Flour shortage in Sindh: Centre to ban wheat exports for two weeks
* Punjab to start sending wheat to Sindh today
* Minister says no favouritism in giving first tender to Australian company
* Meeting called on January 27 to evaluate second tender
By Zamir Haider
ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to stop the export of wheat abroad for two weeks to ensure that the wheat situation normalises in Sindh.
“My ministry has formally requested the commerce ministry to stop wheat exports for two weeks from next week,” Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind told Daily Times on Friday.
“Punjab will start sending wheat to Sindh from today (Saturday) to help stabilise the wheat situation,” he said. Mr Rind said the Punjab government would not ask the Sindh government to pay for 50,000 tons in cash but would return the same quantity from the next crop. “The Punjab chief minister, as a goodwill gesture, has also agreed to provide another 50,000 tons of wheat to Sindh if necessary,” Mr Rind said.
Mr Rind said that the government had called a second tender for another 150,000 tons of wheat from the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supply Corporation (PASSCO) last week and the ban would help the government get wheat at a lower price than before the ban.
To a question about the controversy over the first tender for 150,000 tons of wheat from Messrs Tradesmen, an Australian company, Mr Rind said that the tender was transparent and there was no favouritism involved.
“The company fulfilled all the formalities and made the lowest bid and their quality was also confirmed by the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council,” he said.
The minister said the company had stated that its ship would berth at Karachi port on February 22 with 150,000 tons of wheat from the first tender and another 150,000 tons of wheat was expected in the second week of March after the second tender was filled. “We are also holding a meeting to evaluate the bids for the second tender on January 27,” he said.
Regarding the sowing of the wheat crop, Mr Rind said that the 20 million-acre target of wheat was achieved and he hoped that another 20 million-ton target would be met, since the government would ensure that all inputs are made available to the farmers on time.
Mr Rind said that the ministry had also directed the governments of the Frontier and Balochistan to enforce strict measures to check wheat smuggling, which was one of the major reasons for the wheat shortage.
Meanwhile, Sikander Hayat Bosan chaired a meeting on wheat procurement from the next crop that will start arriving from April 2004. The meeting decided that Punjab would initially procure 3.5 million tons, Sindh 0.5 million tons, Balochistan 0.1 million tons, and PASSCO would procure 2.4 million tons. It was decided that another meeting on wheat procurement would be held after the initial estimates of the crop volume would be available by the end of February.