Wheat production target remains unmet, Senate panel told

Updated 23 Sep 2020

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The wheat production target for the 2019-20 crop had been set at 25.45m tonnes. — Reuters/File
The wheat production target for the 2019-20 crop had been set at 25.45m tonnes. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research was told on Tuesday that the country could not achieve the target for wheat production for 2019-20 and the net shortfall of wheat had been estimated at 1.411 million tonnes.

The wheat production target for the 2019-20 crop had been set at 25.45m tonnes.

National Food Security Secretary Omer Hameed Khan informed the committee about the reasons for failure to achieve the wheat production target.

Among the reasons were smuggling, hoarding, high price in local market, international wheat price and effects of climate change, he said. Moreover, there was lack of cooperation from the provincial governments in the procurement of wheat and obstructions in inter-provincial movement of wheat, he added.

Another reason for the wheat crisis was the minimum support price of Rs1,400 per 40kg, whereas the price was high in open market, he said. As a result, farmers preferred to sell the product in open market to get higher price.

The official said that the ministry was reviewing the support price while considering the cost of production, and a policy decision would be taken ahead of the next wheat harvest season.

The committee’s chairman, Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah, sought reply from the ministry about the 18 recommendations finalised by the committee and sent to the ministry for implementation, and asked for a report at the next meeting. Among the recommendations was the formulation of a wheat policy in consultation with all stakeholders, he said.

The committee discussed the ongoing operation against locusts in the country, particularly Balochistan, on a point of public importance raised by Senator Usman Khan Kakar.

The committee was informed that the Chinese government had donated 50 high-efficiency air blast sprayers to Pakistan, out of which 12 had been provided to the Balochistan Agriculture Department. Ten motorised sprayers have also been donated and 835,000 hectares of land treated for locusts in the province.

Meanwhile, the National Locust Control Centre has announced that the anti-locust survey and control operation continues in Balochistan and during the past 24 hours, 168,635 hectares of land have been surveyed while control operation has been carried out on 144 hectares of land in Lasbela district, the only area where locust is present.

Discussing the number of vehicles provided to the Balochistan Agricultural Department for anti-locust spray, the committee was told that the department possessed 20 vehicles. However, the chairman was of the view that every division in all the four provinces must have at least three vehicles to deal with such emergencies, and at the same time spraying aircraft must also be made available.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2020