ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday announced the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs1,950 per 40kg for wheat crop 2021-22.
Speaking at a news conference in Islamabad, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam said the new support price — which is Rs150 more as compared to last year’s support price of Rs1,800 — will incentivise farmers to grow sufficient wheat to meet the national production target.
He hoped that availability of irrigation water and weather conditions would be conducive during rabi season to achieve the wheat production target.
The MSP for wheat is contrary to the recommendation of the parliamentary committee and has been rejected by the farmers. The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research in its meeting earlier this week had recommended MSP for wheat of Rs2,200 per 40kg.
The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) had also demanded Rs2,200 per 40kg as MSP for the commodity.
Rejecting the MSP for wheat, PKI Chairman Khalid Khokhar said the new price does not correspond to the rising costs of inputs like fertilisers, electricity and diesel.
When asked how the farming community would react to the new support price, Mr Khokhar warned that finding no option, farmers might grow less wheat and prefer other profitable crops.
“If the farmers decide to grow less wheat after finding it not profitable, the government may fail to achieve the wheat production target of 28.9 million tonnes, leading to a major wheat crisis in 2022,” he said.
The new support price of Rs1,950 would also not be acceptable to Punjab which is the largest wheat growing province. The provincial food department had recommended a minimum support price of Rs2,050 per 40kg for wheat.
Mr Khokhar said the costs of electricity, fertilisers and diesel had substantially increased since the last crop season. “The government’s decision will ultimately benefit farmers of other countries when the government will import wheat at much higher price,” he added.
Meanwhile, the food security minister acknowledged that due to much higher international prices of DAP fertiliser and shipping costs, the domestic price has also increased significantly and it is available at Rs7,300 per bag.
However, he said, the price of urea is stable and significantly lower than the international price, and available at Rs1,850 per bag against the international price of Rs5,400 per bag.
Mr Imam attributed the reason for the lower price of urea to the annual subsidy of Rs126 billion provided by the government to fertiliser companies for natural gas. The minister said that government was working closely with the fertiliser companies to ensure adequate availability of both key fertilisers during the rabi season.
He added that the government has provided over Rs16bn for fertiliser, seed, pesticide and agricultural loan mark-up subsidies. “These timely initiatives have helped generate record production of many commodities,” he added.
The minister acknowledged farmers’ hard work that produced record production of wheat, rice, maize, mung beans, onion and potato. Releasing figures of production, he said 27.5m tonnes of wheat was produced, and rice 8.4m tonnes, maize 8.5m tonnes, mung beans 0.275m tonnes, onion 2.3m tonnes, and potato 5.7m tonnes.
About sugarcane, he said second highest production of 81m tonnes of sugarcane was produced.
Explaining the production targets for 2021-22, the minister said that sugarcane production has been estimated at 87.67m tonnes which is 8 per cent higher than that of last year. Rice production is estimated at 8.84m tonnes which is 5pc higher than that of last year. Similarly, maize production is estimated at 9m tonnes, showing 8.5pc higher than previous year’s production.
About cotton, he said significant improvement in cotton production has been witnessed. As of November 1, production of 6.2m bales of cotton has been achieved as compared to 3.4m bales which show 82pc higher at the same date last year.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2021