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MUZAFFARGARH, May 7: The department would not achieve wheat procurement target this season in Muzaffargarh district, a food official told Dawn on Tuesday. There are 17 procurement centres in Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu tehsils where the food department is to buy 124,000 metric ton wheat.

Though harvesting season has ended, the total wheat received at centres is 200,000 gunny bags while the target is 1,200,000 bags.

The official claimed that this year the production of wheat crop was not high because of excessive rains. An agriculture official said in previous years one acre production had been 60 maunds but this time the yield was 30 to 40 maunds per acre.

Some farmers said this time the yield was good but growers contacted middle men and traders owing to ‘faulty’ policy of the Punjab government regarding distribution of gunny bags and purchase of the commodity.

At the start of the season, traders had bought wheat at Rs1,100 to Rs1,120 per 40 kilo but now the commodity is being sold for Rs1,150 on net cash. Farmers Malik Anjum and Rao Atif said they had to spend four days at centres and put up with police, patwari, monitoring teams, education officials, agriculture and livestock department staff to get gunny bags. As a result hundreds of farmers sold their crop to private traders who hailed from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

Khalid Husain, a farmer, said he went six times to the centre to sell his 20-acre yield but he came back without bags and sold his crop to KP traders at Rs1,100 on net payment and ‘felt himself lucky.’

Food inspector Chaudhry Akram, in-charge of centre at Ghazi Ghat, said his target was 60,000 gunny bags weighing 100 kilo each but he could get back only 22,000 bags. “As many as 33,000 gunny bags have been distributed and I am waiting for the commodity.”

Dawn visited Rangpur and Chowk Sarwar Shaheed and found middle men buying the commodity on net cash. The middle men claimed that the government had allowed them to sell wheat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

District Food Controller Zulfiqar claimed that farmers were busy in electioneering and target would be achieved after election days. “I was informed by agriculture department that 70 per cent of wheat was not threshed.”

Agriculture official Iqbal said this time farmers never visited or tried to get gunny bags and they sold the commodity to traders on cash.

The DCO said he would take stern action against food officials if they could not achieve target in Muzaffargarh.