Pakistan wheat flour crisis worsens as the country is facing a horrible food crisis as its markets have run out of wheat flour, or aata. 

Pakistan wheat flour crisis The recent problem in Pakistan is a result of the severe lack of wheat. Due to a wheat scarcity, India’s neighbour has been experiencing one of its worst-ever flour crises.

In the midst of the ongoing crisis, the cost of wheat flour, one of the main ingredients in Pakistanis’ staple diet, has risen. Flour is priced between Rs 140 and Rs 160 per kilogramme in Karachi. A 10 kilogramme bag of flour costs Rs 1,500 in Islamabad and Peshawar, whereas a 20 kg bag costs Rs 2,800.

There are long lines of individuals waiting to buy wheat, and in one of these lines, a stampede resulted in the death of one person. The situation is so bad that armed guards are accompanying mini-trucks carrying wheat to prevent conflicts as they go. The mishandling between the food department and flour mills has made the Pakistani food crisis, which had been escalating over the previous three months, even worse.

The mill owners in Punjab province have raised the cost of flour to Rs 160/kg. A 20-kg bag of flour is currently selling for Rs 3100 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because the government was unable to keep the price of the staple under control.

Conflict and anarchy are also being brought on by the nation’s huge need for wheat flour. Due to the issue, reports of stampedes came from a number of locations in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan.

To obtain the subsidised sacks of flour that are already in short supply on the market, tens of thousands of people put in hours each day. People swarm around cars, pushing each other, and chaotic incidents are frequently seen as the armed guards-escorted mini-trucks and vans distribute flour.

In the recent Mirpurkhas stampede, where the Sindh government sold subsidised flour to the populace, there was a reported death. The death, according to media accounts, happened close to the commissioner’s office when flour was being sold outside Gulistan-e-Baldia Park by two lorries carrying 200 sacks each.

According to the police, a 40-year-old labourer named Harsingh Kolhi was crushed by onlookers after falling in the commotion and landing on the road. The family of Kolhi has called for punishment against the department of food authorities.

The crowd of people gathered around the cars, pushing one another to steal the bag of flour from the mini-trucks, which were selling 10-kg flour bags for Rs 65/kg. This is what started the stampede.

Similar scenes of disorder where wheat was being sold through mini-trucks or vans were seen in various districts of Sindh. When purchasing flour at the government rate in Shaheed Benazirabad’s Sakrand town, three women and a young girl were hurt in a rush that broke out outside the flour mill.

The problem would worsen, according to Balochistan’s Minister of Food Zamarak Achakzai, if the nation doesn’t receive roughly 400,000 sacks of wheat. He declared that the province’s supply of wheat had “totally ended.”

Achakzai stated, “Out of 200,000 bags of wheat, 10,000 sacks have been received,” as reported by The Express Tribune. He said, “They had asked the Punjab Chief Minister to deliver 600,000 sacks.

According to a tweet from VOA Deewa, residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been complaining about a lack of wheat flour and have urged the government to resolve the issue by offering subsidised flour.

The price of bread and other bakery goods has also increased as a result of the shortfall.

Disputes over prices have reportedly resulted in a number of fights at flour vendors and tandoors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent weeks. A few days ago, two locals fought with a tandoor owner over the price of bread in Pishtakhara, resulting in one bystander being killed. They then opened fire on the man. Several additional people suffered injuries as the subsidised flour was distributed.

Reason for the Pakistan wheat flour crisis: 

One important reason contributing to the situation is the government’s inability to estimate wheat imports.

According to media accounts, Pakistan’s recent wheat crisis was caused by the conflict between the federal and Punjab governments.

The Punjab Food Department was unable to accurately calculate and record the amount of wheat that would need to be imported.

According to Achakzai, Balochistan did not receive the necessary amount of wheat. Parvez Elahi, the chief minister of Punjab, allegedly made a vow to supply the entire amount of wheat, but he did not follow through on it, according to Achakzai.

He claimed that Balochistan was 85% dependent on Punjab and Sindh for its supply of wheat and stated that both provinces had banned its export.

Pakistan had set a goal of producing 27 million tonnes of wheat in 2022, but the production of wheat was challenging due to a lack of water and the reconstruction of agricultural land.

Additional factors that led to the shortage in wheat production included an unstable economy and the loss of agricultural land as a result of the June 2022 floods.

Large tracts of agriculture were destroyed in Sindh and Balochistan provinces as a result of the devastating floods, which caused havoc in the southern regions of the nation.

A deal with Russia: 

An agreement was reached with Russia in November 2022 under which Pakistan would pay $112 million to purchase 3,00,000 tonnes of wheat from the Russian company Prodintorg.

Since Russia and Ukraine are two of the biggest producers of wheat worldwide, Pakistan purchased wheat from Prodintorg believing that it was not subject to US sanctions following the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Pakistan’s declining economy:

Pakistan’s economy is in decline and the nation’s foreign reserves have fallen to $5.8 billion, making this one of its worst economic eras. Pakistan has not experienced a lower level in the past eight years. Pakistan can only import bids for the upcoming three weeks due to the country’s severe financial constraints.

The decline in Pakistan’s foreign reserves since the start of FY23 has been noted by economists.

The issue is the fault of the former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration, according to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

Recently, the government also mandated that stores and malls close at 8:30 p.m. in an effort to preserve electricity. Also required to close by 10pm were wedding venues. Even the executive branch of government was urged to use 30% less electricity.

The United States provides financial assistance: 

The US administration announced $100 million in financial assistance to Pakistan on Tuesday.

The announced sum will go toward infrastructure, agriculture, medical assistance, and food.

Saudi Arabia, in addition to the US, is considering raising its investment in Pakistan to $10 billion. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman reportedly ordered the relevant authorities to investigate boosting the Kingdom’s investment in Pakistan to $10 billion.