LAHORE: Wheat flour prices have begun to rise in Punjab too apparently under pressure of heavy supplies of the commodity towards flood-hit areas, where people have lost their own stock of grain, and smuggling to Afghanistan.

Though the federal government denies any shortage of the commodity as the secretary for National Food Security and Research reports that the country has had wheat stocks (7.7 million tonnes) sufficient to meet requirements for the next 153 days, the profiteers are trying to initiate a panic buying by over-projecting the factors of large-scale supplies through food hampers to the flood victims and smuggling.

Retailers in the Punjab capital have increased rates of 15-kg flour bags from Rs1,300 to Rs1,550 within days citing a gap between demand and supply of the commodity.

Punjab food authorities also claim that there are sufficient stocks to meet staple food needs of the province though the provincial government has recently requested the Centre for the provision of one million tonnes of wheat.

PFMA ex-head says simultaneous release of wheat by all provinces can ensure stability

Former chairman of Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Asim Raza endorses the food department’s claim but holds the difference in rates between the one for the wheat released from the official storages and that of the open market as responsible for destabilising the flour market.

Another factor, he says, is the report that Sindh has fixed Rs4,000 per maund as the minimum support price for wheat for the forthcoming Rabi season; thus grain rates in the Punjab markets have shot up from Rs2,800 to Rs3,500 per maund.

He suggests that the panic in the market may fizzle out if Punjab increases release of wheat from its storages from 16,700 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes daily, while the other three provinces also begin issuing grain from their respective godowns to the mills.

“Simultaneous release of wheat from all the four provinces can ensure stability in the prices of flour and help remove panic buying.”

Punjab Food Minister Husnain Bahadur Dreshak neither took calls nor responded to written queries sent to him through Whatsapp to know his version for the gap between demand and supply in the local wheat market, the factors behind it and the steps his department has taken or plans to take to overcome the issue.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022

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