Kissan Ittehad Pakistan on Sunday announced that thousands of farmers will participate in nationwide demonstrations against the ongoing wheat crisis from May 10, starting from Multan.

Wheat rates have plummeted in the market, and are much below the support price of Rs3,900 per 40kg, with the decision to import wheat despite a local “bumper crop” being blamed.

The crisis saw the farmers resort to protest in Lahore and several other cities last month, followed by the government launching a crackdown against the protests.

.Scores held in Punjab for protesting govt’s ‘unfair’ wheat policy

Despite pledging to protect farmers, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government appears reluctant to thoroughly investigate the wheat import and take action against those at the helm.

However, a cabinet committee has been constituted to ascertain why the last caretaker government, led by then-PM Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar, imported the commodity despite an ample supply in the country.

Reiterating its resolve, the farmers’ alliance today said that the protests against the crisis will be relaunched countrywide.

“I have approached many farmers’ groups and we have decided that we will protest. Not for ourselves, but to save the country,” said the body’s president Khalid Khokhar .

Addressing a press conference, Khokhar blamed the caretaker government for causing a loss of over Rs400 billion to the national exchequer by importing $1bn (approximately Rs277bn) worth of wheat amidst a forex shortage.

“I cannot even describe how these farmers are suffering right now,” Khokhar said. “I submitted applications to the prime minister, the chief of army staff and the director general of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) and showed how much damage this wheat import has caused.”

Khokhar said that the “mafia” made Rs100bn off the wheat import, while farmers lost approximately Rs400bn because they had to sell their wheat at lower rates. “The government lost another Rs150bn due to interest on the surplus wheat they did not sell,” Khokhar added.

“Whichever way you look at it, either Pakistan lost out, or it’s people did,” Khokhar lamented.

He warned that when farmers are suffering financially, it affects other crops such as rice and cotton. “If farmers have no money, how will they invest in other crops?”

“We bought everything on the black market,” Khokhar continued, saying that farmers spent Rs150bn on urea for wheat cultivation — which he claimed was greater than the market price. “Urea is still in the black, even though demand is low”, Khokhar said.

“Where was the state when they said they would protect farmers?” Khokhar asked. “Those who sit in power do not make the right decisions.”

Quoting urea as an example, he said there are five different rates for the commodity due to a lack of government regulation.

Khokhar said that the Kissan Ittehad would lead nationwide protests against the government’s wheat policy. “We will start in Multan on May 10 and carry on across the country from there,” he said. “There will be thousands of farmers, along with their livestock and families.”

“I don’t want to protest because it causes inconveniences to the people,” he said. “But the state does not think farmers are important.”

“Our only goal is to extend relief. Without agriculture, we are nothing,” he stated.

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