Distribution discrepancies.

The working of Sindh's food department is once again under a cloud. The distribution of wheat by department among roller flour mills and owners of chakkis was hit by discrepancies, putting consumers under an additional financial burden in these days of never-ending inflation.

The department allocates wheat quotas crop among flour mills and chakkis in line with its policy that puts flour mills at a disadvantage. Flour mills get a larger chunk of wheat. Atta chakkis are small- and medium-sized businesses and dependent on the department for wheat. Owing to the inadequate quota, they allege, they have to procure grain from the market to meet demand after being cold-shouldered by the food department.

This brings questions of food security and consumers' economic cost into the limelight since wheat is a staple food. The rural population has always consumed flour produced by chakkis, but over the years, the trend of consuming chakki-produced flour has substantially increased in the urban areas since health experts assert it has fibre and less sugar and carbohydrate content that benefits health.

Chakkis exist in rural and urban areas and sell smaller quantities of flour to consumers. Flour mills supply in bulk, given their commercial stakes across the province. Consumers' incomes are not increasing proportionately if rising inflation is to be considered.

Wheat is supplied by the government to millers at Rs58.25 per kg, but its shortage is forcing chakki owners to purchase it from the open market at Rs86 per kg

The food department's wheat allocation policy puts them under an economic burden as they buy expensive flour from chakkis, leaving them high and dry. 'Food department must listen to chakki owners' concern,' said Hyderabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Adeel Siddiqui.

According to Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) vice president, chakki businesses should not be discouraged. 'Demand for chakki's flour is increasing as everyone values the importance of whole wheat for its ingredients. But inadequate wheat supplies increase flour prices, undermining the food security of poor consumers,' he contended. He said chakkis serve consumers at the grass-root level for one-two kg of flour, which mills don't.

'Food department's performance has never been satisfactory and it remains least concerned about these issues. I fail to understand why the food department doesn't begin the release of wheat even in June. Why hasn't the department increased its...

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