There is an acute food crisis in Pakistan. There is an unprecedented shortage of wheat, the main raw material for bread, the staple food of a large population of the country. As a result, there has been an extreme shortage of flour in different parts of the country. A bag of flour weighing 20 kg is being sold at Rs 2,800 to Rs 3,100 in different parts of Pakistan. People are crying and looting has increased.

According to the report of Economic Times, the recent crisis in Pakistan is due to acute shortage of wheat. The price of wheat flour, one of the country’s staple food staples, has skyrocketed amid the ongoing crisis. Flour is being sold at Rs 140 to Rs 160 per kg in Karachi. In Islamabad and Peshawar, a 10 kg bag of flour is selling at Rs 1,500 and a 20 kg bag is selling at Rs 2,800.

Mill owners in Punjab have taken flour prices up to Rs 160 per kg. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a 20 kg bag of flour is being sold at Rs 3,100 after the government failed to regulate stable prices.

The high demand for wheat flour in the country has led to clashes and chaos. There have been reports of stampedes from several areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces due to the crisis.

People spend thousands of hours every day standing in line to get subsidized flour. There is also shortage of supply in the market. Chaotic scenes are often seen when police, army go to distribute flour through mini trucks and vans. People gather around the car, pushing each other.

Several clashes between flour vendors and tandoors have already been reported.

Recently, one person was reported killed in a stampede in an area called Mirpurkhas. The Sindh government sold subsidized flour to the people in the region. According to media reports, the death occurred near the commissioner’s office when two carts carrying 200 bags of flour were being sold outside Gulistan-e-Baldia Park.

News agency ANI reported, ‘Police said 40-year-old laborer Harsingh Kolhi fell on the road during the chaos and was trampled by bystanders. Kolhi’s family demanded action against the food department officials.’

The accident took place while coming to collect flour from a mini-truck selling 10-kg bags of flour at Rs 65/kg. A similar scene of chaos was also seen around Sindh. It is reported that two women and a minor were injured in the stampede.

Balochistan’s Food Minister Jamarak Achakzai warned that if the country does not get nearly 4 lakh sacks of wheat, the crisis will intensify. Wheat stocks in the province are ‘totally exhausted’. Out of 2 lakh sacks of wheat, 10,000 sacks have been received. The Chief Minister of Punjab was requested to send 6 lakh sacks of wheat.

Residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complained of shortage of wheat flour and called on the government to end the crisis and provide subsidized flour.

Prices of bread and bakery items have also increased due to the shortage.

Several clashes between flour sellers and tandoors were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa last week over the price issue. A few days ago, a pedestrian was killed when two locals clashed with a tandoor owner over the price of bread in Pishtkhara and later fired at him. Several others were injured during the distribution of subsidized flour.

The cause of the crisis

The government’s failure to come up with an estimate of wheat imports can be cited as an important factor leading to the crisis. According to media reports, the conflict between the federal and Punjab governments is responsible for the ongoing wheat crisis in Pakistan.

The Punjab Food Department could not accurately estimate and make note of wheat requirements for import. According to Achakzai, ‘Balochistan has not got the required wheat reserves. Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi had promised to send the entire stock of wheat, but he did not fulfill his promise. Balochistan depends on Punjab and Sindh for 85 percent of its wheat. Both provinces have imposed restrictions on the export of the product.

(January 11)