Flour shortage


The everyday struggle of Pakistanis as they strive to afford basic essentials like flour serves as a poignant reminder of the state’s failure to meet the needs of its people. Although official spokespersons believe grain imports have allowed the masses to steer clear of any wheat and flour shortage in the last five months as they paid lower prices, the ground reality still dictates that these prices are still high, especially when considering the benefits of rupee appreciation. Why is it that the authorities need shrill alarm bells to snap out of their slumber only when prices have soared through the roof? Even if no shortage is in sight, shouldn’t there be an effective mechanism in place that can ensure market price stability, forcing retailers to pass on any reliefs to the consumers in the same way they translate the cost of jacked-up miller rates?
Despite assurances from the government to bring about changes, people are compelled to purchase wheat at extremely high prices, paving the path for widespread dissatisfaction.
Every year, protests emerge in different parts of the country as individuals take to the streets to express their frustrations regarding the costly wheat prices. Just last month, life in Gilgit-Baltistan stood paralysed in the wake of widespread shutter-down and wheel-jam strikes against the government’s decision to raise the subsidised wheat rate. Now that the Punjab government has decided to pull the brakes on subsidised flour in Ramadan Bazars with plans to unroll targetted interventions, it is only a matter of time before people here too decide to head towards the streets in outrage.
The escalating cost of wheat has a direct impact on the price of flour, a staple in the Pakistani diet. This has made it increasingly challenging for families to afford essential items. The government has frequently committed to tackling the issue of expensive wheat and implementing reforms to stabilize prices. Yet, these commitments have largely proved ineffective, with the absence of effective policies and checks against hoarders enabling the unchecked increase in wheat prices.
With Ramadan around the corner, the situation is poised to deteriorate even further for those observing fasting in a predominantly Muslim country like Pakistan. During this sacred month, the consumption of wheat-based products significantly rises, further burdening the already struggling budgets of families. The inability to purchase flour at inflated prices during this period can have severe consequences for the health and nutritional intake of the population. It is evident that the issue of expensive wheat is not a transient concern but a persistent crisis that demands immediate attention. The government must swiftly take action to address the underlying causes of this problem and implement sustainable solutions to ensure the accessibility and affordability of wheat for all citizens. This entails exploring avenues to boost domestic wheat production, effectively regulating prices, and cracking down on hoarding and profiteering.