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SAHIWAL, Sept 8: Local registered seed companies have said that the recent ban on inter-district wheat movement by the Punjab food department will affect the transportation of wheat seed and result in acute shortage in the coming sowing season.

They said the district food officials and the local administration must make a distinction between the movement of wheat seed by registered companies and wheat grains by hoarders/smugglers.

Association Seed Companies of Pakistan (ASCOP) president Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor told Dawn about the problems being faced by private seeds companies in the procurement and shifting of wheat seeds because of the ban.

He said all private seeds companies were registered with Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL), Islamabad. The companies underwent field inspection and seed testing before procurement by Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department (FSCRD) from their registered growers. A complete data of growers of each company was available with FSCRD, he said.

“The problem arises when seed companies shift wheat seeds from one godown to another or from growers’ fields to godowns. The local district administration and food department officials raid and capture the seeds.”

On the other hand, food officials accused seed companies of hoarding wheat under the garb of certified seeds.

Refuting the allegation, Ghafoor said: “If a company is registered and has full documentation with FSCRD then there is no reason to blame it.”

He said legally there was no ban for registered seed companies for movement of wheat seed.

He cited an example of Sohni Dharti Seed Company which badly suffered from the food department operation.

The company has its head office in Sahiwal and branch office in Rahim Yar Khan.

When contacted, Sohni Dharti MD Muhammad Shahid told this correspondent that R Y Khan DCO Rahil Akhter, district food controller Ashfaq Ahmed along with a police contingent raided the company’s godowns at 1am on May 7, 2008, broke open locks and took away 13,000 wheat seed bags weighing 100kg each. The company staff showed the team all legal documents, including a Lahore High Court, Bahawalpur bench, stay order WP No. 962-08/BP, dated May 6, 2008 but no one listened to their argument.

“They robbed us of our wheat seed having market value of Rs23.4 million at the pretext of wheat procurement target,” Shahid said.

After a few days, the food controller made payment for 11,950 wheat seed bags at government rate to the company but the price of remaining 1,050 wheat seed bags had not been paid so far, he said.

The ASCOP has urged the chief minister to look into the situation and make a distinction between wheat seed and wheat grain.