According to reliable sources for the current Rabi season, the government has set wheat production target at 25 million tons keeping in view the enhanced wheat support price and better environment, but the production is likely to remain about 24.2 million tons, which is 0.8 million ton short from the set target.
“Our local requirement of wheat is around 21 million tons and for the past four years the country is producing surplus wheat so this time once again we are going to harvest about 3 million tons of surplus wheat production,” the official added. The wheat production in Punjab is likely to remain 19 million tons, in Sindh 3.5 million tons, one million tons in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (PK) and around 0.5 million tons in Balochistan.
The government has decided to procure about 8 million tons of wheat during the current season, of which 4 million tons would be procured by Punjab – the largest wheat producing region in the country – 1.3 million tons by Sindh Food Department and 1.6 million ton by Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco), while KP and Balochistan will rely on Punjab’s wheat.
The Punjab government had fixed 4 million tons as wheat procurement target for which all the necessary arrangements were made and the process of distribution of gunny bags among the farmers had already started from April 15 throughout the province, whereas, formal purchase of wheat has already been kicked off.
In Punjab, the government has established a total of 376 wheat procurement centres, of which 183 were flag centres, whereas, 193 were formal storage centres, said an official of the Punjab Food Department. The official said that wheat procurement campaign is being monitored on daily basis and procurement centres remain open from 8am to 5pm without any break. The provincial government has directed the food department to work on war footing to ensure wheat procurement campaign.
Passco had to start from April 20 but it was delayed and will be started by May 1. PASSCO will purchase wheat in 21 tehsils in four provinces. As a policy initiative, Passco would facilitate the small growers of the country during its procurement drive. It will buy wheat from 15 tehsils in Punjab, three Sindh, two Balochistan and one in KP.
The purchased wheat will be stored in official godowns of the food department spread across the province and will be released to flour mills and chakki owners from September-October every year to cater with their daily requirements. The growers in Sindh are once again facing non-availability of gunny bags shortage like previous year due to mismanagement of the concerned officials, who are not providing gunny bags to the small farmers except owners of large land holdings.
In view of 1.3 million tons wheat procurement target set by the provincial food department for the current year, 1.3 million gunny bags would be disbursed among farmers and growers through district food controllers (DFCs) without charging any amount from them.
Ibrahim Mughal, Chairman Agri-Forum Pakistan while talking to Business Recorder said that the public sector wheat procurement should be 8 million tons, including 4 million tons by Punjab food department, 1.5 million ton by Sindh food department and 2.5 million ton by Passco. From 2008 to 2013, the government has increased the wheat support price from Rs 600 per 40 kg to Rs 1,250 per 40 kg due to which the farmers across the country brought more lands under wheat cultivation.
However, during the same period, the prices of essential inputs like electricity, diesel and fertiliser have also registered manifold increase in prices, as in 2008, a urea bag of 50 kg was available at Rs 750, which at present is being sold at Rs 1,700 per bag, similarly a DAP fertiliser bag of 50 kg was available at Rs 1,300 in 2008, which at present is being sold at over Rs 4,000.