LAHORE: Punjab had completed 92 per cent of the wheat sowing target (16.67 million acres) by Dec 3 (Friday) if the provincial Crop Reporting Service is to be believed and it expects the process to be completed by the third week of current month.

A senior spokesman for the Agriculture Department, however, puts the figure at 95pc, saying the Crop Reporting Service was measuring the current sowing against the provincially-fixed target (16.67m acres). The federal government, however, assigned it 16.2m acres and if measured it, the provincial sowing stands at 95pc.

“The process will take two more weeks to complete because sowing process slows down in the end because of delayed sugarcane harvesting and cotton picking,” says an official of the Crop Reporting Service.

Hopefully, both these crops will fully leave the field by the last week of December and wheat will replace them.

The Punjab Agriculture Department thinks that the season is going to be “very hard for wheat” but pinning hopes in few positives should not be out of place.

“The Punjab fully concentrated on three things -- timely sowing, certified seed consumption and control of weeds. The department succeeded in first two. Over 90pc of sowing got completed within November – the most propitious time for it. The department itself provided one million bags of certified seed at subsidised rates. Weed control will come later and the department is planning to increase its usage.”

He, however, concedes that the current long dry spell will cost in the end, and so will be over 28pc water shortages. Rising fertiliser prices will certainly dent the final tally.

“How much? Only time will tell.”

The farmers, on their part, are more concerned on the negatives because they are going to cost them directly.

“No one knows what this official optimism is based upon. With Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) prices hovering beyond Rs9,000 per bag and Urea prices around Rs2,500 per bag, it does not take the genius to imagine the final outcome, laments Sarfraz Virk, a farmer from Sheikhupura.

All this will cost the crop dearly and all officials know it. They are, nevertheless, in complete denial, or feigning optimism. Only four months down the line, all of them will be explaining the factors of crop loss and deflecting the blame on the Mother Nature or market failure.

“The negatives are so many and so crucial to crop. Fertiliser can literally make or break a crop, and so is water shortage, which has its impact multiplied in the drought situation like the current one. The metrological officials are warning of heavy downpours in February, which can hurt the crop as badly as the current dry spell. Farmers are at loss to understand the reasons behind official optimism, except for an official compulsion and perfunctory nature of job.”

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2021

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