ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — The Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA) announced on July 10 that its members will immediately cease production in protest of the government’s decision to impose a withholding tax on flour, Pakistan Today reported.

The PFMA told Pakistan Today that wheat processing in more than 1,500 Pakistani flour mills has been halted, and flour shipments also will be stopped beginning July 11.

Representatives of the flour mills said that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is shifting the responsibility of revenue collection onto flour mills after its own failure in tax collection. The FBR has imposed a 5.5% withholding tax that will increase the price of flour by eight rupees (10 cents) per kilogram.

There are concerns that the increased cost of flour will exacerbate Pakistan’s hunger crisis. According to the World Food Program of the United Nations, more than 20% of Pakistan’s population is undernourished, and nearly 45% of children ages 5 and younger are stunted. 

Wheat flour currently contributes 72% of Pakistan’s daily caloric intake with per capita wheat consumption of around 124 kg per year, one of the highest in the world, according to the Competition Commission of Pakistan.