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LAHORE: Present at a wheat procurement centre in Sheikhupura on Thursday, Abbas Ali Virk looked worried after food staff told him that his name was not on the list of cultivators eligible for getting bardana (gunny bags).

The staff told him to visit his area ‘patwari’ (revenue official who is supposed to keep /update the land and crops cultivation record) and seek his assistance. A small farmer from Mauza Chachuki, Virk knew the patwari’s assistance would come at a price

“Since my name was very much there in the last year’s list, why not now,” he said while talking to Dawn.

The Punjab government has established over 370 wheat procurement centres across the province, directing the officials concerned to facilitate growers by issuing them bags (20 per acre — each bag of 50Kg) and ensure them payment at the rate of Rs1,300 per 40Kg.

“We have a list of 2,468 growers who can receive bags from us. And if the name of someone is missing, he should either contact the patwari or the assistant commissioner office who have provided these lists,” explains Rana Khizer Hayat, Sheikhupura tehsil’s assistant food controller.

Besides Shiekhupura, some landowners in other districts too are facing the gunny bags issue.

In Rahim Yar Khan, owner of a piece of 25-acre land was even forced to contact the staff of Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yaseen after he found his name missing from the list. “Last year, my name was present in the list and I received Bardana. But this year’s list does not contain the names of 37 farmers of his area,” Rana Israr Rasool, a resident of Mauza Ehsanpur, told this reporter by phone.

He urged the Chief Minister to take notice of the situation and order correction in the lists.

HARVESTING: Wheat harvesting is picking up. A large number of labourers and their families are busy these days to in cutting crop by hand. Harvesting through machines also continues side by side. “Our entire family is busy in Waadi (wheat harvesting) and in return we get 160 to 180Kg wheat per acre,” said Kubra Bibi, while taking a break along with her husband, sisters, cousins etc. “Hardly, we all will be able to manually harvest the crop of about nine acres or so during the ongoing season,” she said.

“In every wheat season, some of us suffer from fever and other deceases due to harsh weather.”

Meanwhile, grain markets are also receiving wheat from the fields though the open market rate is less than the officially announced support price which ranges between Rs 1,150 and 1,200 as per quality.

“This time’s crop is bumper. Yield per acre is over 50 maunds (2,000Kg),” says Shah Nawaz, a wheat commission agent in the Sheikhupura grain market.

He said agents earned five per cent. “For this 5 per cent commission, we pay growers cost of annual lease (thaika), seed, pesticides, fertilizers and even their routine domestic expenses. Simply, we earn five per cent of the total money we invest on them,” Nawaz explained.

He said whether their clients sold their commodity to the government or in the open market, they were supposed to pay them commission while returning the total investment.

Patwari Iftikhar Ahmad of Mauza Malian Circle, who was present in the Shah Nawaz’s office, suggested the government to purchase the total wheat production to benefit farmers.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017