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LAHORE: The Punjab Flour Mills Association has warned the government of not supplying flour to open market across the province from February 11, if ‘illegal inspections’ of mills are not stopped.

While addressing a press conference here on Monday, PFMA chairman Ch Iftikhar Mutto allegedly said that secretary Food Punjab was raiding flour mills against the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and implicating them in wheat quota misappropriation cases.

Punjab chapter PFMA chairman Ch Iftikhar Mutto told the media after a meeting of the body’s executive committee here on Monday that action had so far been taken against 13 mills in Lahore which were ‘illegally’ sealed by the food department in a day in violation of its own SOPs affecting Atta supply in the City.

He said that managers of various mills were arrested, while ‘false’ cases were instituted against many others on charges of misappropriation of wheat quota given by the department for grinding and selling the Atta in special green bags for their sale on a subsidized rate.

He said they had invested billions of rupees in the flour milling business only to be called as thieves and this attitude of the department could not be tolerated.

Mutto blamed the newly-posted food secretary for action against the mills on ‘frivolous’ charges and in violation of the department’s own SOPs.

Expressing their reservations at the ‘uncalled for’ action which affected the supply of Atta in the market, he said, adding the millers were ready to adopt a joint line of action on the issue.

He said the department in consultation with the milling industry had prepared SOPs for release of wheat from food storages, its grinding and sale as well as suggested punishments against violations of the same. He said the industry had no issue if the mills were inspected and penalties imposed in case of any violation of the SOPs but the factories must not be sealed.

He warned that if the action against flour mills was not stopped, Atta supplies to the market would be suspended from coming Saturday.

Meanwhile, Secretary Food Punjab Muhammad Zaman Wattoo said the process of inspection of mills would continue throughout the province, adding no one could be allowed to cheat in the government wheat quota. “The fruits of the subsidy provided by the government should reach the common man while the cooperation of the mill owners will be required to ensure the prevention of smuggling etc.”

These views were expressed by Secretary Food Muhammad Zaman Wattoo during a meeting with the delegation of Progressive Flour Mills Association in his office.

The delegation was led by President PFMA Majid Abdullah while Mian Shafiq from National Flour Mill Sheikhupura, Mian Fayyaz from Star Flour Milling Group and Sajid Abdullah from Sunny Flour Milling Group were included in the delegation.

The delegation appealed to Secretary Food Punjab that at present wheat is Rs 2300 per maund in Punjab and Rs 3400 per maund in Sindh while the market rate of wheat is Rs 4600 per maund, saying it should be equal to stop smuggling etc.

While appreciating the efforts of the Food department, the delegation said the inspection process should continue in the mills across the province under the rules and regulations.

The delegation assured the Food Secretary that they would not be part of any strike as their associations did not depend on subsidies and government quotas. Secretary Food assured the delegation that their proposals would be finalized and placed at the relevant forum.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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