ISLAMABAD - As the wheat and wheat flour crisis deepens across the country, Federal Minister of National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar on Sunday sounded optimistic about easing of the situation soon.

“Consumers would witness a decline in wheat and flour prices beginning tomorrow (today),” Khusro Bakhtiar told a hurriedly called presser insisting that the prices and artificial shortage of wheat and flour will come down soon due to the government’s effective measures.

He said that the government is taking concrete steps to control the rising prices of wheat and flour in the country.

He explained that the crisis has emerged in the country due to multiple reasons including transporters’ strike in Karachi which had affected the supply in the local markets of Sindh and ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to curb wheat smuggling to Afghanistan.

He said that both the causes were dually addressed and the wheat supply was restored.

Bakhtiar was confident to say that the demand-supply gap has been bridged and the situation would be smooth in the local markets as well as prices would also came down in a couple of days.

The minister assured that effective steps are being taken to stop smuggling of flour from the country as smuggling of 40,000 tons wheat to Afghanistan from Chaman Border has been stopped.

He said that the government has fixed the price of the wheat 1365 rupees per 40 kg and it has set purchase target of 2.7 million ton wheat next year.

Khusro Bakhtiyar said that the Sindh province is witnessing shortage of flour due to its own policies and failure in timely procuring the consignment provided by Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO).

He said that 9,000 tons wheat has been sent to Karachi yesterday and the government is ready to provide additional flour up to 100,000 tons to the Sindh province.

The minister said that additional four to five thousand tons wheat will be supplied to Khyber Pakhunkhwa province.

In response to a question, he said that the incumbent government has attached higher priorities with the agriculture sector and initiated development projects worth Rs 300 billion to enhance the output of major crops including wheat.

When his attention was drawn to the PPP government in Sindh, Khusro Bakhtiar said that the Sindh government had failed to procure even a single grain of wheat this year despite having a target of 700,000 tons.

He said that the citizens of Sindh are as dear as any other in the country and the federal government will assume responsibility for their care.

On the other hand, the PPP and PML-N alleged that despite a shortage in the reserves of wheat, the commodity had been exported.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif demanded an inquiry to determine who had authorised the move.

“When there was an internal shortage, why was wheat and flour sent abroad?” he asked.

He demanded that answers be provided to the nation for who was behind this act and at what price it was sold.

“The nation must know who benefitted from having caused such harm to the country.”

He asked what had happened to the wheat reserves in the past 16 months and why wheat was exported if the reserves were running low.

According to Shehbaz Sharif, while the government was touting 2020 as a year of progress, economic experts are declaring it a year of economic devastation.

“If Imran Khan is unaware, then he is incompetent, and if all is at his behest, then he is the ringleader of corrupt elements,” he said.

A day earlier, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had alleged that the federal government had sent 40,000 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan, and thus, intentionally had created a wheat crisis.

Claiming that the government had a lot of wheat that was not being supplied to the people, he alleged that the PM had perhaps created this crisis to benefit his cronies.

In a related development, the nanbais of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have announced to go on a strike today against the government.

They said their various associations in Punjab have given a five-day ultimatum to the government asking it to provide them flour at the previous rate or allow them to raise the prices of naan and roti.