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May 5, 2021

Wheat access

Editorial

 
May 5, 2021

The federal government has fixed the wheat purchase price at Rs1,800 per 40 kg. Farmers are not getting a fair deal and the public is still under a constant threat of a wheat crisis which may result in a severe shortage of the commodity for household use. The issue at hand is that the government’s subsidy helps the farmers eke out a decent living, and the government also needs to make sure that the commodity prices are not increased in the market.

Subsidies on staple food grains is a common practice across the world; even in America and Europe the governments take necessary steps to support farmers, and also ensure a smooth and affordable supply of food grains for everybody to survive irrespective of their socio-economic status. Another burden on the farmers is a rapid surge in the prices of agriculture machinery and electricity without which the farmers are unable to produce their crops in sufficient quantities in time to be sold in the market. The availability of fertilizers and pesticides that have become essential for wheat production is also posing a bit of a challenge. In most other countries, governments make the necessary arrangements for the supply of fertilizers and pesticides to farmers in an affordable and timely manner, whereas in Pakistan the situation has worsened during the past three years and farmers have been complaining about these problems. The provision of quality seed has also become a matter of concern as imported seeds have become too expensive with increasing inflation and due to the depreciation in the exchange rates of Pakistani currency.

Keeping the above as context, Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen has asked the provincial governments to make sure that wheat is accessible on a daily basis – and on subsidized rates. Reportedly, the government is also planning to import wheat to ensure its steady supply during the year, so that the domestic need is met. It is about time the government initiated proper planning in the agriculture sector, which is the mainstay of our economy. The government must also make efforts to prevent smuggling of wheat to neighbouring countries, as in the past uncalculated export of wheat had resulted in domestic scarcity, prompting the government to import wheat from other countries.