KARACHI: Pakistan likely to produce 29m tons of wheat this season against a target of 32m tons due to high input costs wheat; however, the wheat consumption is 33m tones excluding the requirement to feed Afghanistan.

Vice President of Pakistan Business Forum (PBF) Ahmad Jawad said prices of inputs stay at higher levels and in the current season the crop remained three million tons less than the target of 32 million tons.

Farmers have been forced to buy urea at double the actual price as they paid over Rs5,000 per bag due to alleged cartelization.

Wheat and wheat-based products account for 60-70% of all caloric intake in the country’s population. At 125 kilograms per year, Pakistan’s per capita consumption of wheat is one of the highest in the world.

Jawad said we would try to increase domestic wheat production. There is a huge scope to increase this yield through relatively simple changes in the production system such as reduced tillage, increased use of certified seeds, use of seed drills, a better match between fertiliser applications and soils, and application of micronutrients. There is also a large potential scope to reduce on-farm and off-farm losses through improved harvesting, bulk handling and storage in modern silos.

One must understand agriculture cannot be approached as a real estate issue. Like Russia and Ukraine, Pakistan needs to dismantle its Soviet-style wheat economy to bolster its own food security and then start exporting its wheat surpluses.

Unlike the 1960s, this time the government needs to get out of the way. From 1960 to 1980, Russia was a major importer of wheat requiring as much as 47 million tonnes in 1985. A major push after this has made Russia the world’s largest wheat exporter with overseas sales of about 40 million tons.

With dedicated effort to improve growing and supply chain, a country like Pakistan with lots of cultivable land and favourable climatic conditions can very much see a turnaround of such proportions as well.

“PBF VP also stated wheat cultivation is already beginning in Sindh, in this regard he urged the government agencies to make a strict check on smuggling this time as last year 592 hoarders were involved in wheat smuggling while 26 smugglers are involved in wheat smuggling”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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