Sep 13 - 26, 2010

Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) has planned to construct steel silos at a cost of US$45 million, which will have a capacity of storing 6,50,000 metric tons of wheat, and 80 percent of the cost will be financed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).

Passco at present has storage capacity of 4,30,000 metric tons and intends to increase it to 1.5-2 million tons in next three years. Under the plan, IDB will extend 80 percent of the total project cost of constructing steel silos while rest of the 20 percent would be given by the Pakistan's government. The Passco has identified 22 feasible sites in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan for construction of these silos. Soil testing of these sites had already been started and the corporation would buy the place only after finding it fit for the construction.

The Managing Director PASSCO, Major General Sohail Shafkat said the IDB had already approved the financing amount and Ministry of Finance (MoF) is negotiating with the bank to finalise the rate of markup.

He said that the project will be completed in three years and Rs650 million will be spent in 2010-11, Rs1600 million in year 2011-2012 and Rs2300 million in the financial year 2012-2013.

Sohail Shafkat further stated that besides construction of these silos, the corporation also intends to introduce bulk carriage trucks. These would handle wheat in bulk and there would be dedicated trucks with each silo. These trucks would go to the field, lift the wheat, come back, and then put the wheat in these silos, where these would be stored. This would help eradicate use of gunny bags in the process of buying wheat from growers till storing, thus saving the money spent on buying of these bags every year, he added.

Managing Director Passco also said that there is also another plan to construct house type godown having capacity of 0.5 million tons of wheat.

Major General Sohail Shafkat said that the corporation was set up by the government with basic objectives of procuring different commodities including wheat, rice, pulses, onion etc on the directives of the federal government to ensure that farmers could get suitable and better payment of their production and stabilise prices in the market. It also buys wheat from the growers and stores it and provides it to wheat deficient areas of the country. Another role is to construct storages and the above mentioned project is a part of efforts to increase the corporation's present storage capacity, he added.

As far as the stocks available with the Passco, he said that presently the corporation had around 17,25,000 metric tons of wheat in its stocks. He added the corporation at various centers constructed embankments from four feet to six feet high, which helped stopping flood or rain water entering the centers. Similarly, three water-dispensing sets for each center were also allocated to save the centers and the stocks from flood water, he added.

Major General Sohail Shafkat said the World Food Programme (WFP) has so far lifted 93,000 metric tons of wheat out of total 200,000 metric tons it bought from the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation.

'WFP had initially bought 100,000 metric tons of wheat from the corporation and now recently has finalised a deal for another 100,000 metric tons at the rate of US$276 per metric tons,' he added. This wheat is being taken from the corporation for distribution among the flood-hit people by the Programme. The corporation has sold the earlier 100,000 metric tons of wheat at the same price, he said.

He further stated that the WFP has also bought 15,500 metric tons of IRRI-06 rice also from the corporation for distribution in flood hit areas besides the wheat. The rice has been sold to the WFP at the rate of Rs30,000 per metric tons, he added.

'WFP is lifting wheat from various centers of the corporation situated in Khanpur, Layyah, Burewala, Vehari, Khanewal, Multan, Bahawalnagar and Alipur,' he said.

Sohail Shafkat maintained that the corporation has supplied wheat to WFP from its stocks lying under open sky. As far as the stocks available with the corporation are concerned, he said that presently the corporation has around 17, 25,000 metric tons of wheat in its stocks. Regarding damage to the stocks due to rains or floodwater, sources claimed that the administration took timely steps after receiving warnings, thus managed to save its stocks.