(National): Govt. losing popularity due to unending food crisis: Ex-president ICCI

Karachi:Former President ICCI Shahid Rasheed Butt on Monday said despite best efforts of the government, the prices of wheat, flour and sugar could not be reduced in the market.

The developments in the food sector indicate collusion between the importers and the influential food mafia which must be noticed followed by a stern action, said Shahid Rasheed Butt in a statement. He said that the availability of wheat was an important issue and there was a need to maintain sufficient stock of wheat and sugar in the country, therefore, the government should start importing wheat by itself as the response of the private sector has left much to be desired.

In May, the government released the findings of the sugar commission inquiry’s report into a scandal that has implicated a number of political and business figures but to no avail. The report found that a cartel of 88 sugar mills had exported sugar during a low yield year, underpaid growers, faked records and manipulated prices, which contributed to an ongoing crisis in sugar prices which continues till the day, he said.

He said: “A sharp and continued rise in flour prices and flour shortages have also been a recent source of discontent in Pakistan prompting an investigation which revealed a Rs5.35 billion irregularity in the wheat industry that led to four corruption references which failed to improve the situation.”

He said: “The government has also found itself mired in a corruption scandal that has tarnished the reputation of rulers who once promised to rid the country of the rampant corruption that has existed since the partition which is now taken as a joke by masses. Food insecurity is a reality in Pakistan for over 60 per cent of the population, largely due to the affordability of diet.”

Wealthy wheat and sugar barons have links to a number of powerful political families and they have influence over the process of making important decisions. The government has failed to act accordingly risking losing the urban and middle-class voters that makeup its power base, he warned.