Punjab's farmers fear ‘significant’ drop in wheat yield

Published December 3, 2021
This file photo shows workers at a wheat field in Pakistan. — AFP/File
This file photo shows workers at a wheat field in Pakistan. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Farmers fear a ‘significant’ drop in the wheat output this season because of the ongoing fertiliser crisis coupled with unfavourable weather and high diesel rates.

Wheat sowing begins in Punjab in the first week of November and the Crop Reporting Service says so far 80pc of the 16.7 million acres sowing target fixed for the 2021-22 season has been achieved.

Last year 16.21m acres of land had come under wheat and the acreage has been increased this season on the direction of the federal government’s Wheat Review Committee which met this September and desired that Punjab should produce three million tonnes more grain this year. The province had produced over 20m tonnes of wheat during 2020-21. But farmers fear the target may not be achieved because of multiple factors.

Mian Saqib, a wheat grower from Sahiwal, says prices of diammonium phosphate (DAP), Nitro phosphate and urea fertilisers have shot through the roof. DAP, which is applied while preparing land for sowing wheat, is available in the black market at a rate of up to Rs9,800 against its official price of Rs7,300 per bag. At least one and a half bags of DAP are applied in an acre. Likewise, a bag of urea is being sold at a rate ranging between Rs2,200 and Rs2,500, while its controlled rate is Rs1,760, he adds.

Prayers for rain today

Saddam Bodla, another farmer, says an increase of at least Rs20 per litre in diesel rate is also affecting the crop because tractors for tillage purposes have not been used as extensively as required while the costly fuel will also deter growers from running tubewells for pumping out water for irrigation to overcome the canal water shortage.

The Indus River System Authority (Irsa) has already forecast an average 38pc water shortage for Rabi crops, while weather pundits are also predicting below normal rains in Punjab plains during the Rabi season.

Mr Bodla apprehends around 20pc decline in the wheat output if the government does not act timely to remove the factors likely to hit the yield.

Agriculture authorities in Punjab are, however, pinning their hopes on a mega awareness campaign recently launched by it with the help of 30,000 students from various universities to impart the wheat growers knowledge about new farming techniques and adopting good agricultural practices for a better yield.

SPECIAL PRAYERS: The Punjab Agriculture Department has decided to offer special prayers for rain at all its offices in the province on Friday (today).

A spokesperson for the department says the province is facing 28pc water shortage for Rabi season while there have been no rains for the last many weeks creating a drought-like conditions at a time when main Rabi crops, wheat and gram, are being sown.

He says the dry season is not only creating hurdles in achieving production targets for Rabi crops but also causing smog in the province. To overcome the situation, divine help will be sought by offering special prayers at all divisional and district offices of the department at 11am on Friday, he says.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2021

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