Inadequate wheat supply from Punjab inflates flour prices in Federal Capital: Cheema

Inadequate wheat supply from Punjab inflates flour prices in Federal Capital: Cheema
Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Tariq Bashir Cheema addressing a press conference at PID Media Center, Islamabad on January 04, 2023.

ISLAMABAD, Jan 4 (APP): Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema on Wednesday said that a strategy was being devised for stabilizing flour prices to ensure provision of flour at affordable rates to the residents of Federal Capital.

Addressing a press conference, the minister said the reason for flour price hike in the markets of Islamabad was the inadequate supply of wheat from Punjab.

“Per day flour consumption of Islamabad is 38,000 bags containing 20 kg flour. The Punjab government is only providing 21,700 bags per day, resulting in a shortfall of about 1,700 bags per day”, Cheema added.

“The shortfall is being fulfilled by purchasing the commodity form open market, due to which we faced price fluctuation”, he said adding “the government has also established about 38 sale points to provide wheat flour to the lower income groups.”

He said that smooth supply of wheat and flour at affordable price was the responsibility of provincial governments, adding that the needs of federal capital were also fulfilled by the supply of wheat from Punjab.

The government was also inspecting the grinding capacity of flour mills in order to operate them on their optimal capacity to produce sufficient quantity of flour to meet local needs, he added.

Tariq made it clear that there was no shortage of wheat in the country, and sufficient reserves were available to meet domestic consumption. “Strategic reserves are also being maintained to cope with any emergency situation.”

He said that to fulfill the requirements of Islamabad, a proposal was submitted for approval to allocate wheat quota to the federal capital in Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Supplies Corporation (PASSCO) and it was expected to get approved within the next few days.

The minister further said that out of the total procurements, the government was procuring about 20 to 21 percent of the total produced wheat, whereas remaining 80 percent was procured by the private sector. He said that it was needed to streamline the price differential to maintain prices.

He said that last year wheat support price was fixed at Rs 2,200 and this year it was proposed to fixed at Rs 3,000 per 40 kg, adding that the governments of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suggested to fix the support price at Rs 3,000 per 40 kg. However, Sindh has fixed the support price at Rs 4,000.

He said that negotiations with the Sindh government were in progress to harmonize the support price of wheat across the country to equally benefit all the stakeholders, including farmers and consumers as well as curbing the illegal movement of the grains.

The minister further said that efforts were being made to reduce the reliance on imported food commodities, and enhance local output of food commodities, including that of wheat and oil seeds as edible oil imports swelled to $ 4.5 billion during last year and wheat imports to $ 2 billion.

The minister said that the recent floods inflicted huge losses on agriculture sector, adding that standing crops in Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were destroyed. He said that due to efforts of the government, bumper crops were expected this year.

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