May 7, 2004
Pakistan Halt Indian Wheat Imports
Pakistan will not import Indian wheat because it has Karnal Bunt (fungus virus) which could destroy the good quality of Pakistani wheat, experts said.
They said that the NWFP's demand to allow the import of wheat from India was not a good idea. "No wheat growing country would ever allow the import of Indian wheat, especially wheat affected by fungus," an expert said.
He said wheat-growing countries usually take measures to save protect their crop from fungus. "Only wheat consuming countries purchase such wheat. Indian wheat's international price is lower than Pakistani wheat."
Punjab Food Department sources said no written reply had yet been received from any province on the issue. Food Secretary Shahid Hassan Raja said there was no flour shortage in the NWFP. He said flour from 3,000 tons of wheat was being sent to the NWFP every day and 20-kilogramme flour bags were available for Rs 235 to Rs 240 in Peshawar, including transport charges.
"On average, around 60,000 20kg bags and 41,000 80kg bags are being sent to NWFP every day," he said.
Regarding Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) Chairman Niaz Ahmed's meeting with Food Department officials on Wednesday, he said they had complaints about wheat transportation in their divisions. He said a new permit system had been started for flour mills, according to which millers would be able to transport and procure wheat after showing their daily demands to their deputy superintendents of police (DSP). The DSPs concerned were authorised to issue permits to mills in their jurisdiction after seeing the mills' daily grinding average and capacity. "Now all PFMA grievances have been removed and issues resolved," Mr Raja said.
He said Section 144 would remain in place until the end of he wheat procurement campaign and the home secretary would renew the ban after 15 days.
Mr Raja said the wheat transport ban had been decided by the Punjab government a long time ago. Last year, Pakistan exported wheat for Rs 8,000 per ton, whereas Australian wheat cost Rs 14,000 per ton. "Why should Pakistan sell wheat so cheaply and later purchase this commodity for so high a price?"
Liaqat Ali Khan of the PFMA Punjab said the association had given a call to stop flour supply to the NWFP and Thursday was the first day. "The result will be out in a day or two. Around half of the supply continued but it will soon be stopped completely." Mr Khan said the association had decided to increase the price of 20kg flour bags Rs 8 per bag, which would now be available for Rs 230 in retail.
However, Mr Raja said the flour supply to the NWFP was continuing as before with flour from 3,000 tons of wheat being sent to the province on Thursday. He said the Food Department had bought 1.5 million tons of wheat by May 6.