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Govt says sufficient wheat stocks available In Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema on Friday said that a sufficient quantity of wheat stock is available in the country, and if any province needs the wheat then they should come and take the commodity.

Addressing a press conference, Cheema said that baseless propaganda regarding wheat shortage in the country has been launched. “Tell us which province has asked the Centre for wheat and the federal government has not provided it,” he asked.

He said that the main reason behind the rise in the price of wheat flour is the slow lifting of wheat stocks from Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) warehouses by the provincial governments. If provinces do not lift the demanded stock by that time from the PASSCO warehouses, then the imported wheat on the demand of provinces will be of no use, he said.

The minister said that after the 18th amendment wheat is a provincial subject and the federal government has nothing to do with the issue. “It is the responsibility of the provincial governments to ensure availability of essential items in the market and control prices, but provinces have failed to do so,” he said, adding that the federal government has just to ensure the availability of food grain.

Cheema said that the federal government has fulfilled 1,000,000 metric tons demand of wheat of the provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “The federal government has provided wheat to provincial governments as per their demand,” he said, adding that now we have asked the provincial government to lift wheat directly from the port, and by lifting wheat from the port they will not pay for the transportation expenses.

The minister said that the Punjab government requested the federal government to provide them with wheat to meet the shortage. Punjab food department has lifted only 37 percent of the quantity allocated from the PASSCO, he added.

The minister said that out of 2.6 million metric tons of imported wheat, 1,376,000 metric tons has received and the remaining 800,000 metric tons will have arrived in the next two months. Currently, 400,000 tons of wheat is present at the Karachi port, he said. He said that the provincial government increase the release of wheat after the federal government raise the issue.

He said that the per 40kg wheat prices in Punjab decreased by Rs800 after it increase the daily release of wheat from 21,000 tons to 26,000 tons on January 10. Similarly, the per maund wheat price in Sindh decreased by Rs600 after it increases the commodity release, he said, adding that mills purchase wheat at Rs2,200 per mound at subsidised rate and then sell it at Rs5,500 as there is no check on flour mills.

He alleged that the provincial governments have stored the commodity and did not release it. “Chief Secretaries have admitted during a recent meeting that they have sufficient stocks of wheat,” he said. The minister urged the provincial governments to take action against wheat hoarders to ensure its availability in the market. The provision of wheat to the mills is the responsibility of the provinces, he said.