The persist flour crisis seems to be well planned just to mint money


Sep 27 - Oct 03, 2004





The wheat crisis which is persisting for the last one year especially in Sindh and NWFP has become a windfall for the profiters who are taking undue advantage of the situation.

The genuine market players while expressing concern over what the so-called unabated flour crisis, were of the view that the situation take even an adverse turn in the forthcoming holy month of Ramazan, if the remedial steps were not taken at the highest level.

Contrary to the tall claims for controlling the situation by the government as well as the flour mills for bringing down flour prices, the consumers are being charged exorbitant price of flour with different qualities in the retail market. According to a survey, flour prices is currently oscillating between Rs. 14 to Rs. 19 per kg pertaining to the quality of it.

It may be mentioned that the retail price of Rs. 12 per kg fixed by the government exists only in the papers, otherwise it seems to be free for all situation in the commodity market.

The persist flour crisis seems to be well planned just to mint money by the hoarders and the profiters.

It is alleged that even the government officials know who is behind the scene for creating artificial crisis of wheat and flour in the country, but surprisingly, they are keeping a mum over the situation.

Mohammad Anis Shahid, General Secretary, 'Karachi Atta Chukkies Association' (KACA) told PAGE that situation may continue to deteriorate and the higher authorities must deal the situation with an iron hand. He further said "I am running from pillar to post, from high ups to lower cadre staff to draw their attention towards unabated flour prices which are moving towards higher side, however, it is unfortunate that no one was willing to pay attention to my hue and cry over the situation."

There are about 3,500 Atta Chukkies in Karachi, which are meeting 33-40 percent of the demand of the mega city. Usually speaking, despite a significant role being played by small flour mills they are eligible only to make ready small quota of wheat i.e. 12 bags per Atta Chukki grindingstone as against the actual requirement of over 50 bags per week.

Anis said that we have already conveyed to the provincial food minister in writing to take effective measures to address the situation because it is not the Chukki owners who need wheat, in fact it is the basic food requirement of the people.

He said that we have also warned the provincial food minister about the prevailing shortfall in supplies. The matter would become really a serious problem during the holy month of Ramazan, he added.

"How can we control the atta prices as supply of wheat is under the control of Provincial Government and I have heard serious irregularities in supplying of wheat," City Nazim Niamatullah Khan told the PAGE. The matter has become so complex that it may not be easy to pin point the culprits for making a mess of the situation.



"We buy wheat of the specific grade to meet the demand of the customers who are choosey to buy good quality atta at any price," Abdul Rasheed, a chukki owner from Defense area said. He disclosed that "wheat is not short but good quality Pakistani wheat is now being sold in black market, we are buying that as we don't want to reduce customers."

"Where are the crises? Yes there is shortage of wheat but there is no shortage of atta that is available at every shop and Chukki," Enayet Ali Khatiyan, Deputy Director Food Department Sindh region told the PAGE. He further said that if you talk to the Flour Mills Association or any flour mill owner they would describe the situation very critical but facts on the ground are different. The deputy director said that there is still a ban on wheat supply from Punjab province but atta of good quality is coming into Sindh especially for Karachi.

There are 80 flour mills in Karachi and 140 in entire Sindh province and every flour mill has a good stock of wheat and they are minting money. A flour mill owner on the condition of anonymity disclosed that government has imported wheat from Russia but that is of inferior quality and that can not be milled alone we have to mix good quality of Pakistani wheat into it in order to bring it consumption-able atta.

A meeting of Flour Mills Association, Atta Chukki Association with the Provincial Minister of Food started last week with the demands, tall claims were once again made and ended with old promises in new sentences.

Provincial Food Department was strongly criticized by many chukki owners and flour mill owners during the meeting, while many flour mills owners did not attend the meeting. Another mill owner declared the meeting as just another formality of the government which according to him would not provide any relief.

A senior government officer from the Food Department said that quality of imported Russian wheat is now being questioned by those mill and chukki owners who want to be remain unchecked of their money minting business. He further said that profiters would continue to mint money till citizens keep buying atta on the rates fixed by flour mills and chukki owners. How we can stop the money minting business if citizens do not support the government, he added.

Other sources said that the ongoing atta and wheat crisis has taken many dramatic turns but in the entire game billions of rupees have been minted by a group of mafia while citizens were victimized of overcharging. Another sources said that ongoing atta crisis may be turned into wheat scam in which various people having backing of the government officials might face action. Chukki and flour mills owner claimed that there is huge stock of hoarded wheat in the Sindh and Punjab province that was expected to come out soon after the imported wheat consignment arrived but the wheat crisis took another turn and hoarded wheat continued to be sold into Karachi by the profiters who had hoarded huge Pakistani wheat for this purposes.