The prices of wheat flour are sky rocketing in Pakistan. The fears of shortage and further price hike helped the hoarders and profiteers to take advantage of this fear. The prices of one Kg flour has went up to Rs70. The prices of Roti and Nan almost doubled in last few days in many parts of the country. The hike in flour prices has badly hurt the poor people. It has become even more difficult for the already battling poor families to feed themselves twice a day.
The government is trying to shift the responsibility of this crisis simply on to the hoarders and profiteers. It seems that government is not ready to take responsibility for this crisis. The federal government is blaming the provincial governments and in return- the provincial governments are accusing the federal government. The opposition is also blaming the government for this crisis.
The PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran must stop blaming the others for its own failures. The government cannot run away from its responsibility to keep check on prices and also to maintain enough deposits of wheat to ensure a smooth supply to the market. The government failed on both counts.
First question is that who is responsible for the shortage of wheat in the country. Can the government simply put the blame on profiteers and hoarders and clear itself from the responsibility of this crisis. To fix the reasonability- it is necessary to look into the main reasons of this shortage.
First- federal government failed to monitor the procurement in all provinces. The provincial governments in Baluchistan and Sindh did not procure wheat in the last season. The NAB investigation in previous procurement frightened the provincial bureaucracy and they decided not to procure the wheat.
The Baluchistan government did the same. The ECC had set a procurement target of 4 million metric tons of wheat for Punjab but the actual procurement was 3.3 million metric tons, roughly 18% less than the actual target. Similarly, the ECC had set a procurement target of 300,000 metric tons of wheat for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa but the actual procurement was 37,000 metric tons only. So both the Punjab and KPK governments procured less wheat than the target set up by ECC.
Second- the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet had placed the ban on wheat export on Jul 17, 2019. Yet, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, from July to October 2019, 48,083 metric tons of wheat was exported which earned Rs1.82 billion. The government can blame itself for this crisis. The illegal export is also the main reason of this shortage.
Pakistan produced enough wheat last year to meet its demand. Pakistan needs around 2 million ton wheat per month to meet its demand. Pakistan produced 24.7 million tons. Even though it was less than that was produced in 2017-18 which stood at 25.195 million tons.
The prices of wheat, flour started escalating in different parts of the country from October 2019, and have now sky rocketed. The government failed to take notice of this price increase. No action was taken to address this emerging issue. The government only panicked when this crisis went out of control.
This crisis is mainly result of government inaction and poor planning and management both at federal and provincial levels. The profiteers and hoarders are only taking advantage of this shortage and crisis to earn more profits. They are driven solely by lust of money and profits. They are manipulating the market. They must be punished. The appropriate action must be taken against them. But they are not the ones who created this crisis. They played role in the aggravation of this crisis.
But it was the government who is responsible for this crisis. The government must accept its responsibility and develop mechanism to avoid this crisis in future. The masses are paying heavy price of the government failure and inability of taking action at the earliest and the lust of petty capitalists for more profits.
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