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Wheat is one of the most strategic crops globally, which had always being a big challenge for many governments. In Pakistan too, wheat is the most important staple food crop of the country. Although grown on a large area, there have been crises of crop shortage in the past whenever the support prices fixed were not considered by the farmers.

A. Production

The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) in its meeting held at Islamabad on October 23, 2020 fixed wheat production target at 26.78 million tons from 9.16 million acres area for the Rabi season 2020-21. The Government also decided to provide all-out support to agriculture sector, including subsidized fertilizers, pesticides and concessional lending to farmers. Last year, wheat production had stood at 25.25 million tons against the target of 27.03 million tons. However, acquisition of modern agriculture technology, supply of better seeds and balanced use of fertilizers can achieve higher yields.

B. Price Fixation

It merits a mention that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet in its meeting held on October 26, 2020 proposed to the cabinet that the minimum support price of wheat for 2020-21 crop will be fixed at Rs. 1600/- per 40kg as compared to Rs. 1400/- per 40kg during the last season. It is to be added that the support price mechanism plays a pivotal role in boosting wheat production as it stabilizes market and increases profitability of farmers.

The Federal Government has announced a subsidy on fertilizers to encourage farmers to increase production during the upcoming winter crops, as wheat shortage brought the prices of the staple up to a historical high. The decision was taken during a meeting of the ECC of the cabinet at Islamabad on October 29, 2020. The meeting approved the Rabi crops especially wheat. The package will be presented in the next cabinet meeting for approval.

According to some media reports, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has demanded the government take measures to bring the cost of agriculture production down instead of doling out subsidies and announcing support prices. The FPCCI has said the cost of production should be reduced through direct support to farmers in purchase of machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs while infrastructure should be developed to ensure better farm to market access. Also, the government should formulate a sustainable agriculture policy to ensure food security in the country.

Khan Faraz, (Former Secretary, Pakistan Tobacco Board)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020