LAHORE - A group of flour millers as well as some growers’ associations have opposed the government’s decision of allowing 0.8 million tons of wheat import from Russia and India on the plea that their wheat quality is inferior while grain stock in the country is sufficient, though the fact is that the import move has improved the supply of wheat and brought price of flour lower and would force the hoarders to sell their stock.

The Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), at the start of the current month, had demanded the authorities to allow wheat import particularly from India due to government’s inability to meet its wheat procurement target.

The PFMA chairman Syed Zahoor Ahmed Agha stated that the move was necessary to avert likely wheat and flour crisis in the country. The Association had also written a letter to the ministry of agriculture to allow flour mills to import 500,000 tons of wheat.

However, chairman of FPCCI standing committee on flour milling Dr Bilal Sufi and vice chairman Mukhtar Ahmed were of the view that on economic front, country is facing many challenges but the matter of food security with reference to wheat is satisfactory.

“We have about 7.5 million tons of wheat in the government godowns which is in line with our annual requirement. As per province wise details, Punjab has wheat stock of 4.2 million tons, Sindh has 1 million tons, KPK has 1 million tons, Passco 2.2 million tons, showing a total of 7.5 million tons in the country.” In addition to this, wheat open market has also some stocks of about 0.5 million tons, they added.

In a letter written to PM Nawaz Sharif, the PFMA Founders’ Group Chairman observed that this year Punjab seems to be comfortable enough as it will fulfill the needs of people of Punjab if wheat issued is with a good management. Sindh, Balochistan and KPK may have problems but for fulfilling their needs Passco stocks can be used as per their genuine requirements and out of Passco stocks 1.5 million tons can be given to all the four provinces including Punjab if needed. Letter further says: “We in the flour milling industry, (Founders Group) want to assure you of our utmost cooperation and have suggested you not to import wheat from India as they already have plans to damage our agriculture by creating acute water shortage problems.”  Sources said that about 50,000 tons of Russian/Romanian wheat has already been sold to Pakistan at about $292 a ton for August shipment to Karachi. Agri Forum Pakistan Chairman Dr Ibrahim Mughal has also observed that Pakistan has allowed the commodity importers to import 800,000 tons of wheat and feared that importers may approach former Russian estates to buy cheaper grain. He claimed that Russian wheat is ‘far inferior in quality’ which is not liked in Pakistan rather being used as animal feed in various countries of the world.

Mughal said Pakistan never had the need to import the 800,000 tons of wheat if Punjab province had met its production target. He said this year production target of the province was 19.2 million tons while it could achieve only 18.6 million tons.  On the other hand, PFMA was of the view that wheat production, which stood at 24.3 million tons, is not enough to meet local demand this year. They added that hoarders were not selling wheat till prices rose. “The import will compel hoarders to release the wheat at this time of need. Moreover, the import will also bring the price of wheat and flour lower at local markets. The landed cost of wheat from India will be cheaper by Rs400-500 per 100 kg than the local wheat.

The landed cost of Indian wheat is around Rs2,900 per 100 kilogram compared to Rs3,500 per 100 kilogram of Pakistani wheat.

DETAILS OF WHEAT STOCK

PUNJAB:    4.2 million tons

SINDH:    1.0 million tons

KPK:    1.0 million tons

PASSCO:    2.2 million tons

OPEN MARKET:    0.5 million tons

TOTAL:    8.0 million tons