Flour millers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has asserted that the Punjab government has put a ban on the import of wheat into the northwestern province. Millers has shown concerned that that the price of a 20kg flour bag could increase from Rs3,000 to Rs4,000 if the ban persisted.
Under the guise of smuggling, the Punjab government has prohibited the delivery of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which the the millers regards as an illegal restriction. They called upon the the national and provincial administrations to pay attention to the situation and deal with the halt in wheat shipments from Punjab.
In a conference led by the Chairman of Pakistan Flour Mills Association KP, Haji Mohammad Iqbal, millers argued that Punjab’s restriction on the transportation of wheat is illegal and unconstitutional. According to them, no restrictions on the inter-provincial movement of wheat or any other edible good are permitted under Article 151 of the Constitution.
The flour mills association’s chairman insisted that the Punjab government frequently used the smuggling pretext to ban the supply of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Wednesday’s restriction came over the same pretext.
Mr Iqbal said that the trucks carrying wheat, which was purchased by KP’s flour mills from private parties, had been stopped at checkposts, while cases of smuggling were being registered against them. He further added that such moves create “hatred” among federating units.
“This police crackdown is meant to close our [KP] flour millers down,” he said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is dependent on Punjab for its supply of wheat and flour since it needs 500,000 tonnes of wheat annually while Punjab produces 800,000 tonnes, according to association officials. Punjab produces around 80% of the country’s wheat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa depends on it to meet its wheat and flour needs.
10,000 tonnes of wheat are consumed daily in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, of which 5,000 tonnes are supplied by Punjab, and the region suffers from a flour and wheat scarcity.
“Any further delay in wheat procurement as well as resumption of the supply of subsidised flour to the needy will spike prices in the province,” he said.
The association leader also urged Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to announce a special package to save Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s flour mills which employed thousands of people. He said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had around 260 flour mills but almost 70% of them had stopped operation due to the ban of the Punjab government on wheat supply to the province. He also said flour mills of KP should be allowed to purchase wheat from private groups in Punjab.
He claimed that even though Pakistan has good wheat production, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had to import expensive wheat from Ukraine due to the ban on wheat transportation by Punjab.
“Wheat import costs our province [KP] billions of rupees,” he said.
The association leader futher said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces affordable electricity more than its need, so the surplus electricity is supplied to the rest of the country but even then, the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are often subjected to prolonged power outrages.