June 30 - July 06, 2008

The eating habit in this region especially in our country and neighboring India is tilted towards wheat consumption primarily in the form of home made bread (NAN) to such an extent that almost the entire crop which normally estimated 22-24 million tons a year consumed by the local population.

Besides consumption within the country, the profiteers also take advantage of this cash crop by dispatching wheat through undeclared trade to neighboring countries including Iran, Afghanistan and even to India which consequently creates shortage within the country more often than not. Obviously, the illegal trade of smuggling cannot take place without connivance of the agencies responsible for protecting the illegal border trade.

Though this practice was being carried out for decades however the global food crisis has made this shortfall more painful in the present scenario when a roadside vendor is selling bread (Nan) at a price of Rs4.

It is feared that if the responsible authorities did not take the corrective steps to ensure availability of wheat at a reasonable price to the flour mills the price of wheat and in turn the price of bread may go beyond the reach even of the middle income groups.

It seems a funny situation and despite hue and cry being raised by the masses for four prices for quite sometimes, market manipulators have successfully managed to pushed the wheat prices by Rs 200 per ton to all time high level of Rs 23,100 per ton in the domestic market once again. This situation becomes more painful because the people who dominate country side politics are sitting like silent spectators in the house of legislatures in Islamabad. The have to rise to the occasion to protect Pakistan and Pakistan means people of Pakistan and nothing else.

Despite the harvesting season of wheat and government's decision to import of one-and-half million ton wheat to arrest the rising prices of the commodity in local market and meet the local demands, wheat prices are on constant rise by the profiteers without fear of price control or without have a heart for the poor of this country.

It is said that restrictions on the movement of wheat and limited supply from the growers are the prime reasons behind current hike. Active players in Judia Bazar, the trading hub of the country, while giving their observation on the current food crisis said that profiteers and hoarders in the interior Sindh have hoarded major portion of harvested wheat for minting money by creating artificial shortage of the commodity which is reflected in the drastic cut of wheat supply from interior Sindh.

It may be mentioned that wheat price gone up Rs 20per 100-kg bag to historical level of Rs 2,310 per bag in the domestic market last week. The price of wheat was at Rs 2,290 per bag in the local market, he informed. During the last two days of the previous week the price of wheat surged by Rs 40 per bag, it was at Rs 2,270 per 100-kg bag on Thursday last.

Actually, the market manipulators have once again have created shortage in supply of wheat to get more profit on their cruelly hoarded inventories. They did not bother to stern warning sounded by the government against the hoarders. The official measures it looks have proved a futile exercise to control the manipulators and hoarders to ensure stability in price of the commodity in the local market.

They maintained that there was not need of importing wheat by the government, as the local stock is enough for the country, provided with the government take stern action against the market manipulators and hoarders for the frequent supply of wheat.

It may be mentioned that the government has imposed a condition of limited buying from the interior of Sindh. It is said that the mills are not allowed to procure over 300 bags from interior of Sindh, Currently, the flour millers have limited stock and need more wheat to bridge the gap between demand and supply. If the supply of wheat was not enhanced in accordance to the requirement of the mills either the shortage of flour will continue to persist or the price will go up further if they go for buying costlier wheat from the market.

The shortfall in wheat supply or increase in prices has naturally affected the flour prices, which is feared to shoot up going forward. If the current situation goes on to persist the wheat price may touch Rs 24,000 per ton mark next week, an active market player sounded a note of warning.


Meanwhile, the government of Punjab despite a positive nod to sell 8.5 metric tons of wheat has refused to sell to the NWFP in view to protect wheat situation in Punjab.

The provincial government in Punjab has refused to honor the agreement signed with NWFP for provision of wheat, said NWFP Minister for Food Shuja Salim Khan while responding to queries raised by the MPAs in debate on supplementary budget for 2007-08.Shuja Salim accused the Punjab government for violation of the agreement, he remarked.

Although the agriculture sector is so far a provincial subject but when the question of survival of the people confronts, there should always be some ways to ensure supply of food either by the provincial or the federal governments.

The mounting pressure on food supplies calls for remedial action to change the eating habit of the people in Pakistan. For example the coastal belt of the country is highly rich in sea food especially a variety of fish but unfortunately sea food which provides extra protein and health benefits are not the food priority in Pakistan. Some research work at academic level is needed to make change in the food habits in this country.