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PESHAWAR: Flour millers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demanded to lift an unconstitutional and illegitimate ban on wheat supply from Punjab on pretext of smuggling forthwith.

Economic-crisis and terrorism battered flour milling industry has come on complete closure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, millers said. They added that the illegal and unconstitutional restriction on wheat supply from Punjab has further worsened the situation.

The millers urged the federal and provincial governments to announce a special relief package to save the flour milling industry from destruction.

Pakistan Flour Mills Association Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter chairman Haji Muhammad Iqbal along with Group Leader Muhammad Naeem Butt told emergent news conference here on Wednesday that no restriction will be imposed on inter-provincial movement of wheat and other food items under article 151 of the constitution of the country. Iqbal said the Punjab government move created division and hatred among the federating units. 70 percent of the flour industry has closed down owing to an illegal ban on interprovincial movement of wheat that has triggered massive unemployment in the province, besides that investment worth billions of rupees also sunk, he added.

Similarly, he said the price of wheat flour has increased substantially in local markets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He warned that if the provincial food department did not start procurement of wheat and not provide to flour mills immediately then flour prices would further escalate in the province, which could directly affect the inflation-hit people.

The association chairman sought permission from federal and provincial governments and relevant authorities to procure wheat from the open market to run the flour industries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and prevent further price increase and create a flour crisis in the province. “In the previous regime, we had made demand several times from the PMs, CM Punjab, Federal Minister for Food Security, CM KP, Punjab and Provincial Food Minister, and high officials to lift illegal ban of wheat movement”. Despite the fact that the Punjab government has continuously enforced ban on wheat movement to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the millers said.

Muhammad Iqbal said mills had procured wheat privately in the open market, which was forcibly stopped at various checkpoints and FIRs were registered in name of smuggling, calling it a deliberate attempt to completely close down the flour industry in KP. The association chairman asked: “Is moving wheat from one province to other is smuggling”?

Iqbal said 80 percent wheat is produced in Punjab because KP was not sufficient in wheat production so that the province is mainly dependent on Punjab for fulfilling requirements of wheat and flour since the inception of the country.

The association chairman said the total requirement of KP is around 50 lakh metric tons as per its population but wheat production is KP nearly 6 to 8 lakh metric tons.

He added that despite surplus wheat in the country, Punjab has imposed an illegal ban on wheat movement to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, compelled the KP government to procure wheat from Ukraine at high rates, and put additional financial burden on the provincial kitty.

Iqbal said KP was producing low cost electricity, which was distributed in the whole country, despite that KP industries are facing hour long electricity load shedding. He said KP has taken decisions while keeping in interest of the other provinces.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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