WHEAT AS STAPLE FOOD

Value, production, and self-sufficiency

By Prof. Dr. M. AYOOB SHAIKH
Isra University, Hyderabad

Apr 26 - May 09, 2004

Wheat is the most important food grain crop of our country, and occupies the dominant position with regard to area, production and importance. Since no amount of heat or cold is too severe for the growth of wheat plant, it is grown in almost all the parts of the country.

Wheat is the main staple food in Pakistan and constitutes about 80 to 90 percent of the food consumed by each individual in every meal. Although it is consumed in many ways such as in the form of (dabal roti) bread, chapati, biscuits, cookies, porridge, macaroni and sweets, its use as 'chapati' is the most popular and widespread. Since it constitutes a bulk of the food intake, it is the major source of energy and protein requirements especially for the low income classes, who can ill-afford protein-rich foods like meat and pulse [M.A.Bajwa & Manzoor U.Prog:Forming]

Among the various food grains like wheat, rice, millet and pulses (gram, lentils) are consumed in Pakistan, wheat has the highest protein contents. The protein content in wheat and other food grain are given in Table-1.

Table-1

GRAINS

PROTEIN %

1. Wheat

12.1

2. Bajra

10.4

3. Sorghum

10.4

4. Barley

8.7

5. Corn

9.8

6. Rice

8.8

Source: Federal Bureau of Statistic

It is evident from the table-1 that wheat contains the highest protein percentage as compared to the other crops. Even though the protein content of wheat is higher than other food-grain, it is still not adequate. According to a renowned expert Pearson, lack of protein for the human consumption is the most a serious nutritional problem faced by over two-fifth of the world's population, and there are over five hundred million children who for lack of protein and other nutrients are generally retarded in physically growth and development. It was also felt that lack of protein in early years could impair development of nervous system and capacity for learning, resulting in mental cripples [M.A.Bajwa & Manzoor U.Prog:Forming].

As study reveals that wheat is the leading food grain in our country. A high percentage (about 80 percent) of the total wheat crop is irrigated. Its share in the total cropped area has increased from 32.7 percent in 1960 to 36.97 percent in 1988-89. Wheat production has increased dramatically since mid sixties, mainly as a result of yield increases [Pak: Agriculture A Description of the Pak: Agr: Eco] Increases in yield were realized through the adoption of high yielding diseases resistance verities. Presently, almost all of the irrigated wheat and, at least more than half of the barani, wheat is under the high yielding varieties. Self-sufficiency in wheat can be achieved and sustained only if wheat yields can be increased beyond past trends. This can be done by bringing area under certified wheat seed. Further increases in the yield can be realized through improved cultural practices, greater attention to tillage and harvesting operations, more balanced and timely use of the fertilizers, and high water use efficiency. Yield levels in the barani areas are exceptionally low. Possibilities for increasing the yield in these areas have not yet been tapped. Special attention therefore needs to be given to technology generation and dissemination for rain fed areas with particular focus to the development of appropriate tillage and planting equipment [Akthar Mahmood and Forest Walters].

Recent studies have now shown that labor shortage at transplanting time delay the crop and result in less than optimum plant production. Poor agronomic practices and fertilizers shortage at a critical stage of the crop have also kept the yield level well below international standards.

In the past, increases in wheat production in Pakistan came from three main sources:

Increase in the cropping intensity, conversion of rain fed to irrigated areas, and increase in yield due to high yielding varieties and use of the fertilizers.

The use of the fertilizers, has been on the rise over recent years. About 60 percent of the commodity is used in the Rabbi season, when the wheat crop is sown and the balance of 40 percent consumed in the Kharif season when cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize crops are planted [Noor Ahmed Memon].

In Pakistan there is good potential available in wheat to get the higher yield as it is still quite low as compared to China and India. According to the mill owners that there is acute wheat scarcity, every year that has created a situation early this year in February 2004, which had gripped the country. During this serious crisis wheat and wheat flour prices skyrocketed.

Wheat contributes 12.5 percent to the value added in agriculture and 3.1 percent to GDP. Wheat was cultivated on an area of 8069 thousand hectares, showing 0.1 percent increase in the year 2002-03 when compared with 2001-02. [Economic Survey 2002-03 p-17], Table -2 shows the evidence.

Table 2:
Area, Production and Yield

Year

Area

Production

Yield

 

(000 hectares)

% increase(+)
decrease(-)

(000 tons)

% increase(+)
decrease(-)

Kgs hectare

% increase(+)
decrease(-)

1998-99

8230

-1.5

17858

-4.5

2170

-3.0

1999-00

8463

+2.8

21079

+18.00

2491

+14.8

2000-01

8181

-3.33

19024

-9.7

2325

-6.7

2001-02

8058

-1.50

18227

-4.2

2262

-2.7

2002-03

8069

0.13

19235

5.5

2384

5.4

Total

41001

 

95423

-

11632

-

Averge

8200.2

 

19084.6

-

2326.4

-

Increase (+)
Decrease (-)
Over the period

(-)1.95   (+)7.71 -   -
Source: Economic Survey 2002-03, Government of Pakistan. pp.24-25.

It is evident from a table-2 that, area under the cultivation of wheat has been decreasing during the period under review. It was averagely 8200.2 thousand hectares and it declined to 1.95 percent in the year 2002-03 when compared with 1998-99. The data is concerning to the production of wheat crop in Pakistan during the period from the 1998-99 to 2002-03.

It is evident from table-2 that Pakistan on an average produced 19084 thousand tons wheat annually during the period from 1998-99 to 2002-03. There has been over all decrease in the production of wheat crop. However, in the year 1999-2000 it increased by 18.00 percent when compared with 1998-99. The yield per hectare also increased by 14.8 percent in the year 1999-2000.

It is evident from table-2 that average per hectare yield in the year 1999-2000 ranks at the top when compared to the other year [Economic Survey 2002-03 p-25].

Wheat production target was originally fixed at 19.75 million tons, however, as a result of the mid February 2003 country-wide heavy rain which brought 0.35 MAF additional water to Tarbella and 1.1MAF to Mangla reservoirs, the wheat production target was revised upward to 20.63 million tons [Economic Survey 2002-03 p-17]. The recent estimates of wheat production is much lower than the revised target because the crop was affected by aphid and rust attacks in the wheat growing areas as well as high temperature stress at grain formation affected the productivity of the wheat crop.

Wheat was imported from other countries as the domestic production of wheat was not sufficient to meet internal requirements of the country. Table-3 shows the evidence

Table-3
IMPORT OF WHEAT

Year

Quantity

Unit value R/MT

1998-99

3240

5866

1999-00

2006

7316

2000-01

80

10922

2001-02

267

11437

2002-03

148

11486

Total

5741

47027

Source: Economic Survey 2002-03, Government of Pakistan p-89

An analysis of the data shows that Pakistan imported 3240 metric tons of the wheat valued at Rs.5866 per M. ton in 1998-99, where as in 1999-00 imports were 2006 metric tons of wheat valued at Rs. 7316 per M. ton. Thus the import decreased by 80 metric tons of wheat valued at Rs. 10922 per M.ton. The imports were increased by 267 tons at the valued at Rs. 11437 per M.ton. The study further reveals that imports of the wheat reduced by 148 metric tons of wheat valued at Rs. 11486 per M.ton in the year 2002-03.

PER CAPITA AVAILABILITY OF WHEAT

The per capita availability of wheat consumption during the period from 1998-99 to 2002-03 was as per Table-4.

Table-4

YEAR

POPULATION

P X I = TOTAL

PER CAPITA AVAILABILITY

% INCREASE (+)
DECREASE (-)

1998-99

136.69

21098

154

-

1999-00

139.96

23085

164

6.49

2000-01

142.86

19104

134

-18.29

2001-02

145.96

18494

126

-5.97

2002-03

149.03

19383

130

3.17

Source: Economic Survey 2002-03,Government of Pakistan.pp89 &111

It is clear from the table that the per capita availability of wheat consumption in 1999-2000 increased by 6.49 percent when compared with the per capita availability of wheat consumption of 1998-99. It declined by 18.29 percent in 2000-01 in comparison of 1999-2000. Similarly it again decreased by 5.97 in 2001-02 and in the year 2002-03 it increased by 3.17 percent in comparison to 2001-02.

CONCLUSIONS AND SUGGESTIONS

It is concluded from the above study that wheat contained higher proteins as compared to other crops but in this crop there is gap between production and consumption. During the period from 1998-99 to 2002-03, that gap was being filled up by the importing of the wheat from the other countries and spending lot of money in foreign exchange to carry on the imports of wheat.

The government has to find out why the increase in the production of wheat has failed to reach the goal of self-sufficiency, so that a meaningful wheat policy can be formulated.

The government strategy at present is to make all possible efforts for increase in the production of wheat and, at the same time, to import the requisite quantity of wheat in order to augment the buffer stocks and maintain price stability.

Our country is an agricultural country; our objective should be to take production of wheat to a point where import of the wheat would not be necessary. It would be really a pity if, with all our agricultural scientists and resources at our disposal, we would have to spend our limited foreign exchange resources on the import of wheat.

After achieving autarky in wheat, the next objective should be true endeavor from exportable surplus so that Pakistan can rank amongst the exporters rather than importer of wheat. The most important aspect of wheat self-sufficiency and return to growers is the integration of programs which has been suggested.

To achieve this task, extension directorates have a chance to educate farmers to bring more land under the wheat and ensure availability of inputs at the same time.

Professor Muhammad Ayoob Shaikh, medallist of the University of Sindh, is an Educator by profession. He obtained M.com from the University of Sindh and Ph.d from Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, in 1982 and 2001 respectively.