ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed that measures be taken to prevent the smuggling of wheat and a comprehensive strategy be formulated to deal with prevalent corruption in wheat and its theft.
While chairing a high-level meeting on wheat production, existing reserves, and the requirement of consumption at provincial and national levels, the premier wanted the preparation of a strategy for the construction of silos for the storage of wheat.
The meeting was informed that the target for total wheat production was 28.89 million metric tons this year but production is expected to be 26.173 million tons against the gross domestic consumption of wheat estimated at 30.79 million metric tons.
The prime minister directed the Punjab government to increase its procurement target and also directed the Food Security Division to import wheat on time if required to meet the shortfall.
Reasons for the gap between the wheat target and projected production were attributed to the meeting to decline in wheat cultivation, the shortage of water as well as mismanagement of fertilizer by the previous government.
In addition, subsequent to the late announcement of the wheat subsidy price in March, farmers also witnessed a two percent decline in wheat cultivation. While rising oil prices and climate change, i.e. premature heat waves, have been major hurdles in achieving the wheat target.
The meeting was informed that Punjab has achieved the target of 91.66 percent, Sindh 49.68 percent, Balochistan 15.29 percent, and PASCO achieved 100 percent target for procurement of wheat.
The prime minister was also informed about the steps being taken by the government to provide relief to the public with subsidy on the supply of wheat to government flour mills, supply of 10kg flour bags at a cost of Rs400, supply of cheap flour through the Utility Stores in Balochistan, and supply of 200,000 metric tonnes of wheat to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
He also directed the authorities in collaboration with the KP government to identify the provincial consumption and ensure the supply of their required wheat.
The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Food Security Tariq Bashir Cheema; Food Security, PASCO, and senior officials of relevant departments.
Chief Secretary Punjab and provincial officials participated through video link.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022