that the inter-provincial movement of wheat would be made foolproof to end shortage.
The meeting was informed that the ministry of food was supplying 32,000 tonnes of wheat to the provinces. The law and order situation created following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination also disrupted milling and transportation of wheat.
While taking stock of wheat availability, the meeting was told that out of 23 million tonnes produced, 13.5 million tonnes had been kept by growers for their own consumption, about one million tonnes were retained as seed for the next crop, about half a million tonnes had been exported, one million tonnes were purchased by flourmills and the government had procured 4.3 million tonnes. Remaining 2.7 million tonnes were with the private sector. Out of which about a million tonnes are thought to have crossed the borders while 1.7 million tonnes are available with the hoarders.