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Sunday Jun 07 2020
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Wheat crisis: Spike in prices, shortage despite availability of sufficient stocks

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Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: The surge wheat and sugar prices in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the shortage of grain in KP have turned out to be surprising as the annual procurement of the commodity has just ended in the four provinces.

There are more than sufficient stocks of wheat available in government stores at the moment, providing no justification for the increase in prices and wheat shortage for flour millers. However, given lesser yield this year for various reasons, such a situation may arise after a few months if wheat was not imported on time.

Speaking to The News, Federal Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam suspected that some vested interest has created the prevailing state of affairs.

Imam said wheat would have to be imported but preferred not to give an estimate. “The international wheat prices are more than those of Pakistan, which such elements want to exploit as there is an attraction for them in the global market,” the minister said.

In KP, he said, there has been an estimated 40% less production this year, adding that overall there was less productivity because of the climate change especially untimely rains in March and April. 

In Punjab, Imam added, the wheat procurement has been one of the highest compared to previous years. Sindh has also met the procurement target.

Punjab Food Minister Aleem Khan in his tweets has admitted about an increase in flour prices. “Farmer brothers have been paid full compensation for their hard work in the wheat procurement campaign and they fully benefited from it. Better price for wheat resulted in a hike in flour prices for which the food department has devised its line of action.”

“Recommendation has been sent to the government that the food department is allowed to import wheat so that the wheat requirements of KP and southern areas of Punjab be met. It has to be assured that the commodity is available in surplus in the province so that there is no shortage and the prices remain stable,” he added.

An official said that price hike and wheat shortage immediately after the procurement ended is astonishing. Generally, nothing happens in the first few months of the procurement. It is stated that in KP a 20-kg bag of flour is being sold for Rs1,500 while it costs around Rs1,000 in Punjab.

These rates are higher than the price fixed by the governments. The “nanbais” have also increased prices.

Sources said that over the past few weeks, the KP government has persistently urged the Punjab administration to lift the ban on wheat movement to its province. The concerned KP officials are in constant touch with their counterparts in Punjab on this issue on an emergency basis to avoid any unrest.

Originally published in The News