Unreliable wheat output figure upsets Minfal

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) is facing embarrassment due to unreliable wheat output statistics as some of the policy makers are contesting the production figures of 23.5 million tonnes.

Business Recorder on Thursday interviewed some government officials and private sector individuals who were unanimous that the actual wheat production was about 21 million tonnes but the government projected it at 23.5 million apparently to show GDP growth of 7.02 per cent in 2006-07.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, in his speech to the National Economic Council (NEC) on May 31, said that production of wheat was 23.523 million tonnes, the highest ever in the country. “I am a witness to it that last year one million tonne wheat was added in the overall wheat production figures just on telephone call to improve the GDP growth figures,” claimed one of the top official on condition of anonymity.

He was of the view that this year too the same technique was used to show that GDP growth has surpassed 7 percent, which was earlier projected at 6.5 percent.

The sources said that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet which met a week ago had a heated debate on the wheat prices issue as two of the federal ministers criticised the decision makers especially Minfal and Prices Committee headed by the Prime Minister Advisor on Finance Salman Shah for their failure to take timely action to control wheat and flour prices.

“Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and Minister for Industries and Production, Jahangir Khan Tareen were the main critics of government’s slow moving decision on wheat and flour situation,” the sources added.

The sources said that Agriculture Minister Sikandar Khan Bosan and Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan, Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry were angry over the remarks of Sheikh Rashid and Jahangir Tareen. The sources said that Commerce Secretary Asif Shah was also one of the officials who had a tough time in the ECC for not issuing SROs timely and seeking R&D support for leather garments.

Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan informed the journalists last week that the ECC took serious notice of increase in the prices of wheat and wheat flour at a time when Pakistan achieved highest ever production of over 23.5 million tonnes. As regards the stock position, the total stock of wheat with the government as on June 25 was 4.795 million tonnes with the government. In addition the private sector is holding over 2 million tonnes, Ashfaque claimed.

Courtesy: Copyright Business Recorder, 2007

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