KARACHI       -          Keeping in view the artificial wheat shortage in the province, Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah has ordered a crackdown on the elements storing the grains.

He was presiding over a meeting held here at the CM House on Monday to review the situation arising out of the wheat shortage and increasing price of flour.

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Minister for Food Hari Ram, Minister for Agriculture Ismail Rahu, Advisor to CM Murtaza Wahab, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro, Secretary Finance Hassan Naqvi, Secretary Food Laiq Ahmed, Secretary Forest Raheem Soomro and others.

The chief minister said that he had reports that some traders had hoarded wheat in their godowns, resulting in increase in wheat prices in the market. “We can’t leave poor people of this province at the mercy of hoarders,” he said, and directed the chief secretary to start operation against the hoarders. “Whichever force, police or Rangers, the authorities require to arrest the hoarders must be provided to them,” he ordered.

Briefing the chief minister, Food Secretary Laiq Ahmed said that as on Jan 13, 2020, 405,938.549 tonnes of wheat was lying in all the six regions of the province.

Giving breakup of the stock, he said, “10,374.333 tonnes of wheat was stored in Karachi, 24,948.0 tonnes in Hyderabad, 1615.336 tonnes in Mirpurkhas, 58,524.593 tonnes in Shaheed Benazirabad, 179,709.477 tonnes in Sukkur, and 130,766.810 tonnes in Larkana. Out of which, the food department has released 35,805.607 tonnes of wheat.”

The chief minister was told that as on Jan 13, 2020, the flour price was Rs43 per kg in all the regions.

The chief minister said that out of around 300,000 tonnes of wheat, which was still lying in the godowns of the food department, the provincial government had released 130,000 tonnes to the provincial capital. “We have to release wheat for the next two months, till March 15, when fresh crop will be harvested and lands in the market,” he said, and added the provincial government had to make the arrangements accordingly.

He was told that around 77,000 wheat bags procured from PASSCO had been distributed in the provincial capital while 25,000 bags had been released in Hyderabad, and that more stocks were being lifted from the PASSCO godowns in Punjab and Balochistan.

To a question, the chief minister said that Rs90 billion of commercial banks loan was out standing against the Food Department.

Finance secretary disclosed that Rs20 billion had been repaid. “The PASSCO has also been paid the wheat price,” he informed. The chief minister directed the food department to work out a plan to pay all the dues of the commercial banks and get itself relieved of the burden.

The chief minister also directed the food department to ask millers to set up their stalls and provide flour to the consumers at Rs43 per kg. “I want you to stablize the wheat prices within next two days, otherwise I would take strict action,” the chief minister said.

Murad directed the food department to prepare draft of wheat procurement plan, 2019-20 so that support price and procurement target could be finalized in the cabinet meeting to be held tomorrow (Wednesday).