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Procurement target for wheat may be revised   
By Mohammad Hussain Khan

May 30, 2011: THE Sindh government may get the current wheat procurement target revised from the federal government following a bumper crop. The target at 1.3 million tons is also 0.2 million tons short of that fixed last year.

According to Sindh Food Secretary Mohammad Naseer Jamali the target may be revised any time. So far the Sindh government has procured 1.2 million tons of wheat.

The agriculture department’s crop reporting service section estimates that the province has produced around 4.2 million tons of wheat mainly due to increase in acreage and fair amount of inputs after last year’s floods. Katcha area on the right and left banks of the River Indus was brought under wheat cultivation. Farmers took full advantage of soil’s fertility and moisture after the floods.

Wheat was sown on 1.1 million hectares last year and production was recorded at 3.5 million tons. This year 1.2 million hectares have been brought under wheat cultivation. Wheat benefited by weather conditions besides water remained fairly accessible in areas where canal system was intact. Unusual lengthy cold spell supported the crop.

General Secretary of Sindh Abadgar Board Mehmood Nawaz Shah, however, sees no justification in the provincial government’s initiative to get procurement target revised at this point of time. He argues that it will benefit the middlemen.

“Growers have already sold their produce. If target is revised the middlemen are set to make an extra buck,” he says.

He claims that hardly 25 per cent of the procurement is made through grwers.” wheat has been hoarded by middlemen, bought at lower rates and recalls that “we had urged the government to set wheat procurement target at 1.5 million tons in view of floods.”

The Sindh government can store 600,000 metric tons in its own godowns. The rest is either kept in godowns of flour mills or preserved under conventional methods. Around 150,000-200,000 tons of wheat is kept in government’s reserved centres, Jamali said. “I think around one to 1.1 million tons will be stored and preserved in godowns and under conventional practices,” he says. Of the last year’s reserved stock of 325,000 tons, 15,000 to 20,000 tons remained with the government, while the rest was exported, he said.

The federal government provides ceiling to provincial government for purchase of wheat with financing at the rate of 16 per cent. Punjab was given target of 3.5 million tons for procurement.

 


Procurement is mainly made by provincial food departments or by Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Organisation (Passco). The food department then sells wheat to flour mills and chakkis and repays the loan to the federal government.

Wheat support price was fixed at Rs950 per 40kg by but in majority cases, farmers didn’t get the price. They were unable to sell wheat directly to food department as they didn’t get gunny bags and ended up selling it to middlemen at lower rates. They complain that food officials purchased wheat from dealers and middlemen at official rates as both sides earned money illegally. Sindh Food secretary did admit that there were complaints of non-provision of gunny bags in the province but the issue was resolved. “We did provide bags to farmers,” he claims.

 

In upper Sindh area like Sukkur region comprising five districts of Ghotki, Khairpur Mirs, Sukkur, Naushahro Feroze and Benazirabad, transportation of wheat remained a problem until recently. Sukkur region food official Qaiser Khan Rahu said that against 60,000 metric tons target of wheat, 55,000 metric tons had been purchased so far. Around 32,000 metric tons of wheat would mostly be sent to Karachi. Tenders for wheat transportation had been floated.

Growers resent food officials’ indifferent attitude towards wheat procurement. Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) office-bearer Abdul Majeed Nizamani estimates losses to farmers at Rs1875 million on account of non-payment of actual support price to growers by food department officials, who preferred to purchase wheat through middlemen and dealers.

“On an average, growers sold their wheat between Rs860 to Rs880 per 40kg against support price of Rs950. As per our calculation of 1.3 million tons of wheat procurement only 0.3 to 0.4 million tons of wheat is purchased directly from growers at actual price,” he claims.

Courtesy: The DAWN

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