LAHORE: The Economic Coordination Committee’s decision of allowing free import of wheat to overcome the existing flour crisis in the country has not gone well with Kissan Board Pakistan and Farmers Association of Pakistan (FAP) leaders, who feel the move aims at discouraging growers from sowing the staple crop next year.

Rejecting the wheat import decision as anti-farmer, Kissan Board Pakistan president Amanullh Chathha fears if continued the government’s ‘flawed’ policy may lead to a famine like situation in the near future as wheat growers will abandon growing the staple food in the country.

Board general secretary Shaukat Chadhar wondered why the government was importing grain when the federal food security minister said it had four million tons of the commodity in the stock.

He says that the stock is sufficient for meeting more than six months needs of the domestic market, while the new crop is just a couple of weeks away (wheat harvesting in Sindh will begin by Feb 15).

FAP, a representative body of large landholders, also believes that the wheat import will impact new crop prices but asserts that if acted efficiently the government may minimize the impact to insignificant level.

FAP leader Ebadur Rehman Khan blames agriculture and food secretaries for the crisis, saying they did not let the political government know that wheat yield in the last season remained low because of rust attack besides other factors.

He says the grain availability in the open market shrank when poultry feed mills bought wheat at a large scale after failure of the maize crop and the authorities concerned did not consider these issues while devising the wheat policy for the rest of the year.

He demanded that at least these two secretaries be shown the door for their knowingly or inadvertent failure in managing the wheat supplies.

Mr Khan fears that the next wheat crop will also give low yield because of the locust attack as well as losing some of its acreage to maize, sugarcane and oil seed crops and the government should frame wheat import and export policy in the light of these facts.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020