LAHORE: Farmers from across the country are planning fresh demonstrations against the alleged wheat import scandal, which has delayed grain procurement and caused financial losses to the growers.

The Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) on Sunday announced protests across the country from May 10, while another representative body of farmers, the Pakistan Kisan Rabita Committee, has invited growers for a meeting on May 9 to chalk out a future strategy.

While addressing a press conference in Multan, PKI President Khalid Mahmood Khokhar claimed a mafia profited immensely from the wheat import.

The farmers have reportedly lost Rs400 billion due to the import and are left with no option but to take to the streets, he said, adding that farmers would attend the protests with their tractor-trolleys and cattle.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad announces countrywide protests from 10th

Mr Khokhar said the protest would start on May 10 in Multan with demonstrators marching towards Lahore and later Islamabad and would continue the protest until the government imposed an agricultural emergency.

Mr Khokhar said farmers won’t be able to cultivate cotton and rice if they can’t sell wheat, and the current crisis would also impact future wheat output.

He said the government held Baisakhi festival to celebrate bumper wheat crop but was not purchasing a single grain from the farmers after harvest.

The farmers’ leader also wrote a letter to the prime minister and requested an inquiry into the import of 3,587,378 tonnes of wheat from September 2023 to March 2024 and called for the formation of a high-powered committee to fix responsibility.

The PKI chief alleged that due to the import, wheat prices fell to Rs2,800-Rs3,000 per 40kg against the government-mandated rate of Rs3,900, forcing the farmers to sell 50pc of their total produce.

This has reportedly resulted in a loss of Rs380 billion to the farmers and Rs104 billion to the government due to incidental charges.

Arrest ex-caretaker PM

Pakistan Kisan Rabita Committee general secretary Farooq Tariq has demanded the arrest of former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, bureaucrats and importers involved in wheat import.

While talking to the media on Sunday, the PKRC general secretary sought compensation for the growers badly hit by the import policy.

He said the government should immediately start buying grain from the farmers to stabilise prices in the local market.

The PKRC has convened a meeting of various farmers’ bodies in Lahore on May 9 to devise a plan of action.

In a joint statement, PKRC leaders Mian Ashraf, Ali Khoso, Tariq Mehmood, Zulfiqar Awan and others said 3.4 million tonnes of wheat was imported “unnecessarily” from August 2023 to March 2024 at a cost of Rs330 billion.

Of this, 1.3m tonnes of grain was infested with insects, they claimed.

They said after the current wheat scam, it should be decided that no caretaker government should ever be allowed to make key economic decisions.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2024

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