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Call to raise wheat support price

May 13, 2008

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SAHIWAL, May 12: The food department is facing hardships in meeting wheat procurement target because of reluctance of farmers to sell their commodity at the price fixed by the government and they have demanded that wheat’s support price be fixed at Rs1,000 per 40 kg at least.

Farmers are of the view that the support price was not compensating their expenses they incur in getting per acre yield as prices of agricultural inputs, mainly fertilizers, have gone up by approximately 300 per cent during past few months.

Feeling aggrieved of the inadequate support price, farmers have decided to block their yield for a better price in open market instead of selling it to the government at control rate. In open market, the middlemen and brokers are offering them up to Rs700 per 40 kg and they prefer earning around Rs50 to Rs75 per 40 kg more than the government price without any difficulty.

The food department has collected 0.74 million metric ton wheat against 3.44 million metric ton target so far which is around 21 per cent of the target.

Muhammad Sadiq, a farmer of village 184/9-L, said loadshedding and inflation in agricultural inputs had doubled per acre cultivation expenses.

“Why we sell our wheat at government price when we have better opportunities in open market?” Sadiq asked.

Muhammad Shahzad, a representative of Anjuman Kashtkaran, told Dawn that farmers had realised that doubling the wheat procurement target would make it difficult for the government to achieve it. There would be shortage of wheat in the coming months, so they were optimistic that they would achieve a better price of their commodity in open market.

In 2007, a DAP fertilizer bag was being sold at Rs1,000 and the wheat support price was Rs450 per 40kg while the DAP bag was available at Rs3,000 now and wheat price was just Rs625. “How can we meet our per acre expenses? Shahzad asked.

They believe that this situation emerged because of wrong policies of the previous government.

According to rules, only the food department and Passco have the authority to procure wheat directly from farmers.

Because of bumper wheat crop in 2007, the provincial government relaxed the rules and allowed many private contractors and middlemen to purchase wheat from open market along with Passco and the food department.

These contractors still have authority to buy wheat from open market and farmers are cognisant of this fact. “That’s why we have decided to withhold our yield for another week to get maximum payback, another farmer told this correspondent. Farmers said the government was paying Rs1,500 to Rs2,000 per 40kg to import comparatively low-quality wheat but at the same time it was reluctant to increase support price for the benefits of local farmers.

“If the government increases wheat support price up to Rs1,000 per 40kg, farmers will immediately bring their yield to government procurement centres and each district will achieve more then the target fixed,” Muhammad Sajid, another farmer, told Dawn.