ISLAMABAD, April 23: The expected wheat production of 24 million tons this year is feared to be slightly below the record harvest achieved last year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations said on Monday.
The 24 million tons production, though below the harvest in 2011, it is above the previous five years average, FAO says in a latest report on Pakistan.
Following a period of cool weather which affected plant mitosis, a protracted period of below normal rains, floods in Sindh, reported reduced availability of fertilisers and irrigation water led to a downward revision of the earlier forecast of the harvest, the report says.
It states that although above normal rains were recorded at the end of December and early January, helping to reduce moisture deficits to some degree, dry weather resumed several weeks from mid-January to end-March. Most of the wheat crop cultivated in the main growing areas of Punjab and Sindh provinces is irrigated.
According to the report, scanty distribution of rains during the first three months of 2011-12 agricultural winter season, resulted in water deficits to Rabi crops especially in barani areas.
The FAO report says that the prices of wheat and wheat flour continue to rise, while those of rice stabilise at high levels. Prices of wheat and wheat flour have been on the increase since late 2011, reflecting strong export demand.
In the first two weeks of April, prices of wheat and wheat flour were 9 and 13 per cent respectively above their levels a year earlier.
Prices of rice have remained relatively stable in recent months at high levels, about 17 per cent higher than in April 2011. Price of basmati rice, intended mainly for export, is on the rise since September 2010. It has been stable at a record level since February 2012 averaging Rs61.54 per kg. However, in April 2012, prices increased by 26 per cent over the corresponding month last year, says the report.
Harvesting of the 2011 Kharif crops, mainly paddy, maize and sorghum was completed in December. Heavy monsoon rains in August and September caused severe flooding in Sindh and parts of Balochistan. Over nine million people were affected and at least 880,000 hectares of standing crops have been damaged.
In spite of the localised floods, the damage to the paddy crop was moderate and the national paddy output is estimated at 10.3 million tons, which is 42 per cent above 2010 drought-affected crop, but below the bumper harvests in 2008 and 2009. The total production estimate for maize, sorghum and millet is put at 4.1 million tonnes.
Pakistan is the world’s fifth largest rice exporter. With the good production in 2011, the exportable surplus for 2011-12 marketing year has been estimated at about 3.5 million tons of rice and 600,000 tons of wheat.
The FAO report warns that the impact of high inflation is a cause of concern especially for the low income segment. The overall year-on-year consumer price inflation in March 2012 was fairly high estimated at 10.8 per cent.