SAHIWAL: Despite the Punjab government’s declaration of a support price for wheat at Rs3,900, the market witnesses wheat being sold at from Rs3,000 to Rs3,100 per 40 kg.

This disparity arises from the provincial food department’s failure to announce any procurement schedule or targets for wheat purchase from the open market.

The situation has triggered panic among the activists of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) and Kissan Ittehad. Both organisations have launched social media campaigns, urging farmers not to sell their crops at low prices and to hold onto their produce for the time being.

However, the ongoing rain spells exacerbate the issue, especially for farmers who have already harvested their crops, leaving heaps of wheat exposed in fields due to a lack of storage capacity at their disposal. The ongoing spell of rain is another concern for growers, leaving them with no option but to sell their crops at throwaway prices.

PKI Provincial President Rizwan Iqbal criticised the recently announced government policy, which limits wheat purchase to a mere 15 maunds or 600 kg per acre of production for any farmer.

PKI President Khalid Mahmood Khookar expressed concerns over the surplus wheat production anticipated due to the previous caretaker government’s import of 3.2 million tons of wheat.

He said that the government has 4.8 million tons of wheat in its stocks, indicating a grim outlook for farmers as it implies a lack of demand at the announced support price.

The limited buying of wheat is making farmers fear that the market will crash due to overproduction. Farmers attributed this predicament to a conspiracy against them who consistently yield bumper wheat crops but struggle to find buyers at the announced support price of the government.

The PKI announced plans to protest by staging demonstrations outside the offices of all 36 deputy commissioners in Punjab. The PKI demanded immediate intervention from Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, urging her to convene a meeting with representatives of farmers’ professional bodies to address the pressing issue.

Mr Rizwan said that this year’s wheat production has surged by 25-30%, and the government’s reluctance to purchase wheat in limited quantities would lead to a market crash, adversely impacting farmers.

Reports say that wheat is already being sold at Rs3,000 and Rs2,900 per 40 kg in the grain markets of Pakpattan and Sahiwal.

Muhammad Sheraz, a wheat grower from 77/4-R, said that if the government delayed purchasing wheat or imposed limitations on procurement, it would inevitably result in a market collapse, further exacerbating the plight of farmers.

He said then it will badly affect the upcoming cotton crop as farmers will have no cash to buy inputs for the cotton crop.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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