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March 29, 2020

Inclement weather delays wheat harvesting in Punjab


March 29, 2020

LAHORE: Inclement weather has delayed wheat harvesting in the Punjab by two to three weeks as recent rain and hailstorm spells caused damages to standing

crops, creating tight grain supply in the market.

The Punjab Food Department, the largest buyer of grains in the country, initiated procurement campaign from March 25, but no farmer has yet turned up for selling grain due to delay in maturity of crop and several ill-times adverse spells of rain and stormy weather.

The late arrival of wheat is already leading to grain shortage and its price hike in major cities of the province.

The price of wheat in the open market swelled to Rs1,900 to Rs2,100 per 40 kilograms against the government support price of Rs1,375 per 40kg. Panic buying of wheat flour due to coronavirus scare has aggravated the situation and compelled the provincial government to take drastic measures of opening flour sale points and increasing availability of wheat from official warehouses.

Punjab increases wheat supply to flour mills by 4,000 tons to quell shortage of flour in the market. The increase in wheat quota to flour mills has been made to supplement squeezed grains supplies in the market.

There has been extreme stress on supplies due to delay in arrival of wheat from South Punjab and Sindh.

In these days, newly harvested wheat used to flow towards central and upper Punjab from Sindh and south Punjab. The arrival of fresh crop always helps in suppressing prices of grain in the market. However, successive spells of untimely rains, hailstorm and windy weather in March extensively damaged standing wheat crop in patches and slowed down its maturity.

Experts said temperature should be above 30 Celsius for ripening of wheat grains. However, during the ongoing month, temperature in plains in south Punjab hardly touches 29-30 Celsius. This is the clear sign that wheat maturity is not taking place due to unfavourable weather condition.

More worryingly, there has been severe damage to wheat crop in most districts of south and Central Punjab. Lodging as a result of windy weather has resulted in flattening of plants, which might result in grain losses and dent its quality.

Rao Afsar, a farm leader hailing from Rajanpur said wheat crop has been damaged in the southern Punjab districts, especially DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Rajanpur.

“The early sown wheat has especially got hit. In my view, there has been 12 to 15 percent grain loss due to harsh weather,” Afasr said.

Unlike previous years, there is no wheat harvesting going on in the Rajanpur district as rains halted some reaping of crops in the river belts.

Naeem Chaudhry, a progressive farmer hailing from Karor Lal Esan, Layyah district was worried over damage to standing wheat crop in the last week due to one-after-another spells of hailstorms and extremely wet conditions. Not only wheat stems got affected by the rust but the color of wheat ears also turned brown, which is a worrisome factor for many local farmers, Chaudhry said.

Chaudhry wheat harvesting could not be possible in the area by third week of April. He asked the provincial government to assess damage to wheat crop and announce compensation package for the growers.

Provincial government’s wheat policy 2020 set procurement target at 4.5 million tons. Unlike previous years, wheat procurement centers have been set up by 25 March.

The food department abolished condition of Gurdawari and not permitted rice mills owners to purchase wheat. After registration of farmers, issuance of bardana would be started at a procurement price Rs1,400 per mound. In addition to this, delivery charges and cost of Jute bags would be paid.