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LAHORE: The government has delayed the procurement of wheat across the province due to the presence of high moisture content in grains due to the recent torrential rains. Deputy commissioners (DCs) of the 36 districts have been told not to buy the wheat having more than 10 per cent of the moisture content.

The government, which plans to procure 4 million tons of wheat this year, has made over 380 centres functional in the districts from April 15.

An official source says that in many districts, gunny bags were being distributed among the farmers from Monday.

Similarly, none of the centres was reported to have started receiving wheat from farmers. The source said he feared the target would not be achieved this year as many farmers would have no option but to sell their wheat to the open market.

“Due to the non-availability of space in godowns, the government has directed the food department to store the fresh stock under tarpaulin covering,” said another official, who requested anonymity.

He said the wheat godowns in south Punjab were already full with the wheat bought last year and it happened because of the less supply of the wheat to flour mills by the government.

Nankana Sahib Deputy Commissioner Saira Umar said the officials had started receiving applications from farmers from Monday regarding gunny bags. “We expect the start of the wheat procurement in a couple of days,” she said. “However, we are not allowed to procure wheat having moisture content more than 10 per cent,” she added.

Khanewal DC Muzaffar Sial said they had started issuing gunny bags to farmers from Monday while the wheat buying would begin from April 29. He also blamed rains for delay in procurement.

He said some districts would start buying the yield from April 30 or so depending upon the presence of moisture content in grains.

He said they had arranged open spaces to store the yield. to be covered with tarpaulin sheets.

Food Director Asif Bilal Lodhi said they had had issued 244,664 gunny bags among the farmers by Monday.

“Issuing such a huge number of bags means that we have that much wheat bags, as the farmers who we issue bags are to sell their wheat to the government.

He rejected the impression of delaying wheat procurement due to rains or moisture. He said rains did not affect the wheat crop.

“We think that our progress to buy wheat has increased, as we plan to end the procurement by the start of Ramazan.”

He said though things were not 100 per cent right, the government was trying meet the expectations of farmers. The government has empowered DCs and assistant commissioners (ACs) to monitor the wheat procurement process as the complaints related to gunny bags were being evaluated and resolved by them.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2017