Chitral exempted from ban on opening new flour mills

PESHAWAR, Jan 12: The landlocked Chitral valley is set to have its first flour mill as the provincial government is likely to relax its ban on setting up new mills. Sources said the government is reviewing its prolonged ban on new flour mills in the province as it is giving a serious thought to relax the restriction as a special case for Chitral. “Chitral needs and deserves to have a flour mill, improving wheat flour distribution system for the benefit its people,” said a senior official of the provincial government. According to sources, the provincial industries department has moved a summary to Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti with the recommendation to lift the ban allowing the establishment of a flour mill in Chitral. This will be a major policy shift as the district has an age-old wheat and wheat flour distribution system. The provincial government, according to business circles in Peshawar, controls the distribution of wheat in Chitral. It has godowns in all the 24 union councils of the district from where wheat is sold to general public on controlled prices. Wheat provided from the official godowns is grinded in the privately owned watermills to extract the flour. “The system has its flawed as certain political elements used it to their benefits, making money out of it,” said a Peshawar-based businessman. He said the district certainly needed to have, at least, one flour mill to produce wheat flour locally. The district has a total population of around 400,000 and apart from meeting the local wheat flour consumption requirements through the distribution of wheat from the official godowns, a significant amount of wheat-flour is procured privately from Upper Dir and other parts of down the country to fulfill the people’s consumption needs. The officials said the chief minister had consented to lifting the flour mill ban only for Chitral and it would become official once the industries department received the permission from the chief minister secretariat. However, according to official circles, the ban on setting up a mill at Chitral was likely to be lifted on the initiative of a local influential political figure from the area. The officials said a member of the provincial assembly from Chitral was instrumental in pursuing the matter on the behest of the senior politician wanting to set up a new mill in Chitral. The official ban on the establishment of new flour mills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is in vogue for well over 12 years after the flour mill sector recorded a mushroom growth in the mid 1990s and the government imposed the restriction to correct the situation. “A private part from Chitral had showed interest in setting up the mill there some time back, but its attempts were not heeded by the authorities,” said an official, adding that the fresh attempt was likely to succeed because of the involvement of certain influential elements from the area. Though Chitral needed to have a flour mill of its own, said an official, the manner in which the matter was being handled had the potential to compromise the interest of the general public. An official said the establishment of the flour mill would not reduce Chitral’s dependence on the officially maintained wheat stocks as the area would continue to receive wheat from the provincial government. In such a situation, the impending move, said the official, was likely to create a monopoly as the owners of the loan mill would enjoy an unparallel influence over the local wheat flour market.–Dawn]]>