LAHORE - SALMAN ABDUHU - Pakistan Flour Mills Association is pressurising the Punjab government to raise the price of wheat flour.

Due to unprecedented hike in petroleum products rates as well as electricity tariff, the cost has increased considerably, claimed millers. The PFMA delegations during the last few months have been holding meetings with Punjab Food Department as well as the advisors of CM and trying to convince them to increase the rates of flour. For this purpose the millers are also using the media as a pressure on the government but the govt has not accepted the demands of millers to raise flour rates.

It is to be noted here that flour rates are decided by the provincial govt as well as the DCO and millers cannot decide to revise the prices unilaterally.

Presently, flour 20 kg bag is available at Rs 585 in retail market however govt rate is Rs580 per 20kg bag.

It is also worth mentioning that Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan has reduced the 20kg flour bag price by Rs20 in a couple of days from Rs575 to Rs555.

In this scenario, its impossible for Punjab to let the millers increase flour prices on their own.

PFMA ex-chairman Asim Raza told The Nation that association has asked the govt to raise the rate of flour minimum by Rs85 per 20kg bag in view of soaring cost of production, but govt is resisting their demand.

It is to be noted that after the government decision of dropping yet another inflation bomb by making record increase in oil and CNG prices, the Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) had earlier decided unilaterally to jack up its transportation charges by Rs7 per 20kg flour bag to Rs15.

Asim Raza argued that when the rate of petrol was just Rs70 per liter we were charging the transportation prices of Rs8. Every month govt jacks up the petroleum products prices and resultantly transporters also escalate goods as well as passenger fairs. But we have been absorbing this high cost, which is soaring every month.

Responding to a question, he asked the government to immediately withdraw Fuel Adjustment Surcharge from electricity bills of flour milling industry, otherwise millers would be compelled to jack up flour prices up to Rs625 per 20kg bag.

He said that low wheat grinding rates and high electricity cost have hit the flour milling sector, as more than 50 per cent mills in Punjab have been closed down. He said that ever-soaring energy cost and fixed rates of wheat grinding by Punjab government have forced mill owners to shut down almost 400 mills in the province, as presently only 300 units are operating out of total 750 mills.

It is also worth mentioning that Special Assistant to the Chief Minister Punjab Mansha Ullah Butt had recently stated that flour prices are stable in the province and flour millers are selling flour bags on government announced rates.

He warned that unilateral increase in flour prices would not be tolerated and strict action would be taken against those found increasing flour prices.

He said that the government representative had a meeting with the flour mills association in this regard and office-bearers of the association had assured the government of their full support in keeping the prices of flour stable in the province.