With flour price relief yet to reach masses, pulse crisis emerges

Just when the prices of wheat flour are soon going to ease, following a merciless upward trend witnessed over the past few months, another fundamental kitchen commodity started to become costlier for a people badly battered by the inflation.

Prices of pulses are going up, thanks to the non-clearance of imported consignments at the port due to a delay in the approval of relevant documents by banks.

Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association (KWGA) chairman Rauf Ibrahim said the traders held a protest outside the State Bank’s head office on Thursday against the no-clearance of over 6,000 containers of pulses at the port for the past two months on account of dollar shortage and banks’ reluctance in approval of import documents.

A commodity importer/exporter, Faisal Anis Majeed told Dawn that the wholesale price of gram pulse had risen to Rs205 per kg from Rs180 on Jan 1, 2023, and Rs170 on Dec 1, 2022.

Masoor price reached Rs225 from Rs205 while it stood at Rs200 in December. Mash and mung shot up to Rs335 per kg and Rs260 from Rs315 and Rs225, respectively. On Dec 1, mash and mung sold at Rs288 and Rs200.

On retail markets, masoor, mung, mash and gram pulse rates have swelled to Rs270-280, Rs250-300, Rs380-400 and Rs230-260 per kg from Rs210-240, Rs180-220, Rs260-300 and Rs160-200 per kg in January 2022. The retail price may crawl up further due to non-clearance of pulses containers from the port.

Traders hold a demonstration outside the SBP headquarters to protest the non-clearance of containers on Thursday. —Courtesy KWGA
Traders hold a demonstration outside the SBP headquarters to protest the non-clearance of containers on Thursday. —Courtesy KWGA

Mr Majeed lamented that banks had stopped accepting any import documents from Jan 1, 2023, as well as payment of currently arrived cargo and other relevant documents.

Pakistan consumes about 1.5 million tonnes of imported pulses annually. He pointed out that stuck-up containers are incurring heavy demurrage and shipping company detention charges on a daily basis. This additional cost will obviously be transferred to end consumers, he added.

He said traders needed to gear up imports to meet soaring demand of pulses in Ramazan, especially gram pulse. He warned of a huge demand and supply gap and rising prices in case pulse imports were not streamlined.

Arrival of pulses takes about 45-60 days. International suppliers are losing confidence and are cancelling contracts for future shipments as their current funds are stuck on Karachi Port, he claimed, urging the government to ensure availability of dollars for payment of pulses, waiver of demurrage and detention charges at the port.

Wheat flour rates

Aamir Abdullah, chairman of Pakistan Flour Mills Association, Sindh zone, said the price of flour no.2.5 had been curtailed to Rs95 per kg from Rs130-140 followed by maida rate to Rs120 from Rs140-150 after improved supply of wheat from the Sindh government. He also mentioned a decline in the rate of 100kg wheat bag to Rs9,500 from Rs13,000.

The new rate of flour at Rs95 per kg has been implemented in Sindh. Since there is no shortage, there is no panic in the market, he said.

The daily supply of subsidised 10kg flour bags at Rs650 has been raised to 250,000-275,000 from 150,000 bags and these are being sold at 90-95 sale points in Karachi.

When asked that chakki owners quoted open market wheat rate at Rs11,000 per 100kg bag, he said their expenses are high by Rs1,000 per bag due to different grain cleaning methods as compared to millers.

However, consumers have yet to see any price cut in the branded 5kg and 10kg flour bags selling at Rs750 and Rs1,500 per bag, respectively.

Chakki Flour

Talking to Dawn, Karachi Aata Chakki Association general secretary Anis Shahid said the price of chakki flour would drop to Rs130-135 per kg from a peak of Rs170 by Monday following a huge drop in the 100kg wheat bag rate on the open market.

He said the chakki flour price depended on open market wheat rates as the provincial government did not allow any wheat quota or any binding on rates to the chakki owners.

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