ISLAMABAD: As the Rabi crop season is to commence in the coming weeks, the government is eyeing to achieve the wheat production target of 30 million tonnes during 2021-22 and for this purpose it has asked the provinces to increase the overall area under cultivation and per hectare yield by effectively utilising rust-resistant and certified seeds, water and proper usage of fertilisers and pesticides.
The country achieved production of 27.5 million tonnes of wheat during 2020-21, and the government is now gearing up to take policy decisions ahead of the wheat sowing season in consultation with the provinces, including minimum support price that will help encourage farmers to increase the area under cultivation, and the provision of inputs.
Punjab will be asked to enhance its wheat production from 20 million tonnes in 2020-21 to 23 million tonnes during the next crop season. Other wheat growing provinces will be asked to help achieve the national wheat target of 30 million tonnes.
Presiding over a meeting of the Wheat Review Committee here on Monday, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said that every year five to six million people were added to the country’s growing population which was increasing the total demand of wheat in the country.
Provinces told to increase area under cultivation
Through management of the controllable factors, which include availability of high quality seeds, proper utilisation of irrigation water and application of right fertilisers at right time and pesticides, the overall production of wheat can be significantly increased, Mr Imam said.
Both the overall area under cultivation and per hectare yield needed to be increased at the same time, he said.
“The government desires to formulate a policy where every stakeholder is heard and their all concerns are addressed. An informed policy will be announced ahead of the sowing season to enhance wheat production,” Mr Imam said.
The minister sensitised the provincial food departments about timely finalisation of minimum support price.
He was informed that the provinces had submitted their minimum support price proposals and were awaiting approval by the federal cabinet.
The provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have finalised their wheat release price, which is Rs1,950 per 40kg, whereas the retail price will be Rs1,100 per 20kg.
The Punjab government decided that wheat would be issued to the approved functional flour mills on the basis of population of that jurisdiction. Flour mills have been allowed to grind their private stocks. However, they would be bound to grind the public stock within the stipulated period.
The Sindh government was yet to get final approval from its cabinet for the wheat release policy, the meeting was informed.
Mr Imam emphasised that minimum support price should be announced well before the start of the wheat sowing season, saying the government’s decision to raise minimum support price from Rs1,400 to Rs1,800 per 40kg had produced fruitful results and helped the country in harvesting 27.5 million tonnes of wheat, the highest and historic production.
The important factor, he said, was the favourable weather coupled with the availability of inputs like 513,000 tonnes of certified seed, fertilisers and irrigation water.
The minister said the government had been focusing on availability of certified seed and for the upcoming season around 530,000 tonnes of seed would be available, including 160,000 tonnes rust-tolerant varieties.
The wheat review committee was informed about the final estimates of wheat production in 2020-21 and the current wheat stock position. Punjab has produced 20.9 million tonnes of wheat, Sindh 4.04 million tonnes and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan 1.45 million tonnes and 1.15 million tonnes, respectively.
According to the wheat crop production estimates for 2020-21 prepared by the provincial crop reporting services, the share of Punjab in wheat production was 76 per cent, Sindh 14.55 per cent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 5.27 per cent and Balochistan 4.18 per cent.
The total wheat stock available with Punjab is 3.86 million tonnes, Sindh 1.26 million tonnes, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.18 million tonnes and Balochistan 0.085 million tonnes.
Fakhr Imam assured Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir that the federal government would supply wheat to wheat-deficit areas from the stock of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco).
The representatives of all provincial food departments, Passco and senior officials of the ministry concerned attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021