WHEAT EXPORTS AND LOCAL PRICES
Fruits of a bumper crop not reaching to people
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 11 - 17, 2000
It is heartening to know that Pakistan has produced a bumper wheat crop, which is being assessed somewhere between 22-23 million tonnes. One also take pride that instead of meeting the local requirements of wheat through imports, Pakistan is now in a position to earn foreign exchange by exporting the locally produced wheat because of good decisions and better management of the economic managers. The prospects for next wheat crop are also said to be bright hopefully enabling the country to have a sizeable export surplus.
It is however a matter of concern that the positive effects of bumper wheat crop are not reflected in the kitchen expenditures of the common man. The price of wheat of different qualities ranging between Rs880-890 in the wholesale market while a bag of 10 kg is being sold at Rs120 in retail.
Although people generally agree to the efforts taken by the government for economic revival by putting the house in order. But the steps, which are putting the house of the poor and the working class in disorder by ever-increasing prices of essential items, have created feelings of dissatisfaction. A cross section of people while talking to PAGE said that increase in the prices of essential items such as POL products, electricity, gas, telephone, transportation, school feels altogether have made the life miserable. The tax survey and distribution of forms in streets and bazaars have adversely affected economic activity at micro level. In order to off-set the panic effects at middle and lower level, the government should at least educate the people that survey is not going to harm the genuine transactions in any segment of the economy. It is a must for creating a sense of confidence in the people.
The present government has "National Food Support Programme" with a commitment to revive national economy, ensure good governance, more harmony among the provinces and to establish a better and effective political system so as to help improve the lot of masses and enable them to work for their own betterment.
The food support programme basically aimed at redressing the food problems of the poor living below poverty line for which a considerable amount of funds have also been allocated countrywide.
It is a welcome step on the part of the economic managers. Beside supporting the poor living below poverty line the policies should also take care that more people of middle and working class may not be forced to fall in that bracket of below poverty line due to trend of sharp increase in prices of essential items.
Wheat is a food commodity of perennial importance for every home in Pakistan. A strong agriculture base plus good economic decisions has successfully proved that Pakistan has great potentials to not only become self-sufficient in wheat production but has the capability to produce export surplus. Hopefully this status would be achieved, however in order to make our own homes happy, first priority of a good crop should be to maintain affordable prices at home than going for foreign exchange earnings.
The Federal government has decided to export 200,000 tonnes of wheat and has invited bids from interested parties. The federal government has already sold one million tonnes of wheat to two private parties for its onward export to Afghanistan to ease food pressure in that country.
Some flour millers feel that the government is putting great emphasis on value addition culture in the industry to get optimum level of export potentials. Wheat is a commodity where Pakistan can earn much more by exporting flour bags instead of going for wheat exports. They feel that there is a large market for wheat flour in Afghanistan and Central Asian States. Pakistan has a strong industrial base for wheat grinding in flour mills. The Export Promotion Bureau can take steps to avail this opportunity.
Pakistan Storage and Supply Corporation (Passco) had invited bids for wheat export purpose. Passco had also fixed the sale price of wheat for export at Rs9000 per tonne. The official said that Passco had also pointed out that interested parties might present their offers along with five per cent of the value of the tendered quantity as performance bond.
The decision to export additional 200,000 tonnes of wheat had been taken after the confirmation of final wheat production figures. After the bumper wheat crop this year Passco had procured the commodity more than the fixed target. After assessing the needs of the country it had been decided that more wheat would be offered for sale.
After countrywide research and inspection it has been assessed that wheat production would touch 23 million tonnes. The figure of 22,152 million tonnes is conservative estimate and contradicts the claims of the provinces about wheat production in their respective provinces.
Experts in agriculture sector feel that government has procured 8.5 million tonnes of wheat this year which was another indication that wheat production was close to 23 million tonnes if not more.