MULTAN: The wheat procurement target set by the provincial government has become difficult to achieve for district governments as the farmers from south Punjab are not ready to sell the commodity to the government despite the harvesting season is at its peak.

The traders in grain markets say this time farmers are not in a hurry to sell their wheat crop.

The provincial food department has fixed 3.5 million tonnes as the procurement target for 2020-21 against 4.5 million tonnes of the last year.

A trader from Khanewal told Dawn that the target for the district is 4.6 million bags of 50 kg but so far hardly 40 to 42 percent target has been achieved.

“The farmers say that last year the official support price for 40 kg was Rs1,400 but later the price in the open market went up to Rs2,300 per maund and now when the support price is Rs1,800, the price in the open market will ultimately go beyond Rs2,300,” he said.

He said that the farmers were selling their wheat only to meet their urgent needs while they have hoarded the maximum portion of their wheat production despite the fact the average per acre yield in the southern districts of the province was not less than 40 maunds per acre against last year’s 22 maund.

“The middlemen are encouraging the farmers to hoard their crop with them, though this year the government for the first time announced releasing 500 gunny bags to each farmer without verifying their cultivated area from the revenue department,” he added.

He said although the government was claiming to discourage the role of middlemen, the officials of the food department for the first time were contacting the middlemen to help them achieve the target.

Sources in the food department said that even though the government had banned private buyers, flour mill owners and feed factories from buying the wheat, the target may not be achieved whereas in the past it used to achieve by the end of April.

They said that check posts have been established in every district to stop the transportation of wheat from one district to another while the district food controller of each district is trying to achieve his target.

Khawaja Muhammad Shoaib of the Farmers Vision Forum said that the government has failed to deal with the wheat crop procurement for the second consecutive year despite excluding the private sector, including flour mills, seed companies, and aata chakki owners, from purchasing the wheat.

He said that the government should continue its procurement process till June 30 and when there is a shortage because of hoarding by the private sector, the government should import the wheat in July and August as at that time the prices in the international market are low due to the start of the late harvesting season.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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