The price of various brands of wheat flour has reached the benchmark of Rs130 per kilogram, while the price of wholegrain chakki atta has jumped to an all-time high — Rs145 per kg — in markets throughout the provincial capital as the price of wheat approaches Rs5,000 per maund in the grain markets.
While chakki owners attribute the rise in wheat flour prices in Punjab to a shortage of grains and high wheat support prices, flour millers blame the government for the price increase, which they attribute to a decrease in the amount of wheat released by government warehouses.
According to Khaleeq Arshad, a former chairman of the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), the Punjab Food Department only provided about 21,000 to 22,000 tonnes of wheat per year. The provincial governments of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provided very little wheat. There are far fewer grains available on the market than there is consumer demand.
Furthermore, he claimed that despite having full knowledge of the state of the market, the government had delayed the import of wheat. Other elements contributing to the increase in the price of wheat included smuggling and illegal marketing of wheat flour.
In addition to the internal issues and “mismanagement,” according to Khaleeq Arshad, the Russia-Ukraine war had made it challenging to import wheat. According to the former chairman of the PFMA, Pakistan had been importing significant amounts of wheat from Ukraine over the previous few years, but the war had disrupted the supply chain.
In addition to all the other factors, the government hadn’t allowed the private sector, which was far more efficient than the government agencies, to import wheat grains, he said. Khaleeq Arshad said the price of wheat flour had touched Rs2,000 for a bag of 15kgs in different markets owing to the shortage of grains.
The former PFMA chairman alleged that all the provincial governments had been limiting the supply of wheat stocks in anticipation of a high demand for the commodity during the holy month of Ramazan, which would fall in March.