Pakistan is staring at a horrible food crisis as its markets have run out of wheat flour, or aata. The acute shortage of wheat has been causing huge distress to the people of Pakistan for quite some time and now, the condition has worsened so much that people are queuing up in huge numbers to get wheat.
What's happening: The price of wheat flour, or aata, one of the key constituents of the staple diet of the people of Pakistan, has reached Rs 140-160/kg. In Islamabad and Peshawar, a 10 kg wheat flour bag is being sold at Rs 1,500, while a 20 kg bag is being sold at Rs 2,800.
Why is the country running out of wheat: Pakistan had set a target for producing 27 million tonnes of wheat in 2022, but water scarcity and redevelopment of agricultural land made the production of wheat difficult.
On top of that, a fragile economy and loss of agricultural land because of the floods in June 2022 contributed to the shortfall in the wheat production.
The severe floods wreaked havoc in the southern parts of the country and destroyed large areas of farmland in Sindh and Balochistan provinces.
A deal with Russia: In November 2022, Pakistan signed a deal worth $112 million dollars to import 3,00,000 tonnes of wheat from the Russian firm Prodintorg.
Since Russia and Ukraine are among the world's largest wheat producers, Pakistan imported wheat from Prodintorg knowing that it was not sanctioned by the US in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Pakistan's dwindling economy: Pakistan is going through one of its worst economic periods, where the country's foreign reserves have depleted to $5.8 billion. This is the lowest Pakistan has seen in the last eight years. In such a tight fiscal situation, Pakistan can only import tenders for the next 3 weeks.
Economists have pointed out that Pakistan's foreign reserves have fallen persistently since the beginning of FY23.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar blames the office of former Prime Minister Imran Khan for the mess.
The government, in a bid to conserve energy, also recently ordered the shutting down of malls and markets by 8:30 pm. Wedding halls were also ordered to be shut by 10 pm. Even the government offices were asked to reduce their electricity consumption by 30%.
US grants financial aid: The US government announced a financial assistance of $100 million to Pakistan on Tuesday, ARY News reported.
The announced amount will be used for food, medical aid, agriculture and infrastructure.
Besides the US, Saudi Arabia is also mulling increasing the investment in Pakistan to $10 billion. According to ARY News, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has directed the authorities concerned to study increasing the Kingdom's investment in Pakistan to reach $10 billion.