In what has hit the common man hard, the rate of loose wheat flour is up by Rs 4 per kg in the state. What’s more, there’s a possibility of another price hike.
This steep and sudden hike in the rate of flour being sold by chakkis (local flour mills) is being attributed to a dip in supply of wheat to the flour mills from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under the open market sale scheme. Flour mill owners on Monday sought immediate government intervention to stabilise the prices.
The loose flour is being sold for Rs 21 to Rs 25 per kg in the retail market. Earlier, it was available from Rs 19 to 23 per kg.
The lower income groups, especially labourers, have been hit the hardest. Mahesh Nath, a migrant labourer from Uttar Pradesh, said the price hike will make it difficult for him to even feed his family.
The prices of packaged branded flour haven’t changed yet. Dharminder Singh, a flour mill owner in Ludhiana, said that there is an acute shortage of supply of wheat to flour mills which comes via FCI while the branded companies pick their wheat directly from the producer at rates higher than the minimum support price.
He added that the Centre has 99% wheat stock and the chakki owners are dependent on the FCI supply. FCI officials said the supply has been curtailed from the earlier 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes per week to 14,000 tonnes in line with central government’s orders. “We have not been given any reason for this reduction in supply. We have no option but to follow the orders,” said a senior officer.
FCI general manager for Punjab and Haryana Kumar Rahul said the restriction was “routine” and is done depending on the buffer stock availability.
The FCI auctions its spare stock at various places in Punjab each week under the open market sale scheme. Currently, the FCI holds almost 2 lakh tonne stock of 2014-15 which is to be liquidated through the scheme, added another officer
Naresh Ghai, president of Punjab Roller Flour Mills Association, said government’s estimate of wheat production was 940 lakh tonne in India, but the actual yield was 860 lakh tonne. There was gap of 80 lakh tonne as wheat production in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh had dipped.