LAHORE: Opposition members in the Punjab Assembly boycotted house proceedings on Friday to show solidarity with wheat growers.

They also announced launching a protest drive from Monday against, what they said, poor wheat procurement policy of the incumbent government.

The issue of wheat procurement echoed in the house for the third day as treasury as well as opposition members were not satisfied with the assurances of the government about procurement of the grain from the local farmers.

They were worried that an unclear official procurement target and the unusual delay in the start of the procurement drive were crashing the local grain market to the disadvantage of growers.

Food Minister Bilal Yasin said the moisture level in the grain at present was quite high, up to 18 per cent, because of which his department could not buy the produce as when it would dry up and reduce its weight, it would cause a loss to the government.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan said the government had fixed the minimum support price of wheat at Rs3,900 per 40kg but it was being sold at Rs3,200 in the open market because the growers were not sure whether the department would purchase their produce from them unlike in the past.

He said billions of rupees of the farming community were lying with the middlemen, while sugarcane growers were also disturbed about the recovery of their dues from the mills.

Sunni Ittehad Council chief whip Rana Shehbaz said his party had boycotted proceedings of the house and would start a protest campaign from Monday to show solidarity with the growers being crushed by the present policy.

He said his party was in contact with all farmer groups to take them along in the protest.

Talking to the media, the speaker said the desire of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister to take over the federation was an attempt to lead the country to a chaos.

He regretted that since 2014, governments were being ousted due to the attempts made by one person to keep the country unstable.

“There is only one person responsible for the disaster in the country and he is currently in jail,” he said in as apparent reference to PTI founder Imran Khan.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2024

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