HYDERABAD: As the wheat crisis spiralled flour price in Sindh, the federal government formally began the supply of wheat to the province on Friday. National Food Security and Research Minister Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan inaugurated the ceremony held to mark the commencement of the supply from a warehouse of Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Supply Corporation (PASSCO) in Hyderabad.
"The federal government is giving a gift of 400,000 tonnes of wheat to the Sindh government to help it reduce the increasing price of flour [in the province]," he said, while talking to the media at the inauguration ceremony. Federal Secretary Hashim Popalzai and Sindh Food Secretary Laiq Ahmed Khan, among other officials, were also present on the occasion.
However, the help came with an admonition for the provincial government to improve its wheat security policy. "Sindh government ought to take more effective steps in the future," Sultan underscored.
After five years: ECC increases wheat support price
The Economic Coordination Committee set the wheat support price at Rs1,350 per 40 kilogrammes (kg), slightly enhancing the price by Rs50 per 40 kg of wheat. Pakistan Peoples Party's Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has disapproved the increase as unsubstantial. He said the price should have been raised by Rs200 per 40 kg and warned that the lower support price will likely make the wheat crisis continue into the next year.
Sultan said that Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately ordered a supply of 400,000 tonnes of wheat to the province as soon as the provincial food secretary conveyed a request in this regard. He added that the supply of wheat to the province has also begun from the PASSCO's warehouses in Khairpur and Ranipur.
According to him, the expected target of wheat production was set at 25.8 million tonnes but the yield was limited to only 24 million tonnes due to unfavourable weather conditions. The crop's export was also not allowed in the ongoing year owing to the lower yield. The minister claimed that the price of a wheat bag has been reduced by Rs4 per kg, following the provision of the Center's help to the province.
Govt plans field survey to ascertain wheat stock
He defended the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf- led federal government's withdrawal of certain agricultural subsidies. "Our government doesn't believe in subsidy. We want to create an environment in which the farmers no longer require subsidy."
Sultan said that the federal government's Plant Protection Department is actively combatting the locust attacks in Sindh and parts of Punjab, with its three planes regularly carrying out aerial sprays in the affected areas. He apprised that the government is working over the agricultural export projects worth around Rs300 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2019.
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