Pakistan’s wheat crisis: from exporter to importer in 5 years

By Bureau report
May 30, 2024
In this photo, a farmer harvests wheat in a field. — AFP/File

PESHAWAR: Khan Faraz, a known agricultural expert and former secretary of the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), has highlighted the alarming shift of Pakistan from being a net exporter of wheat to a net importer within the span of five years.


This dramatic change is primarily attributed to the twin challenges of climate change and population explosion.Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Khan Faraz emphasized the urgent need to enhance water storage capacity and prevent fresh water from flowing into the sea.

“Pakistan, despite being the 8th largest wheat-producing country in the world, is now importing 2 to 3 million tons of wheat annually,” he remarked.He pointed out that climate change is a critical issue that Pakistan must address with utmost seriousness.

“Pakistan has set a target of 32.2 million tonnes from an area of 8.9 million hectares for the 2024 crop season. However, the country has been grappling with the impacts of climate change on wheat crops since 2010,” he noted. The current year has been unusually favorable with no terminal heat waves or unseasonal rains, offering some respite.

Khan Faraz elaborated on the sensitivity of wheat crops to high temperatures. “Rising temperatures, as projected in various studies, are expected to lead to a decline in wheat production globally. Since 2021, the Agriculture Department in Pakistan has developed 31 wheat varieties in collaboration with international partners to enhance productivity, climate resilience, and disease resistance,” he added.

The Pakistan Agriculture Research Council has also acquired numerous wheat germplasm varieties from international sources for use in national breeding programs. However, the country still needs to indigenously produce quality seeds capable of withstanding climate shocks.

“In light of these challenges, it is imperative to ensure the timely availability of seeds, fertilisers, and water to mitigate the effects of La Niña and El Niño phenomena,” Khan Faraz advised.