Utmost provinces slip wheat procurement target

Efforts are underway to meet the wheat procurement target of 8.25 million metric tons, which, till May 15 when the procurement season largely ends, has not been achieved, official documents show. Utmost provinces missed the target.

Utmost provinces slip wheat procurement target

The wheat procurement target is being considerably missed, raising the possibility of wheat import to keep domestic price surge in check and avert a food security crisis.

According to a document available the Punjab government procured 3.58 million tons of wheat as against its target of 4.5 million tons, Sindh could meet almost half of its target of 1.4 million tons, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) met its own reduced target of 300,000 tons as against the federally set target of 400,000 tons for this province. 

The Pakistan Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO), the federal lead procurement agency, could procure about one million tons of grains out of its target of 1.8 million tons.

Raids are being conducted across Punjab to recover what officials say hoarded wheat. The commodity weighing more than 50,000 tons has been confiscated by the provincial government. However, knowledgeable quarters say the market is already dry, there is no more wheat in the field, and all have been bought by the food department and private flour millers.

Unexpected rains in May damaged the crop and reduced harvest, which, among other reasons and causes, contributed to below-the-target procurement.

Punjab, considered the breadbasket of the nation as it handles 70% of wheat, missed the target by 20% by procuring only 3.6 million tons.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had fixed the wheat procurement target for Pakistan Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) and provincial governments at 8.25 million tons. Out of abundant caution, it had increased the minimum support price to Rs1400 per 40 kg at which the government will procure the wheat. It had fixed the target of 4.5 million tons for Punjab and 1.4 million tons for Sindh, 400,000 tons for KP, and 100,000 tons for Balochistan. At the same time, PASSCO was given a target of procuring 1.8 million tons.

In order to keep a vigilant eye on the performance of provinces and PASSCO, the ECC had set up a Wheat Procurement Monitoring Group comprising National Food Security & Research Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Economic Affairs Minister Muhammad Hammad Azhar and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar. It was mandated to coordinate with the provincial governments, involve the public, and use technology to ensure the process of wheat procurement by the PASSCO and provincial governments during the harvest season was carried out in an efficient and transparent manner.

The Group was empowered to ensure that the allied issues related to incidental charges, the supply of adequate gunny bags to farmers and procurement of wheat by provinces and the private sector as per plan and targets were properly streamlined and addressed to provide a level-playing field to all stakeholders, including the public in terms of provision of flour at the lowest possible price throughout the year.

 The private sector pays more and is much more efficient as it picks the wheat from farmers’ fields, saving the sellers’ time and energy. This season, farmers avoided thronging the wheat procurement centers due to fear of coronavirus.

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