The sign of wheat crisis, which hit the grain market
early this year still perturbing the minds of the consumers because of
the higher prices continued to affect the kitchen budget especially of
the low income group which constitute majority of the population in our
Despite a major wheat producer of about 22 million
tons a year, mainly contributed by the province of Punjab, the remaining
three provinces including Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan continued to face
short supply of face reflected in the flour as well as wheat prices in
In fact the wheat production in Pakistan comes on top
of the major crops and is suffice to cater to the need of the entire
country, yet the loopholes in the market mechanism and of course other
causes including greed of the hoarders, large scale holdings by some of
the fuel lords having certain political considerations and above all the
leakage into neighboring countries i.e. Afghanistan, Iran and India
cause a vulnerable supply system in Pakistan.
Despite shortage of irrigation water the farming
sector produces wheat that should be enough to meet our requirement
provided the leakages created due to across the border trade was the
root cause of the problem.
In order to bridge the gap between supply and the
demand, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has issued especial
instruction to the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has already
floated tenders initially for import of 0.5 million tons of wheat.
The tender has been issued on the instructions of
Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet for procurement of one
million tons of wheat. The bidding for the tenders will be held at TCP
Head Office on July 24, 2004.
According to plan, the first shipment of the imported
wheat should reach Pakistan by September. .Currently the major wheat
exporting countries are including USA, Canada, Argentina, Australia or
Hopefully, the successful bidders would take a lesson
from the earlier happening in which the wheat imported from Australia
was infected by a fungus that is unfit for human consumption. Although
there was controversy over the issue whether the imported wheat carried
the fungus or not, yet the importer would naturally avoid to enter into
any such deals which may cause problems both for the importer as well as
the consumers. The government on its part has taken the right decision
that the wheat should be allowed on the condition of pre-shipment
inspection from the originating country. That decision deems fit to
satisfy all the stakeholders in the deal.
Although the decision to import what was taken much
earlier, yet it may be described the lethargic attitude of the people
responsible for the job that we are still evolving the strategy for the
import of the much sought after commodity. However, according to
sources, the entire shipment of the imported wheat should be completed
by December this year.
The official quarters including the Minister for Food
and Agriculture, however, hold the opinion that there was no shortage of
wheat in the country and the steps were under way to further improve the
situation through food security mechanism by strengthening it through
import of at least one million tons of wheat this year. The ministry
sources say that the wheat production this year remained up to the
target, however, procurement target could no be achieved due to more
aggressive buying by the private sector taking advantage to offer higher
prices to the growers.
In a way, getting better return of their hard labor
was good for the farm sector and the growers, as it is the market
forces, which mobilize the opinion of the growers to give more attention
to the crop which is much in demand. What it is good on one side, it
causes problem on the consumers end, as the private sector naturally
like to have increasing profits on the investment.
Meanwhile then province of Punjab which plays a key
role in the agriculture sector of the country, has rightly pointed to
the growers to cultivate demand-oriented crops to get better earning and
improve agriculture marketing system.
Practically speaking, Punjab is encouraging
cultivation of demand-oriented crops to bring stability in the
agriculture marketing, however, to create a culture of cooperation
between the government and the growers, an opinion building campaign
would have to be launched for the purpose to achieve the desired goal.
For the education of the farmers there is a need for
establishment of an education cell for the farmers for timely
information regarding the demand of the market both locally as well as
in the international market. This sort of educational support to the
farming sector would do a wonderful job to get better return of the time
and toil of the growers in Pakistan.
A word of advice to the traders: it is true that
economics rules interest of the traders, yet humanity, honesty and of
course love for the countrymen is something which should also carry
weight in the business ethics of our traders. It is highly painful to
see that in case of any crisis or eventually, our business community
becomes so cruel to take undue advantage of the situation without giving
any consideration to the fact that majority of the poor living in this
country are their brothers and we should add fuel to fire by squeezing
the people whose buying power has already been harshly eroded by the