I do not want to be termed as pessimist writer who are known for spreading pessimism among the masses. But still there are few things that not only worry me but everyone in Pakistan is concerned over these issues including the record wheat crop this year is not being properly taken up by the government. Every year there is a “wheat scandal” captures our breath and whole year a Pandora box of ”sasti roti”, “flour mills mafia” ,“Middle man scams”, “corrupt bureaucracy” “Formers right”, “Private storage”, “exports or import” etc etc
Despite the fact Government announced supporting price of Rs 950 per 40 kg before harvesting of wheat crop comparing with prices of Rs 425 per 40 kg in 2006-07; and last year supporting price was announced for Middle man was Rs 640 per 40 KG. Government announced the supporting price late and ultimate sufferer was farmer.
This year besides increasing supporting price of wheat per 40kg; Punjab Agriculture Department set a target of 17.9 million tons of wheat production this year. However department expects production can hit the figure of 18.3 to 18.5 million tons. A good sign is that encouraged by government’s timely announcement of Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) of Rs. 950 per 40kg and other facilities the farmers this year (2008 09) have increased the area under wheat cultivation by 16 percent as compared to the last fiscal year. Agriculture Development Commissioner, Qadir Bux Baloch said that
“this year total area under wheat crop cultivation was increased by 16 percent due to early announcement of Guaranteed Minimum Price (GMP) up to Rs. 950 per 40kg.”
He added that wheat was sown in a total area of 8.610 million hectares in the year 2008 09 in the country and a wheat target of 25 million tons has been set for the current year. About Sindh and NWFP province, he said that 1.027 million hectares and 0.745 million hectares land, wheat was sown respectively, while in Balochistan .371 million hectares was set for wheat production for the year 2008 09.
Punjab Province has produced a very healthy wheat crop this year due to favorable weather conditions on final stage as estimated by the department’s Crop Reporting Wing. The governmental optimism was based on early sowing, timely rain and extended use of pesticides. Use of pesticides remained exceptionally high at 69 per cent, which has saved the crop from many diseases to bring it to a successful conclusion. Though urea crisis plagued the better part of the season, its final off-take did not show any substantial decrease. The only negative factor during the entire season was the low consumption of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP). But with so many positive factors, this single factor would not make much of the dent. Arif Nadeem, Agriculture Secretary revealed that for the first time 71 per cent crop was sown from Oct 25 to Nov 30 –this time is considered ideal for sowing; He was expected to have positive impact on the yield.
However like government’s several other failed policies; if we believe that wheat crop was exponentially high; this year wheat croppers once more are expected to suffer. According to one of the most known principle of supply and demand; when supply increase demand decreases. Government announced this increased supporting price and expected a heavy crop too; but unfortunately did not plan [intentionally or unintentionally] to manage this crop due to lake of honesty and sincerity towards farmers. Most of the farmers grew wheat in wake of higher profits out of their production; reports disclose that many farmers who used to sow potato or onion have preferred to cultivate wheat. However Private capitalist minded mafia seems to be in action for depriving croppers from their right to have profit once again.
To resolve issues like gunny bags (Baar Dana); Middle man disorders; transportation of wheat to the Markets; Food Department (which is responsible to purchase whole crop from farmers) on being consulted told that problem in attainment of gunny bags (Bar-daana) has been solved by allowing the farmers to bring their own bags furthermore Punjab Government will pay 40/- Rs for each bag. Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif has ensured croppers and farmers that single grain of the wheat would be purchased from them. In a surprised visit to different procurement centers of Bahawalpur and Lodhran he directed the administration to remove the labour charges and to double the duty staff for facilitating the farmers at procurement centers. He also gave his cell number to farmers and said that they can contact him any time in case of any problem. He said on receiving any complaint against official; strict action would be taken against them. As per the instructions of Punjab Chief Minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Food department has kicked off its wheat procurement campaign at its 389 different centres set up for this purpose on April 16, 2009. Punjab has to produce 3.5 Milliom Tons wheat total from Southern belt, central Punjab and rest of the Punjab.
Many large scale growers are satisfied with these announcements but small growers and farmers are still suffering and hot disputes are being noticed in the Mandis and procurements centers. According to sources in Wahari two of the people have been fired from their duties who found to be involved in corruption. Keeping in view the CM who calls himself KHAADim-e-AALA; past track of resolving issues of people in Punjab; small land owners and croppers seemed to be optimist. However where government is to be appreciated it should be but such face saving acts are not going to favor anyone. Lacuna in government planning are preparing ways for Mafias to play their games.
Interestingly Private Wheat buyers have disappeared from the market; Food department who is responsible for procuring whole wheat is facing difficulties. There are authentic evidences available where Farmers are ready to sell their crop on lower rates of 800 to 850/- Rs to those who will store the wheat. In a survey conducted by AgriForum, 10 districts in the southern part where price ranged from Rs860 to Rs890, with no where price touching official Rs950 per 40kg. It looks Government’s delay in buying wheat would help these mafias who are waiting for Market to crash; where wheat price automatically will show a substantial descending order and end in 600-650/- Rs. Furthermore weather conditions; if do not favor the peasants in coming few days; wind storm or rain might damage the crop that is yet to be cut.
In central executive committee meeting of AgriForum it was also disclosed that it was impossible to meet the highly targets set for wheat crop by the government this year while a drop of 75 % in di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), according to them a cut in urea consumption by 16 per cent was also noticed, even potash fertilizer was reduced by 40 per cent, water shortage of 35% and diesel selling at Rs70 per litre, no one knows how the official sources can claim a record crop in the province. ‘The country had set a target of 25 million tons, and Punjab, a producer of 80 per cent of the crop, had to produce over 19 million tons to meet the national target,’ was revealed in meeting. But, Punjab could not go beyond 18 million tons. The country thus faced a shortfall of two million tons as far as its own target was concerned and at least one million tons as far as its national consumption was concerned.
Ruthlessness in Food department is visible when they call these farmers in hurry to sell crop who are forced to sell on low rate. Cultivation is a process and farmers are supposed to prepare lands as soon as possible for next crop of Rice. Once they get free from selling wheat they can prepare land for next crop. However public sector i.e. PASCO and food department are apparently do not seem to be in position to get hold of all the wheat coming into market. Thus farmer is forced to sell his crop on lower rates. Yesterday Punjab government has removed the hurdle of Middle man who will hardly be letting farmer to reach to government.
Most of the farmers are illiterate and can hardly understand the policies thus they are compelled to sell their crop on lower rates. My question here is if government is not buying on lower rates; there must be some Middle man who is buying and storing. Resultantly once Market completely will crash and Farmer would be left with no option to sell his crop of lower rates of 600-650/- Rs; this crop would be purchased by Mafia on lower rates and then notorious Food department will purchase wheat in back dates to benefit Mafia.
My request to all those farmers who are forced to sell their crop on lower rates is; make a call to Chief Minister and disclose this Bureaucratic rip-off. Lets not make Farmers cry this year and make those cry who made Farmers cry.