Wednesday April 24, 2024

Punjab may miss wheat sowing target

By Munawar Hasan
November 27, 2022

LAHORE: In what could be seen as a major setback for the food security of the country, Punjab would likely miss its wheat sowing target set for 2022-23 season, official sources said on Saturday.

The below par progress being shown in wheat tilling in the main farm plains of the country might result in lesser national grain production as Sindh government has already expressed inability to even sow 75 percent of the targeted 4 million acres due to flood-inflicted devastation.

In the middle of wheat sowing campaign, Punjab Agriculture Department officially reached the conclusion that targeted land could not be brought under wheat cultivation this year. According to Crop Reporting Service of the provincial Agriculture Department, Punjab might fall short of 16.5 million acres target set by the Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) this year.

“We are expecting to bring land under wheat to at least last year’s level of 16.2 million acres in the province despite several challenges. However, the 16.5 million acres target for this year area is expected to be missed though with a short margin,” an official said.

Talking about the current pace of wheat sowing, he estimated that about 74 percent targeted area was cultivated till November 20, 2022, which was traditionally considered optimal time for growing a good crop. He however hastened to add that with changing climate pattern, it was now considered that optimal period of sowing stretched to November 30th.

Wheat sowing has been delayed in rice zone due to two rain spells in recent weeks and in mixed crop zone due to unwarranted interruptions in launching of sugarcane crushing, the official maintained. Keeping in view sowing trend, it was projected that wheat cultivation would be largely completed by the first week of December.

The main pillar for this year’s wheat sowing campaign have been timely sowing, use of certified seed on greater area and promotion of fertiliser application. Subsidy is being provided to farmers on seed and fertiliser bags.

To a question regarding lingering of sugarcane crushing, the official feared that sowing at up to one million acres might get delayed due to stubborn attitude of sugar barons to press their demands, which was a matter of grave concern.

Regarding urea availability, the official of the Agriculture Department was of the view that local production of this vital nutrient could not be paced with its demand mainly due to lack of natural gas.

“We are expecting that the urea shortfall of about 500,000 tonnes could be supplemented with timely imports,” he added.

Punjab would receive 140,000 tonnes out of the 200,000 tonnes of already imported urea. The remaining 300,000 tonnes would be imported by December this year, he said.

One of the biggest reasons of relatively low expected area under wheat has been lesser economic value of wheat crop. The competing crops like oilseeds have been giving a tough challenge to wheat mainly due to far better returns in the local market, said Khalid Khokhar, President Kissan Ittehad.

He said the government’s emphasis was on increasing support price, which was a viable option to some extent, especial keeping in view likely burden on consumer due to high food prices.

In contrast, he added, government should take steps for reducing cost of production, which might help keep farming a profitable business for growers.

He also expressed the apprehension that wheat sowing area in the province might not be as much as the government wanted to cultivate.