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Local flour mills: Loosing the competition against branded packaged flour
The flour mills or 'Atta Chakkis' rattling in street corners of old localities of the city, which have been fighting a losing battle for their existence with rising preferences of people for processed flour, are getting some consolation in the form of new customers reverting to coarse Chakki Atta on doctor's advice.
Dinesh Gupta, a local flour mill owner, in Lucknow's Narhi, says, while the loss of customers has been regular during the past one decade, there are a few new customers added to his list every month, who come to get their wheat grinded mainly for health reasons.

The processed flour sold in the market is very finely grinded and cannot be digested by every one's stomach. "People who seek more roughage in their diet are advised to use coarse flour and they naturally come to me," he says.

Maneesh Mishra, a lawyer, said, "I used to consume packaged flour earlier. But when I went through serious stomach trouble, my doctor advised me to eat coarsely grinded flour containing sufficient amount of bran. Now I consume only flour of atta chakki (flour mil) and have stopped purchasing packed flour".

Customers like Mishra, however, do not mean much for Gupta, who is worried about his future. Many flour mill owners have already abandoned their old business and opted for other avocations. In Narhi alone there were 12 flour mills till five years ago. Only seven of these are now functional. The rest have closed business.

According to Ram Chandra Gupta, President of Narhi Atta Chakki Association, five years ago there were nearly 800 mills in the city. Half of these do not exist now.

The business of flour mills mainly runs on the support of poor people who draw wheat from fair price shops on Below Poverty Line (BPL) ration cards. Wheat is available at the rate of Rs 6.60 per kg to BPL card holders. If Rs 3 grinding charges are added, the flour still costs less than Rs 10 per kg. Flour in the open market sells at Rs 22.

"I cannot afford to buy flour from the market and have no option but to go to the flour mill", say Mamta a domestic help.

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