SAHIWAL: More than five dozen farmers under the banner of Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (PKI) on Wednesday staged a two-hour sit-in in front of the deputy commissioner’s office against what they said government’s flawed wheat procurement policy.

The farmers chanted slogans condemning the Punjab government’s inaction in purchasing wheat from them.

They criticised both the Punjab government and the agriculture department for failing to enforce the wheat support price in the open market. Farmers lamented that wheat was being sold by them at rates ranging from Rs2,800 to Rs3,000. PKI Punjab President Muhammad Hussain led the protest.

The protesters presented four demands: ensuring wheat purchase at the government-announced support price of Rs3,900, strict enforcement and legal action against commission agents and brokers at Ghala Mandi purchasing wheat below the official rate, announcement of schedules by Passco and the provincial food department for the distribution of gunny bags and wheat purchase, and a change in the ongoing provincial policy by eliminating the requirement of six gunny bags per six acres of land.

Muhammad Hussain, speaking to Dawn, criticised Passco officials in Pakpattan district for allegedly selling gunny bags to commission agents through forgery in Gardawari records instead of genuine farmers.

Mr Hussain strongly condemned the Punjab government’s wheat import policy, arguing that the import of 3.2 million tonnes of wheat had harmed the interests of local farmers. He accused the government of not being willing to purchase wheat at its own rate, leaving farmers at the mercy of commission agents and open markets where they were forced to sell their crops at very low prices.

The farmers demanded that if the government cannot enforce its own support price, it should regulate the local market and take legal action against those involved in purchasing wheat at below-market prices.

Dawn learnt from sources that Deputy Commissioner Ikramul Haq was transferred today (Wednesday), so negotiations with farmers were conducted by additional DC Mr. Marth along with AC revenue Usman. They assured farmers that their demands would be forwarded to the provincial chief secretary.

Food Deputy Director Imran Munir said the department had received 50,000 applications through the Punjab government app from Sahiwal district. However, he stated the government had not yet announced schedules for the distribution of gunny bags and wheat purchase targets in Sahiwal division.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2024

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