Despite surplus domestic stocks, unnecessary wheat import leads to $1 billion loss

Ministry of Food, allegedly in league with flour mafia and wheat importers, facilitated import of 35,87,373 metric tons of wheat from September 2023 to March 2024

ISLAMABAD: Despite surplus domestic stocks, the import of more than 35,87,373 metric tons of wheat from September 2023 to March 2024 has allegedly caused loss of $1 billion of foreign exchange to the country, it was learnt on Wednesday.

According to sources, the Ministry of National Food Security has facilitated the import of wheat allegedly in league with flour mafia and wheat importers and defrauded the country of more than one billion dollars of foreign exchange. 

This import has inflicted a loss of above Rs 300 billion to the farmers and Rs 104 billion to the government exchequer, according to sources privy to the development.

Sharing details, the sources said wheat stocks with PASSCO and provincial food departments were 43,65,220 metric tons on April 1, 2024 and there was no need for private import of wheat. 

They said as the private sector and flour millers imported wheat, PASSCO and provincial food departments could not sell their stocks of 43,65,220 metric ton and have incurred average incidental charges of Rs 950 per maund/40 kg, and total loss to government because of incidental amounted to Rs 104 billion which has allegedly indirectly gone to the pockets of flour millers, traders and bureaucracy. 

They said due to unnecessary and unwanted import, prices of wheat have crashed to Rs 2800-3000 per maund against government price of Rs 39,000/maund and the farmers will be forced to sell 50 percent i-e 16 million metric tons out of estimated 32 million metric tons of total produce as government is allegedly purchasing very little wheat. 

Thus, more than Rs 300 billion will allegedly be looted from the farmers and will go to the pockets of flour millers, import traders and bureaucracy, said sources.

The import was kept uncapped and ships continued to dock at Karachi even during the entire month of March, 2024 when wheat from Sindh province was coming to market, the sources added.

It is also learnt from the sources that 71 cargos of wheat were imported from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and private importers continued the import of wheat till March 31 instead of March 15.

They said that over 3.5 million tons of wheat was imported under the pretext of importing one million tons of wheat.

They said live insects were found during the inspection in 26 cargoes of wheat out of 71 cargoes of wheat imported from September 2023 to March 2024. Inspection of imported wheat was done by a subordinate department of the Ministry of National Food Security, said sources.  

Sources also informed that the private sector was given an open exemption for the import of wheat instead of a fixed limit allegedly on the recommendation of the Ministry of Finance. 

They said that the Ministry of National Food Security had ignored the important suggestions of the Ministry of Commerce and Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). Additional wheat was imported under the systematic plan, which caused billions of rupees loss to the country, said sources.

Khalid Mahmood Khokhar, President Pakistan Kissan Ittehad has requested the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to conduct an inquiry into this mega scandal through a high-powered committee and those who made proposals and gave permission for import of wheat must be punished.

Ahmad Ahmadani
Ahmad Ahmadani
The author is a an investigative journalist at Profit. He can be reached at [email protected].

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