• Decides to import 3m tonnes in next one year
• Punjab to continue giving subsidy to maintain wheat flour price

ISLAMABAD: As harvesting of wheat is set to begin in the coming weeks, the federal government on Friday fixed its minimum support price at Rs1,800 per 40kg and decided to keep the wheat flour price unchanged to provide relief to consumers.

Addressing a press conference, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said the revision of the minimum support price from Rs1,650 to Rs1,800 had been decided by Prime Minister Imran Khan at a meeting held to discuss issues related to wheat production, import and incentives to wheat growers.

The government also decided to import three million tonnes of wheat in the next one year to ensure there was no shortage of the commodity.

“We have finalised the estimates of the import and are managing the situation in a coordinated way so that consumers face no shortage of wheat at any time,” Fakhr Imam said.

The food security minister said this year wheat production was expected to be 26.2 million tonnes — one million tonnes more than the previous year’s production of 25.2 million tonnes.

Crop estimates showed that Punjab would grow 19.08 million tonnes, Sindh 4.02 million tonnes and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan’s combined production would be 9.2 million tonnes, he said.

A reserve of 300,000 tonnes of wheat has already been ensured, for which the Trading Corporation of Pakistan had issued tenders last August. With this, the country will have in its stock 30 million tonnes of wheat including one million tonnes as strategic reserve, Mr Imam said.

About the minimum support price, the federal minister said when the support price was being fixed the Sindh government did not submit its recommendations.

However, when the federal government determined the price at Rs1,650 in the early stage, the province announced the price of Rs2,000 per 40kg, he said, adding that for the first time in history, a province had not fulfilled its constitutional responsibility.

“Today, all the provinces are on the same page, except Sindh,” he said.

Punjab Food Minister Aleem Khan, who was present at the news conference, asked the Sindh government to honour its promise with the farmers in the province and arrange procurement of wheat at Rs2,000 per 40kg.

Mr Khan termed the federal government’s decision to increase minimum support price as historic and said it was a major incentive for farmers who were the backbone of the economy.

He said the Punjab government had so far given subsidy of Rs80 billion to keep the price of wheat flour at Rs860 per 20kg throughout the province, and as per the directives of the prime minister, the provincial government would continue giving subsidy to ensure the price remained at the same level.

He announced that the provincial government would keep supplying wheat to flour mills at subsidised rates.

“The release of wheat is usually suspended for one month when the procurement drive is in full swing. Other than that, its supply will continue to the flour mills,” he added.

The Punjab minister said the production of wheat in the country did not commensurate with the demand. Not a single grain of wheat was smuggled last year and the entire stock was consumed, he added.

Mr Khan asked the farmers to bring their wheat crop to designated centres from where they would be paid in cash.

“There is no need to get support of the middleman. The provincial government is bringing reforms to eliminate the role of the middleman, Aleem Khan said.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2021

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