HYDERABAD: The Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) on Sunday demanded the provincial government to immediately start procurement of wheat and ensure collecting a sizeable buffer stock to protect consumers in case of shortage of the grain in future.

The board members, who met here with SAB senior vice president Mehmood Nawaz Shah in the chair, called for implementing the ban on paddy cultivation on the left bank of Indus in a gradual manner.

The meeting said that almost 30 per cent (pc) wheat crop had been harvested since March 1 and by the end of April 80pc wheat would be out of growers’ hands. But not a single purchasing centre was opened till today (Sunday) and that had lowered the prices to Rs1,800 per 40kg when the government appreciably fixed Rs2,000 and market rate remained above Rs2,200 per 40kg before harvesting, they observed.

The meeting said the arrival of new crop was at its peak and it would start declining after April 15 when the crop in southern Sindh came to an end. It was creating conducive environment for the middleman to purchase wheat at lower rates, it added.

It said difference of Rs7bn (Rs200 per 40kg) on procurement target of 1.4 tonne was substantial amount for middlemen to be active and Rs20bn on estimated production of four tonne made their business lucrative.

The meeting observed that it was important to understand that government procured 32pc of wheat, but benefit of timely procurement ensured stability in the price for 68pc of the commodity. Government’s initiative to benefit growers therefore might go waste and it might make it difficult for the government to meet procurement target, it added.

It recommended to the government to keep sizable wheat stock to protect consumers in the years to come when the international market would go higher. It had been witnessed in the past two years that wheat was sold by growers at much lower prices of Rs35 a kilo while wheat flour at much higher rates of Rs65 a kilo. It demanded early wheat procurement.

It expressed concern over an abrupt ban on the cultivation of paddy crop in the areas where it had been cultivated for decades. It would yield negative results. These areas include three sub-divisions of Akram Wah/lined channel, Dadu Canal, and areas affected by water-logging due to Chotiari reservoir in Sanghar.

It said paddy was banned in perennial canals as per Irrigation Act. Dadu canal while being perennial channel had never run like that for decades. Paddy was always grown in that canal. Without taking growers in confidence, water continued to flow in the canal and growers were being informed by late March and April that paddy sowing was not allowed in the current year, it said.

The meeting said the growers neither prepared their lands nor bought seed etc., to be able to sow other crops than paddy and they had given advance payment for paddy cultivation in May and June. Now they were in a fix over what crops other could be sown as season for sowing alternate crops like sugar cane and cotton had already passed, it added.

The SAB recommended that such policy should be implemented in phases by taking stakeholders in confidence. It said policymakers needed to realize that switching crops on over 100,000 acres, when sowing season of alternate crops had passed, was almost impossible. It said cost of inputs was increasing and it was already higher than India and other countries.

Such increase would impact small and medium size farmers or affect already low productivity. It discussed input cost comparison of Dec and Feb which showed that the DAP was sold for Rs3,800 in Dec 2020 while in Feb 2021, it was sold for Rs5,520 per bag. Likewise, urea NP which was sold for Rs2,700 per bag, was sold for Rs4,800 per bag this year.

The SAB wrote letters to the provincial and federal governments sensitizing them on the issue and it learnt the Punjab government was already implementing fertilizer subsidy scheme.

The meeting urged the Sindh government to follow suit and lower the burden of cost of inputs by subsidizing prices of phosphate and potash fertilizer.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2021


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