Flour prices : Mills heavily penalised for non-compliance

LAHORE: The Punjab Food Department has launched a province-wide crackdown against flour mills selling flour at prices higher than the ones fixed by the government, for not mentioning the price on flour bags, and for not grinding the wheat procured by the government.

Owing to non-compliance with the orders of the government, fines worth millions of rupees have been imposed on various flour mills and their wheat quota has been suspended. What’s more, show-cause notices have been issued to over 60 flour mills across the province in the past two days.

The Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) has termed the crackdown unjustified and unfair, adding that the step can stir tensions between the Food Department and the flour milling industry.

Wheat, flour prices to go up in Punjab

“The actions being taken by the deputy directors and district food controllers seem to be exclusively aimed at harassing the mill owners,” the newly-elected central chairman of PFMA, Asim Raza said.

“We have met and informed the higher authorities of the department about our reservations. We also demanded them to stop the unjustified crackdown.”

Raza added that the Food Department must take action against certain mills for non-compliance per the law but a crackdown launched solely for harassment only creates dismay and frustration.

Prior to the selling of the government procured wheat, the Food Department and PFMA had decided that every mill will be required to stamp the ex-mill price of Rs786 on each flour bag in accordance with the law.

It was further agreed upon that the procured wheat will be processed and all the flour mills will submit their bills to the department, while the sealed receipt handed over to flour dealers would be duly recorded.

The rules, however, were not followed by many flour mills and complaints of non-compliance were sent to the food secretary. As a result, all deputy directors and district food controllers have been ordered to carry out the inspection of over 700 registered flour mills to ensure that rules and regulations are strictly followed.

Tax on flour leaves stakeholders confused

According to sources, the Food Department issued show-cause notices to seven mills in Gujranwala, 20 mills in Bahawalpur and eight mills in Faisalabad during the ongoing inspection spree. The wheat quota of several mills has also been suspended.  Similarly, actions have been taken against four mills in Sahiwal, nine in Lahore and five mills in Multan.

Last month, the Punjab Food Department had approved the release of government wheat to scores of the flour mills in Punjab. The government’s wheat provision bore a subsidy of Rs412 per maund (40 kilogrammes) which was set to assist flour mills in cutting down their prices and give some relief to the public.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2019.

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Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/2066166/1-flour-prices-mills-heavily-penalised-non-compliance/