Farmers dismayed at govt’s ‘failure’ in wheat procurement

Post Source: The News – By Munawar Hasan

Monday, May 24, 2010

LAHORE

FARMERS of Punjab, the bread basket of the country, are dismayed at the outcome of the official procurement drives launched by the Punjab Food Department and the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) as both have failed to achieve procurement target by a big margin.

Only the Sindh Food Department has been able to almost achieve the purchase target during 2010 drive as it has procured 98 percent of 1.5 million tonnes targeted wheat. Conversely, like Punjab, the federal government is all set to fall short of the wheat procurement target during ongoing drive.

Out of 1.6 million tonnes target set for wheat procurement for Passco, only about a million tonne wheat has been procured yet. According to a senior official, Passco had distributed gunny bags among farmers for the purchase of 1.1 million tonnes wheat so far.

However, sources said, it was highly unlikely that Passco could buy wheat beyond 1.1 million tonnes as the federal government has shown reluctance in provision of additional finances. “We are trying to get loan worth Rs 13 billion for achieving remaining target,” an official said, adding that the federal government had already provided Rs 26 billion to Passco for buying 1.1 million tonnes wheat and expressed the hope that more finances would be made available.

However, he admitted that there was almost no wheat available with growers at present, thereby admitting that the procurement drive was about to end. “Wheat has almost changed hand from growers to the public sector departments or flour millers and middlemen,” he observed.

Owing to the little quantity available in the field, daily procurement of Passco has come down to 12,500 tonnes. The bulk of total procured wheat, about 0.94 million tonnes, has been procured from Punjab while the rest has been sold to Passco in Sindh province.

The Punjab Food Department, the largest public sector buying entity of the country, could only buy 3.4 million tonnes so far out of 5 million tons target set for 2010 campaign. The procurement drive launched by department is at its concluding stage and scheduled to end on May 31. Unless the Punjab chief minister takes drastic steps for achieving the remaining target, the provincial food department is bound to miss the target by a big margin. Much to the dismay of growers, high ups of the Food Department have already intimated employees to start winding up the procurement operation.

The biggest hurdle for both Punjab and Passco to procure targeted wheat has been finances. Like Passco, Punjab is still short of Rs 6.0 billion for carrying out the remaining wheat operation. On the other hand, Sindh has successfully arranged required Rs 35 billion and materialised it purchase plan.

“We took steps in advance for ensuring timely availability of finances for wheat procurement and ultimately ended up with record buying of wheat,” said Mir Nadir Ali Magsi while talking to The News here on Sunday. He said successful wheat operation was only made possible due to the proper planning and execution.

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