LAHORE - The price of a 20-kilogramme flour bag has increased to Rs670 per bag, as Punjab Food Department has restricted wheat supply to flour mills in the province.

Pakistan Flour Mills Association representatives, in a press conference, said that mills based in Punjab are being forced to buy wheat from the open market to cater Punjab as well as the KPK’s requirements and as they fetch the flour at higher prices, citizens are also forced to pay a much higher price.

However, Punjab government has claimed that it will not allow any increase in the price of atta. Food secretary said that Food Department Punjab has 4.1 lac metric tons wheat in its reserves. He said that supply of wheat to flour mills was started on October 8 last year and this process can be started earlier this year if needed. He said that in order to stabilise prices of atta in Punjab, 4 lac metric ton wheat is being supplied to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Passco reserves so that wheat reserves in Punjab should remain intact to meet the requirements. Association said that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is fully dependent on Punjab for supply of flour as there are very few mills in the province and they engage in exports to Afghanistan only.

Pakistan Flour Mills Association representatives further said that country seems to be moving towards a wheat crisis following an apparent shortage of the commodity in the market which has led to an upswing in the prices. The situation has arisen in the wake of a shortfall in the production of wheat. They said that the shortage occurred mainly due to Punjab’s failure to meet its target. The province harvested a mere 17.5 million tons against its initial target of 19.2 million tons. The decline was the result of poor planning and wrong estimations.

They said that authorities concerned have been too slow in realising the sensitivity of the emerging crisis and have only now allowed the private sector to import the commodity. What was needed was an immediate ban on exports which had exceeded 1.5 million ton. Pakistan, which has been exporting wheat for the last three years, may have to buy 800,000 tons to one million tons of wheat in the year to March 2014.