LAHORE: Wheat harvest has begun in the southern districts of Punjab as temperature has increased enough to mature the crop.
However, the formal opening of the reaping season will be done by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar within a couple of days as authorities concerned are scheduling his visit to Rajanpur district.
Wheat growers from Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur and Rajanpur districts are reporting a good crop, with yield up to 60 maund per acre. Punjab agriculture officials expect the province will harvest at least 19.6 million tonnes of wheat. Last year, grain production remained at 19.4m tonnes in Punjab.
Talking to Dawn, growers said they are hoping to get a better reward for their labour this year as the government has fixed Rs1,800 per maund as the minimum procurement price of wheat. Last year, the minimum support price for wheat was Rs1,400 per maund.
Growers said private parties, including investors and individuals, are offering them up to Rs2,000 per maund. Interestingly, some parties have purchased the grain from Sindh where wheat harvest began two weeks ago at a rate of Rs2,200 per maund.
Waseem Malik, a progressive grower in Bahawalnagar, said urban consumers, greatly affected by the wheat and flour crisis last year consumers, are approaching farmers to purchase the grain directly from them instead of relying on market supplies. These urbanites are offering better than the officially fixed rate, he added.
Khalid Mahmood Khokhar, a farmer leader, said Punjab is going to harvest a better crop than that of last year’s. However, he feared that the purchasing spree by individual consumers may dent the food department’s wheat procurement target of at least 3.5m tonnes.
Food officials, however, are hopeful that they may manage to procure more grain than the target.
This year, the government has allowed flour mills and seed companies to procure the wheat, unlike in the last season when no private player had been allowed to enter the market.
The department has earmarked Rs170 billion for its wheat procurement drive after finalising financing deals with a consortium of banks. Distribution of gunny bags has begun from over 350 procurement centres established across the province as the procurement of wheat will start from April 15.
Meanwhile, the food department has marked at least 150,000 tonnes of wheat for Ramazan Package from its available stocks.
Talking to Dawn, Punjab Food Director Danish Afzaal said 86,000 tonnes of grain had been released from the storage for the Ramazan Package last year.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021