CM’s approval awaited for exporting surplus wheat

* Food Department asks Shahbaz to ask federal government to allow export or declare surplus as strategic reserves
* 30,000 tonnes already dispatched to UN Food Programme

By Anwer Hussain Sumra (Daily Times – Lahore)

LAHORE: The Punjab Food Department has 2.5 million metric tonnes of surplus wheat, and is waiting for Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif’s approval to sign export deals with interested countries, sources in the department told Daily Times.

The sources said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, on the recommendations of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), had banned the export of surplus wheat. The ECC had banned the export of wheat and wheat products in its meeting on August 29, 2007. This was done to check the rising prices of wheat in the local market.

Strategic reserves: The sources said the department had informed the chief minister of the situation, and asked him to either ask the federal government to allow export of the surplus wheat, or to declare it as strategic reserves for the next year. They said timely export would minimise the risk of rain damaging the wheat stored under the open sky in polythene sheets and tarpaulins.

The Punjab Food Department had initially decided to procure 4 million metric tonne wheat grains directly from farmers at the support price of Rs 950. However, with Punjab reaping a bumper crop, the Food Department raised the procurement target to 6 million metric tonnes. This was done to ensure the procurement of every last grain of wheat at the reserved price to avoid any exploitation of farmers by ‘middlemen’.

The department managed to procure 5.8 million metric tonnes of wheat by the end of the campaign. The government invested Rs 140 billion to procure the 5.8 million metric tonnes of wheat. This expenditure was financed by public sector banks. The total demand for the province is estimated at 3.2 million metric tonnes to 3.5 million metric tonnes, until the arrival of the new crop in 2010. The sources said the government of Iran was willing to import 7 million metric tonnes of wheat from Pakistan. The Balochistan government has requested the Punjab government to supply 1 million metric tonnes of wheat, while NWFP has asked for 50,000 metric tonnes.

UN: Punjab would provide 75,000 tonnes of wheat to the UN World Food Programme, the sources said. They said 30,000 tonnes had already been provided to the UN programme at the price at which the government had itself purchased the wheat.

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