01/21/2020, 18.09
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Bread shortages in Pakistan caused by excess flour exports

Pakistan is set to buy 300,000 tonnes to meet emergency. Between 2018 and 2019, the country exported twice that much, even after a ban was imposed. Bakers go on strike in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to protest lost sales. Flour shortages have pushed up the price of products made with flour.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Wheat-producing Pakistan is experiencing flour shortages. The situation has become so critical that the authorities have announced plans to buy 300,000 metric tonnes of wheat.

For ordinary Pakistanis, this is a crisis. “How can we survive without flour and bread?” asked Ezat Ullah, a Quetta resident, adding that “We can survive without gas, electricity, or even running water, but how can we live without bread?”

According to opposition parties, the government has exported more flour than it should have.

Between late 2018 and June 2019, at least 600,000 tonnes of wheat were exported. In July 2019, the government banned further exports, but another 48,000 tonnes were sent abroad until October 2019.

For Khwaja Asif, a lawmaker with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), some government officials have profited from the crisis.”

An editorial published today in Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, blames government's inefficiency in management and the lack of coordination with wheat-growing regions.

“The government and the opposition blame each other, while the consumers continue to suffer as a consequence of poor governance,” writes the paper.

As a result of wheat shortages, flour prices are up. Wheat products are a staple in Pakistanis’ diet.

Prices of wheat flour now hover around 50 US cents per kilogram, which adds up to nearly US$ 100 a month for the average family, this in a country where 29.5 per cent of the population (210 million) lives below the poverty line, set at 3,030 rupees (US$ 20).

Bakers (Nanbais) have protested against higher flour prices, which have forced them to increase the price of their products, with a subsequent decline in sales.

Yesterday they went on strike in various cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially Peshawar, and plan to push their grievances across the province.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has not said where it was going to buy the wheat. For now, the Economic Coordination Council has approved the purchase, reports indicate.

According to the Finance Ministry, the first ship is expected in mid-February. Meanwhile, the Food Security Minister Khusro Bakhtiar said that, at present, “the government has 400,000 tonnes of wheat in stock.”

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