THE WHEAT CRISIS

Current wheat crisis in the country is political motivated

By AZAM ALI
May 17 - 23, 2004

A top ranking Federal Committee on Agriculture, in second assessment meeting held early this month in Islamabad has proved that current wheat crisis in the country is political motivated, as wheat cultivation all over the country is 20.1 million tons during Rabi Corps Season 2003-2004 against the target of 20 million tons.

The meeting chaired by Federal Agriculture Minister in which more than 50 top ranking officials of Federal Ministries of Agriculture, water and power, research and analysis department and all top officials from all four provinces participated, declared that wheat yield slightly crossed the target and concerned agencies should take concrete steps against artificial shortage of wheat and price hike of atta.

The report which yet to be made public said that Punjab produced 16100.0 hundred tons wheat in 6221.9 hundred hectare area, Sindh province stood 2nd which produced 2200.0 hundred tons in 878 hundred hectare, NWFP produced 1100 hindered tons in 738 hectare land and Balochistan produced 700 hundred tons in 321 hundred hectare land. The total wheat cultivation touched 20.1 million tons.

The satisfactory report of Onion, Potato Lentil and Gram was also presented which says: Pakistan produced 1607 hundred tons onion in 103.4 hectare land all provinces of the country against target of 1687 hundred tons.

In onion yield Sindh province stood first by producing 778 hundred tons in 48 hundred hectare land, Punjab produced 300 hundred tons onion in 26.9 hundred hectare land against its target of 315 hundred tons in 25.1 hundred hectare land. The onion yield is slightly blow the target but does not make any major affect.

The final meeting of Federal Committee on Agriculture is scheduled July next for which information is being collected from all provinces and federal level too.

The invisible but strong political network has forcibly brought Pakistan in the rank of wheat importers which had become wheat exporter during mid 90s despite the fact that Pakistan has produced 20.1 million tons wheat which is comfortably sufficient for country's requirements during 2004-2005. Pakistan still stands within the top ten wheat producing nations.

The important varieties grown in the country are: Zargoon. Sariab-92, Pavon, Zamindar, Fbd-85, Inqulab, Mehran-89, Anmool, Punjab-96, Pasban, Kohistan, Margalla, Chakwal-97, Jauhar-78, Sindh-81, Sarsabz, Soghat-90, Bakhtawar, Kiran, Tatra and Fakhr-e-Sarhad.

The invisible political motivation started to create an artificial wheat crisis as wheat is the staple food of the country and used as main stable food for the majority, therefore it automatically becomes sensitive item and shortage create unrest situation and this is an easy attempt to destabilize the government.

Major players in this field are parliamentarians, members or relatives of assemblies sitting across the table.

During last two weeks Sindh Food Department raided many places in interior of Sindh according to provincial Food Act, and recovered thousands of bags stocked in Sukkur, Noshehro Feroz, Badin, Dadu, Kotri, Khair Pur, but major players who are planning for a honeymoon remained untouched.

Seventy percent of the total yield has already came in markets and major players are lifting the wheat stock at the price of Rs. 400 per 40 kg against the rate of Rs. 350 per 40 kg fixed by the Sindh government.

Questionable repots from Punjab province are circulating since the artificial wheat crisis started; inter-provincial movement of wheat has also been banned till further orders.

The Sindh Food Department has started issuing the permits to the flour mills to lift the wheat so that atta would be made available in retail markets in Sindh province but this step is just a face saving step that could not reduce atta prices in entire province to the government fixed rate of Rs. 12 per Kg, Atta is still being sold from Rs. 14 to Rs. 18 in the retail market.

A single good step by the government could have saved the country from artificial wheat crisis but there are many bureaucrats toeing the opposition's parliamentarians sitting across the table.

Not only this, the Federal Government is paying higher prices on wheat import but does not give benefit to the local growers in any shape, growers have declared that as anti-agriculture attitude which ultimately damaging national interests. The import orders are not placed on time to avoid any crises.

A senior officer of Sindh Food Department has accepted that hoarding of wheat is now in full swing in Punjab and Sindh provinces and a huge stock has gone into the hands of profiteers. But legal limits do not allow the Provincial Food Department to go beyond this.

The Federal Agriculture department meeting has fixed target of rice yield as 5114 hundred tons in 2585 hundred hectare area in the country during the Kharif Corps 2004-2005 as compared to the last achievement during 2003-2004 as 4847.8 hundred tons in 2460 hectare area all over Pakistan.

Sugarcane target has been fixed by 50875 hundred tons in 1,000 hectare area.