Muhammad Faheem

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is facing flour shortage due to restrictions on flour supply from Punjab, which has pushed the prices up.

Earlier last Saturday, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif during his first visit to the province had announced to give subsidy for the people on flour prices. However, flour prices have yet to stabilize even after the premier’s announcement.

Dealers in the city’s largest grain market Ashraf Road said that Punjab government has setup a check post to stop flour supply to the province since April 18.

However, they added only those trucks paying bribes were being allowed to pass.

“Sometimes back, transportation charges on a truckload of flour was Rs 15,000 which has now jumped to Rs 65, 000, pushing a 20 kgs bag of flour by Rs 120 to 150,” they said.

The traders also fear the resumption of activities after Eid will further push up the prices.

Politics over flour supply

KP government has said that there was no flour crisis in the province. KP Minister for Food Muhammad Atif Khan said that the Prime Minister should focus on reducing prices instead of empty rhetoric.

He said that ban on the flour supply should also be lifted. Mr Khan said that KP traders were paying for the flour coming to the province; therefore, the ban was unjustified.

Besides, he said that ample amount of wheat will be procured and talks with the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation were going on.

KP flour requirement

KP requires 4.8 million metric tons of flour per annually while its own production stands at about 1.2 million tons. To meet this gap, KP procures wheat from Punjab and exporting from abroad.

However, the recent ban on flour supply has pushed up the price of a bag of 100 kgs of flour by Rs 400. On the other hand, Punjab government has jacked up the prices of wheat by Rs 10 per kg.

The increase in the flour prices though helpful for the farmers and government is paying Rs 5,500 per kg for 100 kgs of wheat. Adding storage and transportation charges is likely to push the prices of 100 kgs bag of wheat to Rs 7000, which will also result in further rise in flour prices.

The never-ending issue of flour crisis

KP Flour Mills Association President Naeem Butt said that flour issues of the province were decades old.

He said that even under the PTI government, flour supply came under restrictions in recent past. However, he added that the changing political situation after the ouster of PTI government in Punjab and center has further complicated the issues.

Mr Butt said that Punjab officials were taking bribes for allowing trucks carrying flour to the province. He said that Punjab officials were extorting up Rs 30,000 per truck.

Mr Butt also dispelled the impression of flour smuggling to Afghanistan. He said that since the supply of flour had been banned two years ago, not a single bag has crossed the border.

“Federal government has the control of borders and it can inquire about the same from those institutions controlling borders,” he said.

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