ISLAMABAD, June 12: The Pakistan governement refused to accept the Australian wheat mainly on account of phyto-sanitary considerations in order to save its own wheat crop from contamination by fungus detected in the wheat, official spokesman clarified here on Saturday.

The other reason was the below-specification content of glutin to make it palatable as 'chapati'.

Commenting on the statement issued by the Australian High Commissioner, he expressed his satisfaction over the fact that the former had admitted the existence at least one of the varieties of fungus that is called "Tilletia walkeri".

The black spores of the fungus were identified as such during a scientific test conducted at the National Agriculture Research Centre, Islamabad, under the supervision of an independent committee, which was constituted by Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, Adviser on Science & Technology.

This Committee was headed by another renowned scientist, Dr. Kausar Abdullah Malik, member, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and not by Dr Atta, as mentioned in the press reports.

The test was carried out in the presence of the Australian Scientists who had admitted the existence of "Tilletia walkeri". It was immaterial whether it was "Tilletia walkeri " or "Tilletia indica". The former was even a greater threat because it is an Australian variety of fungus that does not exist in Pakistan.

Its induction through Australian wheat could potentially infect Pakistani wheat that had no resistance against it, making it almost impossible to get rid of it.

One is reminded here of the unpleasant experience of Pakistan with the Mexi wheat inducted into Pakistan in total disregard of a renowned Pakistani scientist's objections.

His prediction that this variety would introduce white fungus into Pakistan and menace its wheat economy for all times to come has been proved true. Ever since then, this disease takes a heavy toll of wheat crop every year not only in Pakistan but in neighbouring countries as well.

Regretting that the Australian side had tried to play down the issue by making the rejection of wheat an issue of whether it was fit for human consumption, the spokesman said, at no stage, did the Government of Pakistan say that it was unsafe for human consumption.

It was perfectly safe for humans and, therefore, no harm was expected to accrue from its consumption by the people of UAE, Indonesia and Sri Lanka that have accepted the same Australian wheat.

It poses no threat to their economy as they are not wheat-producing countries. As regards the objection to testing technique, it was enough that the microscopes had established the existence of Tilletia walkeri, a deadly contaminant of wheat.

The second ground of rejection was the low glutin content, the spokesman explained. It was only 23pc to 24pc below the minimum contract-specific limit of 26pc. There are several qualities of wheat available in Australia and the wheat with lower glutin costs of 25 to 30 dollars per ton less.

Such wheat can be used for making breads but is not good for "chapattis" that is the primary use of wheat in Pakistan. The Australians had not contested the fact that their consignment of wheat did not meet the contract specification of glutin content but decided to focus their argument only on which variety of fungus contaminates the wheat, the spokesman added.

As regards Islamabad's refusal to accept third-party test of Australian wheat, he said the contract agreement had envisaged only bilateral settlement in the event of a dispute.

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