WHEAT CROP PRODUCTION: ANY ONE'S GUESS
Weather conditions to determine exact size of wheat crop
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Mar26 - Apr 01, 2001
Though the relevant quarters are estimating the size of the wheat crop around 18.8 million this year, however the exact size of the crop still remains to be anybody's guess due to persistent drought like conditions in the country.
Latest data on agriculture indicates lower than targeted growth in most of the major crops during the first half of the fiscal year. The aggregate economic growth rate would also slide downwards from the postulated level. Consequently, the government revised downward GDP growth target from 4.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent due to prolonged drought situation in 2000-2001.
Farmers were forced to bring less area under sugarcane and rice due to continued shortage of irrigation water. Provisional estimates of wheat, based on area under cultivation and availability of other inputs, limit the size of the expected crop to 18.8 million tonnes against the annual plan target of 20.5 million tonnes.
Due to general food habits, wheat is the most important crop hence it is cultivated over an area of 8 million hectares, which comes to 36 per cent of the total cropped area in Pakistan.
Pakistan had witnessed the highest-ever wheat crop during 1999-2000. This record production of wheat had proved to be a moral boosting factor as for the first time in the history of Pakistan had a surplus to export.
Blessings in disguise was the case with Pakistan as the officials responsible for export the surplus failed to deliver the goods due to one reason or the other. Thanks to bureaucratic chains, the inability to export wheat last year may come to rescue the food situation this year, in view of possible decline in the crop size from 22 million to somewhere 17-18 million tonnes.
All the four provinces have expressed their inability to revise their positions on sharing of water which is currently in short supply due to continuous drought.
Although the shortfall in wheat production is mainly because of water shortage and partly due to mismanagement of water, yet the government circles are hopeful of meeting the local demands and hence so far there is no plan to import wheat this year. Despite fears that crop yields could drop 20 per cent due to a severe water shortage, there is no plan for import of wheat this year. The official quarters are still anticipating that wheat crop to be greater than 18 million tonnes.
Pakistan had earlier estimated the 2001 crop would yield 20 million tonnes which was revised downwards to 18 million tonnes which they feel would be sufficient as the country was already carrying a million tonne carried over stocks from its record 22 million tonne yield last year.
Previously, Pakistan was a net wheat importer with grains mostly coming from the United States and Australia. The record wheat crop however placed the country in a comfortable position to export around 800,000 tonnes of wheat in 2001. The export efforts however could made a little headway as the country received firm export orders totalling less than 100,000 tonnes from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The government has now evolved a broad based strategy to meet the impending water shortage, augment water supply and control wastage of water.
The prolonged dry spell in the country has necessitated exploring new means as well as conservation and judicious use of the existing water resources. Recent decision of the government to develop small dams all over the country and measures to curtail water wastage hopefully improve the situation in the years to come.
The Indus River System Authority (IRSA) had asked the provinces to show flexibility so that a consensus could be evolved on this sensitive issue.
On the other hand the provinces were not willing to revise their earlier stands.
The actual size of the current wheat crop sown over a record area of land, especially in Punjab the major wheat producing province, will now mainly depend on the amount of rainfall, the availability of canal water and of course the favourable weather conditions. For good harvest sufficient water, mild and favourable temperature and weed control is important factors to ensure a good crop.
Despite 40 per cent water shortfall, the Punjab Agriculture Department not only achieved the wheat sowing target but also surpassed it by bringing a record area of 15.320 million acres of land under the crop in the province of Punjab.
A special strategy on the special directives of the Punjab Governor was evolved by the provincial agriculture department on scientific lines for both irrigated and arid areas to make the best use of available canal water to bring maximum land under wheat cultivation.
The wheat sowing was somewhat early this year in Barani areas due to availability of soil moisture and in irrigated areas due to early maturity of rice and cotton crops owing to hot and dry weather conditions.
The prevailing condition of early sown crop is to some extent satisfactory. Widespread rains in December last and the first week of the January had a good impact on the crop growth and the germination of wheat crop is also satisfactory, despite the fact that rainfall has not been adequate in some districts.
The dry weather spell is equally being felt in India where due to similar conditions the wheat crop is likely to drastically decline by 5-6 million tonnes in summer this season.