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Clampdown on imported wheat hits processing units in Punjab

The Punjab Government’s attempts to stop the flooding of cheaper wheat from outside the state for the illegal sale to government procurement agencies at MSP has hit hard the state’s wheat processing industry.

Ever since vigilance teams of the Food and Supply Department seized trucks carrying wheat from Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and unearthed the scam last week, the vigil on all trucks that are coming to the state has been stepped up. The departmental probe has revealed how the trucks are being brought from outside, in the name of the flour mills as well as feed mills, and sold in the mandis, by showing these as Punjab farmers’ harvest.

“We found that all trucks seized so far in Bathinda, Ferozepur and Patiala districts were shown to be carrying wheat for flour mills or feed mills. These mills are allowed to get the wheat from outside the state for processing as either flour, refined flour or for use in animal feed. It was then decided that each truck coming to Punjab from outside will be examined carefully and released only after all verifications. Orders to this effect were issued on Saturday,” a senior officer in the Food and Supplies department said.

Wheat from outside the state is purchased at Rs 1,200-Rs 1,300 per quintal, and after including the freight cost, traders, have to pay a landing cost of Rs 1,500-Rs 1,600 per quintal. By selling it at the MSP of Rs 1975 per quintal, unscrupulous traders make a profit of Rs 375-Rs 475 per quintal.

Mohinder Krishan Chand Arora, an arhtiya in Rajpura, said the wheat processing industry should be given incentives if they purchased wheat from the mandis here.

Dharminder Gill, a flour mill owner in Ludhiana, whose trucks carrying wheat have been held up at the state border for verification, said the industry worked on price competitiveness, and if this was resolved, they would buy wheat from Punjab. “Already, the market for refined flour (maida) has been captured by the industry from Gorakhpur in UP,” he rued. There are 70 wheat-processing units in Punjab and their combined annual processing capacity is 12 lakh metric tonnes.

Naresh Ghai, President, Punjab Roller Flour Mills Association

Can’t stay competitive if we buy at MSP

The cost of refined flour is Rs 2,150-Rs 2,200 per quintal… If we buy wheat at MSP of Rs 1,975 per quintal, how can we remain competitive in pricing? The government should immediately allow the free flow of wheat from other states meant for flour mills here.

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