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LAHORE: Farmers criticising delay in the announcement of the support price for the current wheat crop have urged the government to follow the Sindh government and fix the same at Rs 4,000 per maund in Punjab and KPK.

Delay in the announcement of wheat support prices by the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces coupled with weak wheat crops due to low fertilizer application in November may lead the country to import wheat in the next season too.

Sindh has already announced the support price of wheat for the current season at Rs 4,000 per maund while growers of other provinces are looking towards the government. It has put the wheat crop in a crisis and the government should declare an ‘Agricultural Emergency’ in the country.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) President Khalid Mahmood Khokhar and Secretary General Ch Hassaan Akram demanded this while addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club (LPC) here on Wednesday. They alleged that the government was supporting farmers of other countries through its policies while buying foreign grain at higher prices instead of incentivizing local growers to grow more wheat.

Farmers are making queues for buying urea fertilizer while masses are in the queue to buy flour (Atta). The government needs to act fast to increase wheat production. Shortage of urea will also impact Pakistan’s exports due lack of enough raw material from cotton, rice and maize crops, they added.

DAP price was Rs 14,000 during November 2022 at the time of wheat sowing versus Rs 6000 in the previous Rabi season. This reduced DAP application too on wheat by farmers. The government did not support farmers through subsidies for DAP fertilizer.

Now in January, the government had shut down two urea factories. This was the time for the urea application on wheat. With a severe shortage of urea today, the wheat crop would suffer further. Urea is being black-marketed at Rs 3,000 per bag versus MRP of Rs 2440. Also, it is not available for farmers.

The government must immediately restart all Urea factories to ensure the supply of urea for the wheat crop. The crop is looking yellow without the use of Urea, they said. The government is now talking about the GST on DAP. This will be a disaster for wheat and all other crops.

The GST on electricity for tube wells imposed since January 1 must be removed. Other taxes have also been imposed. This is hurting the farmers who don’t have enough cash to buy high-priced agricultural inputs.

The GST and all other taxes on electricity for tubewells must be removed, they demanded. The R&D for new high-yielding seed varieties for wheat, rice, cotton and other crops is a must. Agricultural yield per acre is less than half in Pakistan for wheat and rice versus advanced countries. There is a huge yield gap which can be reduced if the government focuses on seed R&D.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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