Unearthing Wheat Crisis: Challenges, Consequences & Remedies For Pakistan

The second most produced grain globally in 2020 was wheat, surpassing corn with a production of 761 million tons.

Unearthing Wheat Crisis: Challenges, Consequences & Remedies For Pakistan

Wheat, a grass widely grown for its seeds, is a cereal grain that can be a staple food worldwide. Several species of wheat make up the genus Triticum, the most commonly grown wheat (T. aestivum). According to archaeological data from around 9600 BC, wheat cultivation began in the Fertile Crescent.

According to a 2014 report, wheat crops are grown on more land than any other food crop (220.4 million hectares, or 545 million acres).

The second most produced grain globally in 2020 was wheat, surpassing corn with a production of 761 million tons. Since gluten proteins have pronounced viscoelastic and adhesive properties that facilitate the production of processed foods, the consumption of which is increasing due to the global process of industrialization and westernization of food, the demand for wheat is expected to increase worldwide.

Since 1960, the amount of wheat and other grains produced worldwide has tripled. According to the FAO Wheat Report 2021, Pakistan is one of the world’s leading wheat producers, with an annual production of 25 million tons.

However, wheat production has faced a number of challenges in recent decades due to various factors such as water scarcity, poor soil management, climate change, and insect pests.

Furthermore, the FAO report “Wheat Supply Chain—Pakistan” shows that the country’s wheat supply chain faces significant inefficiencies and challenges such as low yields, inadequate storage, and inadequate transportation infrastructure, resulting in significant post-harvest losses.

The FAO report also states that wheat is the most important crop in Pakistan, and any disruption in its production and supply chain could lead to food shortages and rising food prices, thereby threatening the country’s food security.

In 2022, the war between Russia and Ukraine will have serious consequences for global food security. The crisis has led to food shortages, particularly grains. It quickly banned India from exporting wheat, which destabilized the world market and was a major factor in rising wheat prices.

Green Revolution:

More than 17,000 years ago, humans began collecting and eating plant seeds. After crushing the husk (shell), early humans chewed the seeds raw, dried, or cooked. Wheat has its origins in the “cradle of civilization” in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, in what is now Iraq.

Prior to the introduction of semi-dwarf wheat, there was the “Green Revolution” period (1966–76), during which high-yielding varieties with chemical fertilizers were quickly adopted at about two-thirds of the total wheat area, and (1977–present), the post-Green Revolution period, during which high-yielding varieties with disease were grown. Through concerted efforts at the national level, resistance persisted, covering the primary wheat region.

Essentiality of wheat:

Wheat, a cereal grain, is a major staple food that is extensively grown in Pakistan. Pakistan ranks among the top ten nations in the world that produce the most wheat based on the area that is under cultivation.

In Pakistan, the average person consumes roughly 125kg of wheat a year, making it an essential part of the population’s nutrition. Wheat also plays a key role in the government’s agricultural plans, making up 60% of the average person’s daily diet.

Role of wheat in GDP:

In 2021, around 22.67% of Pakistan’s GDP was derived from agriculture, followed by 18.8% from industry and more than 50% from the services sector.

In 2022, it contributed 22.7 percent of the GDP of the economy, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. A total of 37.4% of the workforce is employed there. It serves as the population’s primary source of food supply.

In order to maintain a healthy diet, wheat a cereal grain is regarded as a crucial crop and dietary staple. It contributes 1.8 percent to GDP and 7.8 percent of the value added to agriculture (GOP, 2021-22). From 27,464 metric tonnes in 2021 to 26,394 metric tonnes in 2022, wheat production has decreased.

With the exception of 2021, when yields were extremely low, wheat crop acreage and yield have been continuously dropping during the previous four years.

Every current government’s first priority is self-sufficiency in order to supply the nation with the wheat it needs. For policymakers and agricultural experts, coming up with workable and affordable ways to meet demand has become a challenge.

According to estimates from the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), the average Pakistani resident consumes 125 kilogrammes of wheat as a cereal per year, making up 60 percent of their daily diet (Mahmood, 2021).

It demonstrates that the majority of our population depends on cereal grain, wheat, and its shortage creates a difficult scenario that will cause political unrest, a significant loss of foreign reserves, and an increase in wheat prices. Additionally, the government imports wheat from other nations to meet the need. The government is now importing $750,000.

Economic survey of Pakistan 2021-2022

Wheat Crisis:

Due to the catastrophic floods in Pakistan in August 2022, which not only negatively impacted the country’s infrastructure but also devastated crops, including wheat, and the potential for a food shortage in the country, the wheat crisis caused by the gap between demand and supply further worsened.

In Pakistan, there are six million individuals who are severely food insecure. Additionally, according to experts, the floods brought on by the region’s above-average monsoon rains have severely affected food production in the area. Pakistan is currently experiencing its worst-ever flour crisis, with reports of a shortage of cereal grain and wheat in some portions of the nation and stampedes in other areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Baluchistan provinces.

Reasons for the Wheat Crisis:

  • One significant aspect contributing to the situation is the government’s failure to predict wheat imports.
  • According to media reports, Pakistan’s recent wheat crisis was caused by the clash between the federal and Punjab governments.
  • The Punjab Food Department was unable to calculate and accurately record the amount of wheat that would need to be imported.
  • The agriculture industry has suffered as a result of the floods in 2022. It caused the loss and destruction of inputs like fertilizers, stocks, household machinery, and irrigation infrastructure, which may have reduced the amount of land that might have been planted with crops and impacted the growth of those crops.
  • The planting of low-quality seeds is one of the causes of the low output of the cereal grain wheat. 25 million acres of wheat are grown in the nation, yet only 46% of its seeds are certified. The government and a few private sector groups collectively have 1.1 million tonnes of certified wheat seeds. There were insufficient high-quality seeds in about 54% of the nation, which decreased wheat production (Daily Times, 2022).
  • Input subsidies and price support mechanisms are included in Pakistan’s food pricing policy. These tools have unfavorable consequences, such as creating a food scarcity if they are set below this equilibrium price and a food surplus if they are set above it. Foreign investors will be hesitant to invest since it will damage their profitability. As wealthy farmers will gain more than those with low incomes, this could lead to an increase in inequality. Farmers won’t choose to cultivate other crops if the government provides subsidies for just one crop, such as vegetables and fruits. (2022; Fatima).
  • 39 percent of Pakistan’s wheat imports previously came from Ukraine. Wheat imports have been distorted not only in Pakistan but also globally due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. As a result, the cost of wheat has surged by up to 60% on the global market (RSIL, 2022).
  • Due to wheat stockpiling, a situation has developed. The provincial administration is powerless to prosecute hoarders harshly.

How can we overcome the wheat crisis?

  • Although the government frequently mentions the issue of malnutrition in its policy announcements, little has been done to alleviate it. According to an analysis, Pakistan needs to invest over Rs. 193 billion over the course of 7-8 years to address the problem of malnutrition. If the government decides to lower it by roughly 10%, it can make the Rs. 450 billion in direct and indirect subsidies it provides to the agricultural industry available.
  • The decision to import tax-free wheat after the crisis then came under heavy criticism because people wanted to know the status of PASSCO’s wheat reserves. What would happen to national production if imported wheat and domestic wheat entered the market at the same time?
  • Create new wheat varieties through breeding: Scientists and researchers can create new wheat varieties that are more tolerant to environmental challenges, including drought, pests, and diseases. These novel cultivars may aid in boosting crop yields and enhancing grain quality.
  • Improve farming practices: Farmers can adopt better farming practices like crop rotation, pruning, and the use of natural fertilisers and pesticides. These practices can improve soil health, increase productivity, and reduce the need for environmentally harmful and synthetic inputs.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture: Governments, NGOs, and other organisations can promote sustainable agriculture that supports small farmers and helps them adapt to climate change. This can include providing training and education, improving access to credit and markets, and investing in rural infrastructure such as irrigation systems and storage facilities.
  • The Provisional Government should take strict action against wheat hoarders.
  • The government should provide the subsidies.
  • The government should make successful estimates for wheat imports.


No government will ever find a long-term solution to the issue without replacing this mechanism with one that is more beneficial to maintaining food security and meeting the nutritional needs of the poor. Therefore, rather than being a need, wheat is becoming a political commodity.

O’ Human Being, these birds are flying

They don’t store any food with greed, and they don’t die of hunger.

It’s greedy humans that store food, and they die of hunger.

(Baba Bulleh Shah)

This article is jointly authored by Abdul Rehman Javed and Hira Javef from the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

By Abdul Rehman Javed

Being as Agronomist.