Tuesday June 18, 2024

Punjab wheat prices crash as government buying stalls

Punjab Food Department has not initiated the wheat procurement campaign 2024-25

By Munawar Hasan
April 16, 2024
This photo shows farmers working in a wheat field. — AFP/File
This photo shows farmers working in a wheat field. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Wheat prices in Punjab province have plunged to record lows, with farmers compelled to sell their harvest well below the government’s minimum support price, amid a lack of purchasing intervention from the Food Department.

Against the official minimum support price of Rs3,900 per 40 kg, farmers are being forced to sell their produce at a throwaway price of as low as Rs3,200 per 40kg. The maximum price being offered to growers by private buyers has been around Rs3,600 per 40 kg. A sharp decline in the price of new wheat has been reflected in the official wholesale price of wheat being compiled by the provincial government.

According to the official price list of agriculture commodities for 12 major markets dated 15-04-2024, wheat prices in South Punjab have nosedived to less than Rs3,900 even in the wholesale market. The average wheat rate slipped to Rs3,850 per 40 kg in Dera Ghazi Khan and Rs3,680 per 40 kg in Bahawalpur. It means wheat is being purchased from farmers at less than Rs3,200 in the open market.

Farmers' associations have announced a protest against what they called inaction by the provincial government as the Food Department has not launched a procurement drive yet. On the 29th of April, the farmers will stage a sit-in in front of the Punjab Assembly. A faction of Kissan Ittehad criticized the Punjab government “for their failure in devising a pro-farmer wheat policy.”

Farmers have been left with no option but to buy inputs at exorbitant rates during the cultivation of crops, especially as the cost of fertilizers has gone up tremendously, even above the official rates. Similar is the case with diesel and electricity charges. After adding all the expenses, the per acre cost of wheat is said to be much more than the minimum support price, causing huge losses to farmers. In this situation, it is feared that the wheat farmer may face bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Food Department has not initiated the wheat procurement campaign 2024-25. Farmers have been asked to apply for the issuance of gunny bags through the Bardana app from Saturday, April 13. Bardana applications will be received on PITB's app from April 13 to 17.

After verification by the Punjab Information Technology Board and the Punjab Land Record Authority, farmers will receive Confirmation Messages through the Bardana App. The issuance of Bardana will commence from next Friday and will be given on a First-Come, First-Served Basis.

A total of 393 Wheat Procurement Centers have been set up across the province where wheat would be bought from farmers at the fixed price of Rs3,900 Per Maund from April 22. Moreover, every farmer will be paid thirty rupees Per 100 KG for delivery charges. A Control Room has also been set up for resolving complaints during the Wheat Procurement Campaign.

Meanwhile, Monday’s rain has damaged standing crops in the province at scattered places. Rains in the month of April used to be lesser. However, due to climate change, the weather changed drastically, causing a severe windstorm and hailstorm, destroying standing wheat crops. Unusual rains and gusty winds not only affected the quality of grains but it tends to reduce output as the harvest is likely to be affected.