MUZAFFARGARH: The food department has failed to procure wheat from the farmers and it is not likely to achieve its procurement target in the district this season due to the flawed policy of the government regarding distribution of gunny bags.

A food inspector has told Dawn that there are 17 wheat procurement centres in Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu tehsils where the food department has to buy 131,000 metric tonne wheat but the department will perhaps get 100,000 metric tonne.

The harvesting season is over and the total wheat received at centre is 2,66,000 gunny bags while the target is 13,00,000 bags.

The department officials claims wheat production is not good this year and the farmers have taken more interest in sugarcane crop because of closure of Muzaffargarh canal and less rains.

Assistant Food Controller Muhammad Ali, in charge of Ghazi Ghaat wheat procurement centre, says only 35,000 bags, so far have, been received at his centre whose target is 70,000 bags.

The agriculture officials are of the opinion that one acre production was 60 maund per acre last year but this time the yield is 40 to 50 maund.

The farmers claim that the yield is good this time but they have sold their produce to the middlemen and traders due to bad policy of the Punjab government for distribution of gunny bags and wheat purchase. The traders are getting bags from the department and farmers have sold them their wheat through middlemen.

Malik Amjad, a farmer, alleges that they had to spend four days at centres, cajoling police, patwaris, monitoring teams and agriculture department and livestock officials to get gunny bags from the food department. Dawn has learnt that dozens of middlemen were at the food centres to get the bags in the name of farmers.

Syed Muzaffar Abbas Kazmi, another farmer, says he went to the wheat procurement centre to sell his produce but he came back without bags every time. He had to sell his wheat to middleman at Rs1,150 on cash payment.

Hundred of farmers have sold their wheat to traders who from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

The farmers are now busy cultivating cotton crop and they have left the wheat procurement centres, saying that it was too hard to get bags from there.

District food controller told this correspondent that the target would be achieved easily and already 600,000 bags had been procured lying here in different food centres.

Deputy Commissioner Saif Anwar Jappa claims that he himself visited the wheat procurement centres and took action against the food, livestock and revenue department officials over the issue. Show-cause notices have been sent to the corrupt officials and three FIRs have been registered against the middlemen, he says.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2017