Punjab millers set five-day deadline for revisiting wheat policy

LAHORE: Rejecting as ‘vague’ the population-based wheat release policy of the food department, flour millers in Punjab have threatened not to lift their respective grain quota from the department’s storages for five days in, what may be called, the first phase of their protest.

The protest call may lead to a panic buying in the market and the resultant demand and supply gap may create a flour shortage crisis, putting pressure on the provincial food authorities to come to the millers’ terms.

“The population-based wheat release policy announced the other day is vague, causing unrest among the industry, Punjab Flour Mills Association chairman Asim Raza told a press conference here on Monday.

Say ‘vague’ policy may create shortage of fine flour

“An emergency meeting of over 300 millers here today expressed its reservations at the policy and decided neither to enter into agreement with the provincial government (on supply of flour) nor lift wheat from food department storages for five days for not taking into confidence the major stakeholder in the wheat market.” Responding to a query, he said they would decide the next phase of their protest, which included closure of the mills, if the government didn’t revisit the policy within five days.

Mr Raza said there would be no immediate increase in the flour price provided the wheat market remained stable. He said the new policy not only reduced their grinding charges from Rs600 to Rs400 per 100kg wheat but also changed flour by-products extraction ratio which, he feared, might cause shortage of fine (maida) brand of flour in the market. He told a questioner that the mills would continue to supply flour to the market for the five days by grinding the wheat purchased from the open market. He admitted that the industry was having at least 0.8 million tonnes of wheat stock, whereas around 0.4 million tonnes grain was present in the open market, while daily consumption of wheat stood at 20,000 to 22,000 tonnes. He said the release of 16,200 tonnes per day of wheat by the department could not meet the consumer demand.