Wheat and flour issue: PFMA officials meet food minister
By Noshad Ali
LAHORE: Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Punjab chapter officials and Punjab Food Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal met on Tuesday to discuss the wheat and flour issues, but the meeting remained inconclusive and will continue today (Wednesday), sources told Daily Times.
The sources said PFMA officials presented a five-point agenda that was discussed in detail. The meeting ended in a stalemate because the Food Department was unwilling to change its policy until the federal government imports more wheat to prevent a repeat of last year, when flour mills ‘blackmailed’ the government to raise the wheat price, and until the province completes its procurement target of 3.5 million tonnes, the sources said.
The Food Department has so far bought around 2.25 million tonnes, still 1.25 million tonnes short.
The PFMA officials wanted the inter-provincial ban on flour supply and inter-district ban on wheat supply to be lifted, flourmills exempted from the commodity loans return deadline of September 30 given by the State Bank flour prices fixed for the future and a wheat quota issued to flourmills in November instead of September, the sources said. The PFMA officials were hopeful that today’s meeting would bring positive results. “Tuesday’s meeting was very positive and healthy as the PFMA Punjab was able to conveyed its problems to the officials concerned,” said PFMA Punjab President Liaqat Ali Khan.
Mr Khan said the Punjab government’s next step could lead to provincial hostility and to avoid this, he urged the Punjab government to accept the PFMA’s proposals.
“It is time for Punjab to review its decisions to ban wheat and flour supply because it is creating unrest in the other provinces,” he said, adding that the the Punjab government should at least not hamper industrial and business activity for “vested interests”. Punjab Food Secretary Shahid Hassan said the negotiations would continue and every decision would be in the best interest of the country, its provinces and its people.
“Food security is a matter which can topple a government. We cannot take any risks with food security,” he said.