BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 15:21 GMT
Pakistan army guards scarce grain
Pakistani women struggle to buy subsidised flour in Karachi, 2 January
Women buy flour in Karachi - many have gone without
The authorities in Pakistan have deployed paramilitary troops to guard wheat supplies around the country amid fears of a massive shortfall.

The government has blamed hoarders and smugglers for the problem.

Wheat is a staple food in Pakistan and shortages have led to large scale rioting in the past.

Flour shortfalls initially pushed up market prices. Later flour ran out on the open market when officials fixed prices and warned against violations.

Now Pakistan's national disaster management authority has deployed thousands of paramilitary troops at wheat stores.

The head of the authority said the aim was to ensure that store owners did not sell more than allowed by the government.

Price curbs

The move comes after nearly a month of wheat shortages.

President Pervez Musharraf said there was enough grain to feed everyone and the crisis had been engineered.

He and other leaders have pointed the finger at "hoarders" and "profiteers".

Officials accuse suppliers of smuggling wheat intended for domestic use to Afghanistan and Central Asia, where prices are higher.

The state-run Utility Stores Corporation has been selling flour at the official rate of 18 rupees ($0.30) per kg.

However, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Karachi says those queuing up outside are often told that the store has run out of stock.

There have been wheat and rice shortages across South Asia in recent weeks and world prices have reached record highs.

South Asia hit by food shortages
09 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Soaring prices add to Afghan misery
19 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Counting the cost of wheat price hike
21 Sep 07 |  Special Reports

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific