PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa flour mill owners here on Wednesday warned the government they would start a protest drive along with their workers across the province from Friday if ban on inter-provincial wheat supply wasn't lifted immediately.

Despite the availability of over 10 million tons of wheat in the open market in Punjab, the imposition of Section 144 on wheat supply from Punjab was unjustifiable and incomprehensible besides being a violation of Article 151 of the Constitution, the millers said at a press conference here.

They said the KP was a wheat-deficient province, mostly dependent on Punjab to fulfill its food requirements. They said the total wheat requirement of the province was around 4.4 million tons against local production of 0.8 million tons.

The millers said that mills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had now completely run out of the wheat stock.

They said they were forced to shut down their mills as the provincial food department had failed in providing wheat to the mills for the last six months.

The millers said price of a 20-kg flour bag had surged to Rs1,200, and if the ban on wheat supply continued, flour prices would further escalate.

Muhammad Iqbal, provincial chairman of the All Pakistan Flour Mills Association, flanked by president of the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Engineer Maqsood Anwar Pervaiz, and APFMA group leader Muhammad Naeem Butt, along with other office-bearers of millers associations, said smuggling wasn't a valid reason for placing restrictions on wheat transportation from Punjab to the KP. He accused the bureaucracy in Punjab of being behind restrictions on wheat supply.

The APFMA provincial chairman said, “No restrictions on flour supply from Punjab, but Section 144 was deliberately imposed on wheat transportation, aimed at shutting flour mills in KP."

He said the closure of flour industry would render hundreds of workers jobless and affect their families, besides investment worth millions of rupees would also go to waste.

He said prices would go further up in the open market if the flour mills were shut down in the province.

Muhammad Iqbal demanded of the government to allow KP mills to purchase wheat from the open market in Punjab.

The millers demanded of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to take immediate notice of the ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat and save the KP flour mill industry from closure.

They asked the government of Punjab to immediately lift the unconstitutional and unlawful ban on wheat supply, or they would embark on a protest drive along with their workers from Friday (June 5).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020