All Pakistan Flour Mills KP Chapter (APFMA-KP) has announced to close all mills across the province from Sunday as a protest due to shortage of wheat supply. The looming flour crisis in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) alongwith the Covid-19 situation is bound to make the situation more challenging for KP populace.
Previously, in March 2020, the KP Minister for Food Qalandar Khan Lodhi had claimed that there was no wheat flour crisis in the province and masses should not pay attention to what he claimed were rumors.
While addressing the media earlier, he had also said that the provincial government is supplying wheat flour at fixed rates through notified flour dealers and mobile trucks at different points. The Food Department has 6, 76, 000 metric tons of wheat for this year. The minister further said that the Food Department was releasing 5,000 metric tons of wheat daily to the local flour mills.
Meanwhile, while rejecting the reports of media about the looming flour crisis in KP, advisor to Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Wazir earlier in April had also claimed that there was no crisis of flour in KP.
However, despite the claims, the situation has further worsened leading to announcement of mills closure by APFMA-KP. It appears that the provincial government did not devise any timely strategy or carry out coordination with the federal government or Mills Associations to address the crisis. Rather the sluggish response of the government has further pushed the province into another crisis.
The president of APFMA-KP chapter Haji Muhammad Iqbal while talking to us lamented that the KP government was non serious regarding the looming flour crisis. He stated that the Punjab government has frequently held meetings with mills owners in Punjab and the KP government was yet to call us for a meeting on the issue.
He further stated that besides many other repercussions, the closure of 180 mills in KP will render more than 30 thousand people jobless as thousands of workers are associated with the mills as laborers.
He also stated that despite tall claims by KP government to maintain adequate supply of wheat in the province, the provincial food department has reduced the wheat supply to 45 sacks per mill from 5,000 tons per day. This is likely to trigger severe crisis in the province in coming days.
Another flour mill owner Haji Jan Muhammad said that they have never seen such crisis in the recent history; adding that such an artificial crisis were the signs of week federation.
Many other experts are blaming the Food Department for the impending flour crisis in the province, saying that it failed to take up the issue timely with the federal and provincial governments.
It is pertinent to mention that the KP is producing 40 percent of its wheat requirement while the rest is supplied from Punjab. Besides, the incompetency of KP government, Punjab government has also curbed supply of wheat to KP which is one of the main reasons for looming crisis of flour in province.
According to article 151 of the constitution pertaining to inter-provincial trade stipulates: “Subject to clause (2) trade, commerce and intercourse throughout Pakistan shall be free. (2) 1[Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] may by law impose such restrictions on the freedom of trade, commerce or intercourse between one province and another or within any part of Pakistan as may be required in the Public interest. (3) A provincial assembly or a provincial government shall not have power to-(a) make any law, or take any executive action, prohibiting or restricting the entry into, or the export from, the province of goods of any class or description”. Keeping in view article-151, Punjab government decision is in clear contravention to the constitution.
However, wheat production overall has declined in Pakistan due to various reasons including changing weather pattern. Therefore, Federal government needs to play a proactive role in order to ensure sufficient supply of wheat to all provinces. KP government must also act immediately by engaging all stakeholders in order to avoid the looming flour crisis.