No wheat in sight

The crisis of wheat shortage in Sindh could have been averted

January 29, 2023


he recent wheat shortage and subsequent price hike sparked outrage among the general public across Sindh. Many are pointing fingers at the district authorities for their lack of effective management. As prices continue to soar, it becomes increasingly clear that something must be done to address the root cause. Wheat shortage is a pressing issue that affects food security, economic stability, and social development in Sindh.

A man from Mirpurkhas, while trying to get a bag of flour at subsidised rates, died during a stampede. This tragic incident highlights the severity of the wheat shortage crisis in Sindh and the extreme measures some people are forced to take to secure a basic need. The poverty-stricken population cannot afford to buy flour at such staggering prices. Rs 5,500-6,000 per 40 kg is the recent price, and most locals in interior Sindh cannot meet the cost.

Wheat is a staple in the local diet, and the shortage resulting from poor management and illegal stocking has left people with little hope. One of the main reasons for this shortage is the lack of investment in the agricultural sector. A lack of adequate resources and government support for farmers has resulted in a lack of modern equipment, technology, and infrastructure. This, in turn, has stumped productivity and, to a considerable extent, led to the crisis at hand.

Although Pakistan is the world’s seventh largest wheat producer, we have failed to adequately plan for crop distribution and storage management.

One of the major factors contributing to wheat shortage is a lack of proper planning and forecasting by the authorities. Instead of anticipating and preparing for potential shortages, they have allowed the situation to spiral out of control. This lack of foresight has had serious consequences as the price has skyrocketed and the availability of this staple food has become scarce.

We can’t afford to buy bread anymore. “We used to be able to feed our family, but now it’s becoming impossible,” said a woman from a minority flood-affected household.

Transparency in the wheat supply chain, including information about production, storage, and distribution can help overcome the problem of artificial shortages in the future. Also, it will make it easier to identify any potential issues or bottlenecks for transparency assurance in each district of Sindh.

If the shortage is being caused by price manipulation, strict implementation of price controls, and tackling of the matter pertaining to illegal stock hoarding can help as well.

Wheat shortage can increase the prices of other grocery items, making it much more difficult for people to afford several items, causing further food insecurity and uncertainty, particularly for low-income households. When wheat becomes too expensive, it can force families to reduce their consumption of the grain, and instead rely on cheaper and less nutritious food sources. This can severely impact children, who are more vulnerable to the negative effects of malnutrition, especially in the Mirpurkhas region.

District authorities need to develop proper contingency plans in case of natural disasters or other unexpected events that could disrupt the wheat supply chain to avoid crises like these.

The artificial wheat shortage in Sindh is a complex issue caused by a lack of subsidised intervention, inadequate investment in the agricultural sector, fluctuations in wheat prices, poor agricultural policies, urbanisation and industrialisation, climate change, and geopolitical conflicts.

The authorities, especially at the district level, must take immediate steps to address the wheat shortage and bring inflation under control. This includes implementing effective planning and forecasting measures as well as taking swift action to address the root cause. Only by taking decisive action can we hope to overcome this difficult situation and ensure that the people of Sindh have access to basic necessities.

The writer is based in Umerkot. He has more than 12 years of experience in the development sector. He can be reached at