The target set for the Larkana region was 110,000MT but no wheat has been procured from there so far. The government has acquired 139,807MT wheat from the Larkana region last year. Similarly, wheat procurement has not been started in the Malir district of Karachi yet.
Interestingly, no target has been set for the area either, even though 1,930MT wheat was procured from the district last year. According to a breakup of statistics, the wheat procurement targets set for the 15 districts for the year
Regarding strike, the APFMA Sindh Circle Chairman Mian Mehmoodul Hasan said that the Sindh government has accepted their demands. “Our demand was to ease restrictions on flour mills. Now mills can purchase wheat from any district of Sindh and can also bring wheat to Karachi.”
After APFMA gave the strike call on last Wednesday, flour prices in Karachi jumped up by Rs 2 per kg the next day, he said, adding that it was because some people created an artificial shortage of the commodity in the city.
To a question, he said flour mill owners had not blackmailed the government on the issue of inter-district transport ban. “We wanted the government to understand the ground realities and that the decision to ban the inter-district movement of wheat and flour was irrational,” he said.
It was a wrong decision and the government consequently lifted the ban for flour mills, but it will continue for others who bring wheat into Karachi, he said.
When Sindh government was approached to justify the decision, they presented a lame excuse of accomplishing a 1.3 million wheat procurement target in the next one month.
Wheat is officially procured to ensure that farmers and growers are able to receive due and proper rates of their yield and ensure food security round the year enabling the consumers to buy flour at affordable rates.
By placing wheat movement ban, Sindh Food Department has not only deprived farmers and growers of getting due rates of their yield but it would also start many avenues of corruption, which may prove detrimental to the interest of consumers.
On their part, Sindh government officials said that the ban was imposed to procure wheat at the fixed rate of Rs 950 per 40 kg to give farmers a fair return. However, the mills rejected this point and said the government’s move was aimed at bringing middlemen in the procurement process.
The flour mill owners claimed that the middlemen were buying wheat at Rs 800 per 40 kg, Rs 150 lower than the government rate and then selling the commodity to the government at a higher price.
Karachi has the highest flour consumption and the placement of the ban disrupted the transport of wheat to Karachi from other districts of Sindh province, flour millers said.
In the previous week, the government banned inter-district movement of wheat and flour in Sindh, especially in adjacent districts of Karachi and districts on Sindh-Punjab border. The ban resulted in an increase in wheat prices in the open market by Rs 100 per day on a 100 kg bag.
It is interesting to note that the last week like other parts of country flour mills in Quetta started strike across Balochistan including Quetta, as Flour Mills Association announced that the protest will continue till fulfillment of demands.
The association said the flour mills had been shut to protest against the decision of a ban on movement of flour. As per association wheat was abundantly available in the country but the people of Balochistan were being prevented from reaping the benefits of a bumper crop by putting a ban on the movement of the commodity.
With prospects of uncompromising attitude of the Sindh Food Department coupled with looming wheat shortage in Karachi, prices of different varieties of flour can reach unprecedented levels in coming days, which may spell serious financial outcome for consumers.