LAHORE: The Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh provincial governments have demanded that the federal government supply them with 400,000 tons of wheat in order to normalize the supply and price of flour, with Punjab warning Islamabad it would not be able to maintain the daily supply of flour to K-P if it does not get the requested supply of wheat.
Meanwhile, the federal government, in view of the current wheat and flour crisis and the provision in the past of controversial data on wheat cultivation and production by provincial governments, has decided to directly monitor this year’s wheat crop and its production and will use Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) satellite technology for the task.
The federal government will also issue alerts to the provinces regarding abnormal reductions in wheat production or serious attacks on crops while also prompting them to make timely imports in case of impending crises.
According to details, the Punjab Food Secretary, at a high-level meeting held in Islamabad on Monday, demanded that the federal government provide 200,000 tonnes of wheat from federal government warehouses administered by the Pakistan Agricultural Supply Corporation (PASCO) as the province lacked sufficient stocks to continue its daily supply of 150,000 bags of flour to KP while also meeting its provincial needs.
The stocks held by the Punjab government could only suffice until April 30, he said, adding that, without additional procurement from the Centre, the province will be at risk of a zero carry forward balance of wheat.
Speaking at the meeting, the K-P Food Secretary also demanded an additional 100,000 tons of wheat, saying that the Centre had only provided it with 450,000 tons of the 850,000 tons required by the province.
The Sindh Food Secretary told the meeting that, although the price of wheat in the open market had fallen significantly due to the rapid supply of the commodity from PASCO warehouses, the province still needed another 100,000 tons of wheat in addition to the 4 million tons already supplied by the Centre.
The federal National Food Security Minister and other federal officials said at the meeting that, in the wake of the recent crisis, the Centre and the provinces must ascertain their wheat procurement goals ahead of time or the country risked seeing an even more intense crisis than the one it was facing now.
In view of the contradictory and controversial statistics furnished by the provincial governments to the Centre in the past, the federal government will use SUPARCO satellite technology to continuously monitor the wheat crop with the help of high resolution images from satellites, federal government officials said, adding that any decisions on the procurement of wheat by the Centre will only be made after analyzing the data provided by the provinces as well as digital data from satellites.
The officials also expressed concern over locust attacks on wheat crops as well as other losses resulting from unprecedented rains in March and April. In case of a proven wheat shortage due to such circumstances, the federal government would advise the provinces on wheat imports to avert future crises, they said.
Sources said that the federal government had until now only lifted 19,000 tons of wheat from PASCO against the allocation of 200,000 tons for the first two months and it is estimated that only 100,000 tons would be transported by April of this year. Consequently, 100,000 tons of wheat will be given to KP and 200,000 of the total 300,000 tons to Punjab.
Federal National Food Security Secretary Hashim Popalzai told The Express Tribune that the Centre had decided to conduct its own monitoring of wheat production and supply rather than rely on statistics provided by the provinces.
Popalzai also said the federal government would be assisted by the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in this regard and that the wheat crop would be strictly monitored for damages based on which wheat may be procured from abroad, adding that the federal Ministry for Food Security had also set up a special cell for the task.