PPF Seminar ‘The Reasons behind the Wheat Crisis’ | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

PPF Seminar ‘The Reasons behind the Wheat Crisis’

December 18, 2003

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organized a seminar for journalists titled The Reasons behind the Wheat Crisis on December 18, 2003, at its Vicky Zeitlin Media Library.

The speakers Mr. Hasan Ali Chanio, Former Minister for Food and Agriculture, Government of Sindh; Mr. M.H. Punhwar, Agriculture expert and Mr. Syed M. Aslam, Senior Reporter, Pakistan and Gulf Economist addressed the seminar.

The speakers at the seminar, described the price support policy of the government as ‘a policy to suppress the prices’ called for extending incentives to the growers to grow more wheat.

“We foresee shortage of wheat in the country in near future
because the present support price policy there can not be any transition from subsistence farming into commercial farming as the cost of additional inputs will not be compensated by the additional returns from additional yields,” they said.

“The farmer does not make any profit or even the returns of his labour at the present price of wheat offered to him,” said M.H. Panhwar, a renowned agriculture expert.

He said the prices of wheat and other agriculture commodities were always kept low from first five year plan in Pakistan so that commerce and industry get cheap labour to establish their enterprises and this fact has been admitted in various government reports.

“Since the farmer never gets any returns, he had been reducing his inputs,” Mr. Panhwar said adding that this is the major factor contributing to the declining or static position of wheat crop.

“The price policy from 1950 to date has given the farmers 40 to 50 percent less than international price and since he is convinced that it is uneconomic to grow wheat, he produces only small surplus to pay for the cost of inputs. The result of all this is that the wheat production is lowered.”

The government then imports the wheat at about double the rate as paid to the farmer and subsidizes to the urban populati

on, Mr. Panhwar said adding that it makes industrial labour available at cheap rates and enhances profits of industry but keeps rural labour and the agriculture community very poor.

He said the inflation rate in the country was 7 to 8 percent but the wheat prices has been increased only up to Rs.350/- from Rs.300/- per 40 Kg. after four years, which is hardly 3.29 percent increase.

Former provincial minister for food and agriculture Hassan Ali Chaniho said it is unfortunate that Pakistan, which became wheat exporting country in 1999, has now turned again to be the wheat importing country. He questioned why the authorities concerned did not consider the looming crisis before exporting huge stocks of about 1.1 million tons of wheat this year.

He endorsed the views of a speaker that the smuggling of wheat to other countries was also a factor behind its shortage and added that it was because of having no proper distribution channels and proper monitoring.

Mr. Chaniho suggested the constitution of Wheat Crop Management Group consisting of agricultural experts and the representatives of all the concerned agencies and departments. He also called for government intervention to lower the wheat flour price.

On the prevailing situation in Sindh, he said the farmers do not have credit facilities by the commercial banks and as a result they have to borrow privately on higher rates of interest. Besides, they are sold substandard pesticides and fertilizer that have damaged their crops, he added.

Senior journalist of Pakistan & Gulf economist, Syed M. Aslam contended that there was an artificial shortage of wheat because it was available in the market however at higher rates.

He deplored that government has failed to make the flour mills owners to sell the flour at Rs.12/- as agreed by them and told that the wheat flour was still sold at exorbitant price. Mrs. Samina Ishaque, Director PPF also spoke.


List of Speakers
Mr. Hasan Ali Chanio
Former Miniter for Food & Agriculture
Government of Sindh
Mr. Ahmad Bux Narejo
Director Food Agriculture
Government of Sindh
Mr. M. H. Punhwar
Agriculture Expert
Mr. Syed M. Aslam
Senior Reporter
Pakistan & Gulf Economist