Flour mills across the country have reduced their operating capacities to an average 25 per cent due to unavailability of wheat, workers and packaging materials following the 21-day nationwide lockdown introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
India has some 2,500 units with an annual wheat processing capacity of about 25 million tonnes for producing flour, semolina (sooji) and refined flour (maida). Contributing nearly half by number, small wheat processing mills have been forced shut due to the blockage of working capital by biscuit, bread and pav (double bread) manufacturers.
During this lockdown, all such bakery units, which are primarily from the unorganised sector and cottage industry, have shut shop to prevent public gathering and maintain social distancing. Capacity reduction in wheat processing is set to hit the supply of flour, sooji and maida in the near future, and consumers may have to pay much more to buy them.
“Procurement of wheat has become a big problem due to closure of several mandis. Also, the movement of trucks is restricted for fear of police harassment. This, despite the government’s assurance on allowing inter-state movement of trucks. Also, packaging material and labour remain scarce. We are operating