- Who has made a killing?
Whoever is responsible for the wheat shortage, is responsible for a lot of misery. The jump in the price of the nation’s principle staple has not led to famine, but could easily do so. It should not be forgotten that, as recently as World War II, there was a terrible famine in Bengal. That was probably caused by exports of rice from India to the UK. That decision took place because the British government feared shortages for its fighting forces in the midst of a war. A similar reason seems to prevail at present, though the justification is not a war, but the greed of people also powerful enough to get permission to export wheat. The blame game between the central and Sindh governments seems to boil down to the export of what were actually buffer stocks.
Wheat is harvested once a year in Pakistan, in Rabi (the staple in Kharif being rice). At the time of harvest, when the new wheat arrives to the market, prices are at their lowest. Prices gradually rise until the new crop is due to arrive. They do not rise catastrophically, because the federal and provincial governments release wheat stocks to millers which they have purchased at the time of the harvest. It appears this buffer was exported. The government has taken a novel approach: it insists that there is no shortage. This is the line taken by the Planning Minister as well as the Food Security Minister. However, the very decision to import wheat, which was taken to calm the markets and bring down prices, shows that there is a serious problem.
Even before the wheat crisis is over, there is a sugar crisis looming. Though not a staple, sugar is the only sweetener available to people. Again, the cause is supposed to be an over-enthusiasm to export. It makes no sense to earn foreign exchange by exporting, only to spend that foreign exchange on importing wheat or sugar later. There are arising cries from all quarters for a thorough probe. The government should conduct one, so that if there are any persons in the government who connived at these shortages, they should be unmasked and punished. In this way, the government will show that it is as committed to good governance as it claims.