WORLD WHEAT AND PAKISTAN

To become self-sufficient in wheat, Pakistan has all the required basic ingredients

By Dr. S.M. ALAM
June 16  - 22, 2003

The most wanted crop the wheat is cultivated on an area of more than 215 million hectares around the world with production of 584 million tons (260.4 tons in developing and 317.7 tons in developed countries) resulting, an average of 2500 kg grain per hectare.

China sown wheat on around 32 million hectare, followed by the Russian Federation; India, the USA, Australia, Canada, Turkey and Pakistan. As far as the highest yield is concerned, France in Europe produces 7200 kg per hectare as it has much longer growing season of winter wheat. It is also a main staple food crop of the people of Pakistan, and accounts for nearly 38 per cent of the total cropped area, 30 per cent of the value added by major crops and 76 per cent of the total production of food grains.

Pakistan made an important breakthrough last year by not only achieving self-sufficiency in wheat production, but also by being able to become a wheat exporting country. Among the wheat producing country, Pakistan stands at 10th place in terms of area (8.5 million hectares) and 59th in terms of yield of 21.0 million tons, annually. The production of wheat per acre differs from area to area and farm to farm as some allied and supporting growth factors have to be taken into account, while calculating yield. Weather and the availability of the irrigation water through canals also contribute to the yield. The average per acre yield of wheat is estimated between 25 and 30 maunds and above it needs an extra effort as well as natural supporting factors.

Official figures reveal that the total land under all crops cultivation in the country is around 23.04 million hectares. Among the cereals, the wheat is the most pivotal crop of the country. This crop accounts for about 37 per cent of the cropped area of the country. Wheat was sown at the area of 8.5 mha with an average yield of 2,491 Kgs. The surplus productions have resulted in the export of wheat to the foreign countries. The major area of wheat in Pakistan lies in Punjab followed by Sindh. However, the yield per hectare is slightly higher in Sindh as compared to that of Punjab.

To become self-sufficient in wheat, Pakistan has all the required basic ingredients such as fertile land, sufficient irrigation water, hard working farmers, certified seed of wheat varieties and modern technology in abundance, provided these are utilized to full potential, which is only possible, if there a firm will on the part of the planners of the country. This incentive encouraged farmers to apply sufficient amounts of diammonium phosphateiand urea to the field. Wheat price was raised from Rs. 240 to Rs. 300 for per 40 kg at the time of sowing the crop. At the time of wheat sowing in Rabi Season Nov-Dec, the government had taken and the hard work put on by our farmers. All this was the result of certain measures taken by the government. About 70 per cent of wheat are sown in irrigated area and 30 per cent in the rain-fed region. The latest official estimates indicate that against the target of 20 million tons for the current year.

Wheat crop demands an urgent need to accelerate its production in Pakistan either by increasing the area under cultivation or by enhancing the productivity per unit area through the adoptions of improved production technology. Pakistan is basically an agricultural country, where 70% of the population depends direct and 16% indirectly in agriculture. To feed a hundred million people, about four million farmers grow on 8.5 million hectares of wheat every year, representing 37%, of the total cropping area. As per average of last two years, the yield per hectare of wheat in Punjab was 2,277 kg, while in Sindh it was 2,378 kg while NWFP produced 1,451 kg, Balochistan 2,331 and Azad Jammu Kashmir 1,060 kg per hectare. As far as Sindh is concerned, it produced 23,44,842 tons in 1995-96; 24,43,926 tons in 1996-97; 26,59,351 tons in 1997-98 and 26,75,106 tons in 1998-99, which indicates progressive increase in yield per acre.

Southern Punjab had excelled in wheat production last year, but the crop is now reported to be languishing in the region. The officials concerned concede that the crop in southern Punjab where output had averaged between 30 and 60 maunds per acre has not been given even the first watering from the country's irrigation system. There is no way of striving the damage done to the wheat in the field. Farmers are complaining of slanted growth of plants, they have not risen beyond 12 inches to a maximum of 18 inches in most cases and the message is a substantially scuttled yield per acre. Punjab heavily relies on the use of ground water for meeting irrigation requirements of crops, but ground water is largely brackish and need to be mixed with canal water for sustaining productivity. In the absence of canal water, tube-wells have mostly not been commissioned, because of high electricity charges are another discouraging factor for the common farmers. There was a strong case for increasing the price of wheat of the mounting inflation and constantly rising cost of inputs. All this adds to the woes and agonies of the farmers who had responded well last year to the incentive with a record produce of wheat crop.

The water crisis was looming across the country and planning should have been undertaken at the start of the wheat cultivation season. That may have helped to avoid the problems, that now seems certain to severely hit the crop. Last year, the country produced a bumper crop of 21.7 million tons and managed to provide the staple food to the populace for the first time in many years. The domestic consumption is about 18 million tons of wheat. This target seems to be well within the reach due to support price mechanism introduced by the government to evolve internet of the growers in certain crops. Even the stashed target of 20 million tons of wheat would be enough to provide the need of the country. Punjab was expecting a total wheat production of 14.65 million tons, Sindh 2 million tons and NWFP and Balochistan 0.80 million tons and 0.5 tons, respectively. There are only two ways to increase wheat production increased acreage and/or increased per hectare yield. Though, wheat acreage production and per hectare yield have increased from 1990-91 to 1999-2000, it has grown at very smaller rate compared to the increase in population. While, the wheat acreage, production and per hectare yield has risen during the previous decade, but they were unable to match the substantial increase with the population.

To break the stagnation in the agriculture sector for food grain production, the huge water losses in the irrigation system should be checked, the infrastructures in the rural areas to be developed to improve farm to market delivery and proper education and training to acquaint the farmers in modern agriculture practices are required. Abolishing of Zamindaries system (landholdings by feudals) under land reforms in India and then East Pakistan now Bangladesh soon after partition of the sub-continent is generally cited as an example of economic stability in those parts of the regions. While, the undisturbed existence of feudal power since inception of this country is blamed for cruel exercise of power in the society. As a whole, its hold on poor rural masses and ultimate appearance of feudals in active politics and legislative assemblies causing negative politics, loss to national exchequers, economic bankruptcy and all sorts of socio-economic and political corruption in the country. For these reasons, the agriculture sector has so far failed to cater to the needs of the people and a huge amount of foreign exchange approximately about one billion dollar is spent every year on imports of edible oils.

Devoted and concerted efforts associated with scientific approach are needed to make each province not only self-sufficient in food but producing export surplus to give a strong helping hand to the national economy. In addition, following factors are suitable for increasing wheat production: i) Prior to sowing, wheat fields must be well leveled and cleared from previous plant debris and weeds; ii) Seed of high yielding wheat varieties resistant to rusts, smuts, etc. be sown in sufficient amount; iii) feed treatment with a suitable insecticide should be carried out carefully; iv) Timely sowing is an important factor. This phenomenon will help in good seed germination, and ultimately will improve the yield productivity; v) Timely application of blamed fertilizers will be carried out; vi) Weeds being the main robbers of plant food from soil, space and even light required for wheat plants, be controlled by cultural practices and in case of heavy infestation, may be eliminated by application of herbicides, weedicides. This technique will definitely increase yield; vii) Care must be taken to check the pre- and post-harvest losses of wheat. Pre-harvest damage may be checked from attack of birds, astray animals around the villages and wheat fields. Post-harvest losses must be checked from the attack of rodents and other insect pests and fungi. After proper trashing, wheat grains should be placed under hygienic conditions in fields and godowns as well. Uses of powdered neem leaves in the bags of wheat grains will also seemed to be useful. It is a traditional treatment for preservation of cereal grains.

AREA AND PRODUCTION OF WHEAT IN PAKISTAN

Area: The province of Punjab contributes a large share of the area and production of wheat in Pakistan. Production is approximately 71-72% of the total area of Pakistan sown to wheat. Acreage under wheat in Punjab remained equal to that of the previous year because of better canal water supplies at the time of sowing, distribution of more credit to the wheat growers through one window opportunities, and a decrease in area in 1998-99. The decrease was mainly due to a prolonged dry season from mid October to the end of December that resulted in less planted wheat in the barani rain-fed area of Punjab. This decrease was compensated for by an increase in planting in the canal-irrigated area, but the overall area sown to wheat in Pakistan decreased.

Production: Wheat production was 17.85 x 106 tons according to the final estimates for the wheat crop in 1998-99. This amount compares to 186.94 x 106 tons produced in the previous year; a decrease of 4.71%. Less use of fertilizer at sowing, espacially phosphatic fertilizers, because of availability; fog during December and January that affected crop growth and a prolonged dry spell before and during wheat planting are some reasons for the decrease.