Social Protection Resource Centre

The Prevailing Wheat Crisis in Pakistan: Distressing Situation of People Vying for Subsidized Flour

Author: Misbah Rashid Khan (Research Associate)
From the past few months, Pakistan has been grappling with a scarcity of wheat, resulting in a reduction in flour production and delivery. This, in turn, has caused a surge in flour prices and chaos, with people in Pakistan queuing for hours in the hope of acquiring subsidized flour bags that are also not enough.
The recent situation has transpired into the distressing images of people in Pakistan vying for subsidized wheat, resulting in lengthy queues, chase of wheat trucks, and deadly stampedes. The situation in Pakistan is critical.
In the midst of a wheat shortage, farmers in Pakistan are calling on the government to declare an ‘agricultural emergency’.

Yearly Average Wheat Flour Price Trend Analysis (2021, 2022, 2023)

Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

Statistics of the staple diet of Pakistan shows the significant jump in average prices over the short time span of two years. From Jan-2021 to Jan-2023, the country observed 82.93% increases in average price of wheat flour. However, the percentage change between the consecutive months shows that the price of wheat flour in February 2022 increased by 0.25% compared to January 2022. Similarly, the price in March 2022 increased by 0.02% compared to February 2022. However, the price in April 2022 decreased by 6.64% compared to March 2022.

 Wheat Flour Price Trends: Monthly Average Prices from September to February

Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

Tracking average wheat flour prices during the past five months illustrates that the price of wheat flour has shot up by 20.43% from September 2022 to February 2023. The mismanagement between the food department and flour mills has further exacerbated the situation.

The intense crisis, serves as a mere illustration of how the country’s growing food scarcity and an imminent economic crisis are affecting the already stressed most impoverished individuals.

Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

What Caused the Crisis?

Pakistan’s rural communities and agriculture have suffered a severe blow from the 2022 floods, leading to the destruction of vital infrastructure and loss of crops and livestock. The aftermath has resulted in an unparalleled food crisis that the country is currently dealing with.

However, floods are not the only reason for crisis, wheat hoarding is another crucial element in this regard.  Provincial governments are failing to monitor the wheat hoarders and strengthening of the supply chain distribution.

The current situation does not seem to get better any soon. The prevailing wheat crisis requires the long-term solution. The struggling economy, poor policies, supply chain disruptions amid Ukraine-Russia war, and flour smuggling to Afghanistan, are some of the daunting challenges that are exacerbating the wheat crisis Pakistan is currently dealing with.