By Moonis Ali, Weekly Pulse, August 19, 2013
Millers again increased the price of flour which brought Rs 2 addition in its retail prices in both quality of flour including fine and grind now available on Rs 38 per kilo gram and Rs 40 per kilo gram respectively at local market.
Earlier prices of wheat grain rose by Rs 80-100 per 100-kg bag in the domestic market due to hasty buying of the commodity by market movers and exporters.
According to traders, prices of wheat grain have gone up in the domestic market during the last one week. With current increase wheat prices have surged to Rs 2,980 to Rs 3,000 per 100-kg.
The prices of wheat grain in the local commodity market fell to Rs 2,850 per 100-kg bag during last month after reports the country will get a bumper crop of 25 million tons during this year.
Traders claim that current increase in the price of the commodity, recent rains which hit the standing wheat crop badly, and per acre yield is also less than expectations this year. In January this year, the prices of wheat grain went up to Rs 3,500 per 100-kg bag due to short supply by the provincial food departments. However, the market situation improved in mid of January, when Passco off-loaded some 0.6 million stocks in the domestic market.
On the other hand there is acute flour shortage is feared in metropolitan following a complete halt of all operational activities of some 80 flour mills in the port city by the All Pakistan Flour Mills Association (APFMA), Sindh Chapter.
The move was aimed at registering their protest against what was claimed by office bearers of APFMA against injustices perpetrated by the high officials of the Karachi administration forcing flour mills in Karachi to sale ex-mill flour at lower rates as compared to the wheat purchased by them at higher rates from the open market.
APFMA Chairman Chaudhry Ansar Jawaid blamed the Karachi commissioner for creating a situation which resulted in complete closure of all 80 flour mills in Karachi.
He said that District West assistant commissioner accompanied by police carried a raid at two flour mills -Prime Flour Mills and Classic Flour Mills – on charges of selling flour at higher rates of Rs 40 to Rs 41 per kilogramme (kg) as compared to the officially fixed rates of Rs 33 per kg and subjecting the deputed staff to heavy fines besides arrest of some employees as well.
He blamed the Sindh Food Department for not supplying wheat to stakeholders including flour mills and chakki association at lower official rates of Rs 3,000 per 100 kgs bag and with no other choice available to them, they are compelled to make higher cost wheat buying from the open market at inflated rates of Rs 3,550 per 100 kgs to ensure continuation of their operational activities.
The government officials while carrying raid referred the cancelled notification dated January 17, 2013 which had fixed flour price at Rs 33 per kg, but in the absence of lack of provision of controlled rates wheat flour mills can ill-afford to sale their products at lower raters and any effort by the district management in this regard amounts to gross injustice with them.
Chaudhry said that during several meetings the commissioner was reminded about higher wheat rates in the open market, which should be taken care of by the government but instead of proceeding against elements involved in hoarding and profiteering of wheat, he has let loose a reign of terror against Karachi flour mills.
A leading retailer of ex-mill and chakki flour, responding to a query of the scribe feared about acute shortage of all varieties of flour by the end of the week with prospects of very inflated rates.
During the holy month of Ramazan, strikes by the flour mills or chakki owners would only hurt poor segment of the population which rely heavily on flour to fulfil their daily eating requirements. According to him no such raids were reported from anywhere across the Punjab where wheat prices have also surged considerably over the period of time due to which flour mills and chakki owners are selling flour at higher rates