RAHIM YAR KHAN: Wheat growers in the district are finding it hard to sell their wheat crop at the official support price announced by the Punjab government and have serious reservations with regard to the procurement policy and the ‘Bradana App’ meant for supplying them gunny bags.

According to farmers, despite increasing the wheat cultivation target for the district, the government has drastically cut the procurement target, which will force them to sell their yield in the open market at lower rates.

They argue that according to Punjab Agriculture Department (PAD), total wheat cultivation in the district was on 685,000 acres last year, while this year wheat had been cultivated on 714,000 acres.

As per the Punjab Food Department (PFD), last year the wheat procurement for the three tehsils of the RYK district – Liaqatpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Sadiqabad – was 140,000 matric tons, while in tehsil Khanpur Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) had been assigned the task of wheat purchase. But, procurement target in the district for this year is only 60,000 matric tons, they point out.

Their unfamiliarity with PITB app is a hurdle in getting gunny bags

They apprehend that this discrepancy will leave them at the mercy of private buyers and they won’t be getting the official rate for their crop this year.

Similarly, Punjab government had announced that farmers could apply for empty bags (bardana) from April 13 to April 17, through their android cell phones using the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB’s) ‘Bardana App’. It had said the bags would be released to farmers on April 19, while the procurement will start from April 22.

However, most of the farmers in the district can’t use android mobiles to benefit from the PITB app.

On Wednesday, many farmers from adjoining areas gathered at District Food Controller (DFC) office, complaining that the ‘Bardana App’ was “not active”.

They were told by the officials to got to the wheat procurement centres with written applications for gunny bags and relevant land record documents.

A farmer of Chak 88-P, Pull Sunny, Bashir Ahmed, alleged that neither any telephone number of DFC office helpline, nor of Lahore PFD helpline, was responding for filing of complaints.

Narrating their plight, Jam Mushtaq Ahmed, a farmer of Kuba Lal Pir in Taranda Sawaye Khan area, and another of Chowk Sureli of Mao Mubarak said farmers had been forced to purchase costly inputs, including urea fertilizer at Rs4,800 per bag, while the government control rate was Rs3,600. Similarly, they say that they had to buy DAP for Rs14,000 per bag, while its control rate was Rs11,500. Besides these heads, they also had to spend heavily on other inputs, including cultivation, pesticides and tube-well’s electricity bills per acre.

They also lamented that substandard and fake fertilizers and pesticides are sold to them by unscrupulous elements. Despite facing all these hardships, the farmers were not getting official rates for their crop, they deplored.

Another farmer of Chack 140-P, Zulfiqar Ali, criticised the wheat procurement policy, saying the food department was releasing bags at a ratio of only 16 maunds per acre, while the actual average yield per acre was more than 50 maunds. He said that this means that farmers will be forced to sell the remaining wheat to private traders at lesser rates.Meanwhile, On Wednesday, the rate of wheat crop in the open market was Rs3,250 per maund.

When contacted, DFC Abdul Majid Khan told Dawn that Bardana App will help curb the corruption in food department. He said that policy of wheat procurement was made at secretary level and then approved by provincial cabinet level, so it was beyond his official capacity to address the problems and grievances of farmers.

He said that the 60,000 matric tons target of wheat procurement had not been finalised yet.

About Bardana App he said it won’t close on April 17 and will continue to function “in different phases”.

He admitted that this season the farmer won’t be able to sell all their crop at the support price of Rs3,900 per maund because of the limit of provision of gunny bags for six acres at the ratio of 15 maunds per acre.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2024

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