HYDERABAD: Farmers have complained about the delay in the start of wheat procurement and asked the Sindh government to launch an inquiry to find out the reasons for this delay, which has forced them to sell the crop at lower prices in open market.
Sindh Abadgar Board, in a meeting of its executive committee on Sunday, chaired by President Abdul Majeed Nizamani, blamed the Food Department and traders for the delay in wheat procurement.
According to the farmers, the right time to start wheat buying is mid-March but the purchase of grain has begun at least 25 days after that.
Defending itself, the Food Department cites low production and sales in open market as well as moisture in the grain as the reasons behind the delay. However, farmers dispute these claims.
Earlier, the provincial government had announced that it would purchase 1.3 million tons of wheat at Rs1,050 per 40 kg through its 389 procurement centres across the province which were to start operating from April 1. Later, it extended the date to April 8.
“The board expects around 4 million tons of wheat production in Sindh despite catastrophic floods and rains in southern parts of the province which delayed sowing of the crop,” said Nizamani.
“The government is buying too little and that also is too late,” he complained. Basing his estimate on the official purchase price of Rs1,050 per 40 kg, he said the wheat crop worth Rs3.25 billion in Sindh would be at the mercy of open market, where farmers may be forced to sell at lower prices.
The farmers called on the government to increase the procurement target to at least two million tons.
Separately, the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture – another farmer group – also criticised the late start of procurement.
A meeting of its executive committee noted that harvest in southern parts of Sindh had begun on March 15. Mir Murad Ali Talpur, who presided over the meeting, also complained about non-availability of jute bags as well as corrupt officials who were seeking bribe for releasing the sacks.
A representative of farmers said the growers in Mirpurkhas and Umerkot began the harvest by March 15 but were forced to sell the commodity in open market below the set price.
“Unfortunately, these are the same areas which were worst hit by rains and floods last year. They lost their Kharif (summer) crop to the catastrophe and sold Rabi (winter) harvest at cheaper rates,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.