Islamabad: Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema in a press conference on Friday said that the unnecessary crisis of wheat in the country was mainly because of less than required release of wheat by the provinces to the flour mills.
He said that after hue and cry, the Punjab government has now increased the release of wheat to the mills. “On 10 Jan 2023, the Punjab Government released 26,000 metric tons to the flour mills in Punjab, and instantly the price of wheat flour fell by Rs 800,” he added.
He questioned why the provincial governments are not releasing the wheat stock when the Federal Government is providing them with the required quantity.
Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema 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% of the quantity allocated from PASSCO (Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation), he added.
He said that there are enough reserves and there is no shortage of wheat, but slow lifting of wheat stocks from PASSCO warehouses by the provincial governments is causing this crisis. He added that PASSCO is expected to carry forward 1.5 million metric tons of wheat stock this year.
He said that there will be a surplus stock of wheat in the county when harvesting of the crop will start in April. If provinces do not lift the demanded stock by that time from PASSCO warehouses, then the imported wheat on the demand of provinces will be of no use, he said. He added, precious foreign reserves were spent to import this wheat on the request of the provinces.
“We have offered to the provinces to lift the wheat from port as well,” said Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema.
He highlighted that after the 18th Amendment, 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.
Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema said that the provinces have the required infrastructure and resources but they have failed to maintain check and control on the prices. “It is their responsibility; blaming the Federal government is unfair,” he said.
He urged them to avoid political point scoring and work together to ensure supply of wheat to the public.
He said that the subsidized wheat which is provided to flour mills is being sold further at a higher price without grinding by the mills. He demanded that provincial governments should take strict action against smugglers, profiteers, and hoarders.
He questioned the performance of District Food Controllers and other officials on the ground. He said that people know who is creating this situation and what they are doing.
Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema said that when he asked the provinces about the reason for not releasing enough wheat stocks, they had no answer. He said that the prices of wheat have gone down since the provinces have increased their release.
This year, $4.6 billion of edible oil and $2 billion of wheat was imported; the provincial governments should tell us whether they have tried to increase the cultivation area of edible oil and wheat, he said.
Federal Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema said that the decision to import 2.6 million MT wheat was made after consultation with the provincial government. He said that 1.3 million MT has already reached Pakistan, 400,000 tons is lying on the port and 800,000 MT wheat will be delivered within a month.