The flour mills’ owners, particularly those of South Punjab, are not happy with the wheat release policy of the Punjab Food Department. Under the new formula, the government wants to control the availability of floors in the market. However, the flour millers argue that the way forward is complete liberalisation. While the liberalisation of the market works for mill owners, it does not guarantee that the people will be able to buy the flour at affordable rates.

Lack of government regulation allows the manufacturers and producers to emerge as the biggest beneficiaries. Mill owners are not the only ones that the government needs to shield. The state also has to protect consumers. The aim behind the revision of the quota is to ensure the availability of flour in major urban centres of the province. Besides, the slash on share is intended to discourage the hoarding of the wheat.

However, what is clear is that both the parties are sticking to extremes. And this approach is likely to cause problems. The association’s argument that the new quota will prompt some ghost mills to start hoarding wheat undoubtedly carries weight. But we also know the dirty tricks of private industry. In the recent past, the Pakistan Flour Mills Association was reportedly a key player in causing the flour crisis.

The authorities understand all too well that they cannot just let mills do whatever they want. They must strike a balance in the market. This perhaps explains the government’s newly released quota for the flour mills. What is a win-win situation that the government can create? Stringent checks, and allowing additional amounts of wheat to the mills if they can demonstrably show their demand is real; this is perhaps the most plausible solution. This way, the state can ensure protecting the interests of the producers and consumers alike.