Pakistan sends wheat to avert food crisis in Afghanistan


Islamabad : The Pakistan government Tuesday sanctioned the export of 50,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan to avoid food crisis in the war-torn country, officials said.

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The approval was given by Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), country’s highest economic-decision making body, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

The 50,000 tonnes of wheat would be in addition to 600,000 tonnes regular annual export to Afghanistan, a statement from the primer minister office said.

However, the law enforcement agencies were asked “to strengthen anti-smuggling measures to check wheat smuggling” to the neighbouring country.

The illegal export of wheat and wheat flour from Pakistan has risen recently due to a surge in its price in Afghanistan by 70 percent over the last one year.

Pakistan, which itself is facing food shortage because of low yield of the staple last year, has tightened security along the border to curb smuggling, a move that has annoyed Afghan authorities.

Country’s border security forces exchanged fire with Afghan troops last month when they tried to intercept three trucks loaded with flour bags near the Chaman border crossing, located some 150 km northwest of Balochistan’s provincial capital Quetta. No one was hurt in the incident.

Thousands of people are facing food shortage in Afghanistan while some families in Northern Takhar and Kunduz provinces sold their babies due to extreme poverty and hunger.

United Nation’s World Food Program started providing emergency food assistance to millions of needy Afghans in March, three months after a UN appeal for more than $80 million in aid to help those affected by the rise in food prices.

On the other hand, Pakistanis also continue to suffer from the soured prices and shortage of wheat flour. Thousands of people lined up outside government run grosser stores every day to get the product and many of them go home without success.

Analysts believe the crisis played a vital role in the defeat of political backers of President Pervez Musharraf in the Feb18 elections. It is still one of the biggest challenge faced by the new government led by slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party.