ISLAMABAD: The government is bracing itself for another wheat shortage as output is estimated to fall short of the target for this year by almost three million tonnes, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was informed at a meeting on Friday.
According to the Prime Minister Office (PMO), wheat production is projected to be 26.173m tonnes against a target of 28.89m tonnes while the estimated consumption would be around 30.79m tonnes.
The meeting was informed that reduced area under wheat cultivation, shortage of water and fertiliser, and delay in the announcement of support price had led to a shortfall of two per cent in production.
The oil price hike and an earlier-than-usual heatwave were cited as other factors responsible for failure to meet the wheat production target.
The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to thrash out a strategy for stopping wheat theft and for the construction of silos for storage.
Mr Sharif said it was unfortunate that even though Pakistan was an agricultural country, it was importing wheat due to “wrong decisions and delayed strategies”.
He was apprised about measures taken by the government to keep the prices of flour in check. These include grant of subsidy on wheat meant for flour mills, ensuring availability of a 10kg flour bag for Rs400 and provision of 200,000 tonnes of wheat to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the authorities concerned to assess the wheat consumption in KP and ensure the province received wheat in keeping with its need.
The meeting was told that Punjab had achieved 91.66 per cent of the procurement target, Sindh 49.68 per cent, Balochistan 15.29 per cent while the Pakistan Agriculture Supplies and Storage Corporation (Passco) had achieved 100 per cent of the target.
The prime minister accused the previous PTI-led government of trying to favour hoarders by delaying the announcement of wheat support price.
He called upon the Punjab government to raise its procurement target and directed the Food Security Division to import wheat in order to bridge the shortfall.
The prime minister expressed his resolve to make the country self-sufficient in wheat.
Those who attended the meeting, among others, were Minister for Food Security Tariq Basheer Cheema, senior officials of Passco and the Punjab chief secretary.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2022