LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has said the government will achieve the wheat procurement target of 4.5 million metric tonnes, while Rs158 billion will be spent to benefit the farmers and uplift the rural economy besides ensuring food security of the province.
In a social media message on Saturday, the chief minister highlighted that 15% of the wheat crop has already been harvested while 13% bardana (gunny bags) has been issued in the province. Wheat procurement centres have been established in all districts for procurement of the grain at the support price of Rs1,400 per maund (40 kilogrammes).
He prayed to the Allah Almighty to protect wheat areas from unseasonal rains like last year. To facilitate the farmers, he pointed out, the restriction of gardawari has been done away with and the wheat crop will be procured on the first come, first served basis. Provincial ministers have been assigned to monitor wheat procurement drive in their districts.
He highlighted that 15 interprovincial entry and exits points will be fully monitored during the campaign. The interests of the farmers will be protected and every wheat grain will be procured as they are the benefactors of the nation.
Meanwhile, reacting over complaints of farmers, Punjab Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan who holds the food ministry’s portfolio said he has directed the department to increase the number of wheat procurement centres across the province.
He asked the district administrations to review the number of wheat procurement centres in their areas and increase the number in consultation with the local members of national and provincial assemblies.
The senior minister said arrangements should be ensured at wheat procurement centres to avoid crowding. “Arrangements should be made for farmers' seating, drinking water, sanitisers and security at these centres,” the minister said while reviewing the preparations.
He said that a vigilant eye should be kept on the sale of wheat and no farmer should be discouraged. He stressed that timely procurement and safety of wheat was the prime responsibility of the provincial Food Department and no negligence can be tolerated in this regard.
Punjab Food Secretary Waqas Ali Mahmood told the minister that there were 382 wheat procurement centres operating in Punjab, while the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) was collecting wheat in 12 tehsils of the province.
Aleem Khan also welcomed the issuance of an ordinance against hoarding and smuggling. He said hoarding in the food sector was a serious issue in Punjab, which had to be discouraged at all cost. “Every farmer has the right to make a profit from wheat and flour, but stocking and illegal profiteering from these products cannot be justified in any way.”
He pointed out that under his directives transport of wheat across Punjab’s borders was being stopped.
“Wheat will not go out of the province illegally at any cost. The entire state machinery will be mobilised to prevent stockpiling across the province and the Food Department will meet the expectations of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in this regard,” he said.
Punjab is expecting around 11 million tonnes of wheat crop from an area of over 10.6 million acres.
The government has directed all field officials to work tirelessly to achieve this target besides imposition of ban on purchase by private sector except for personal use. Feed mills and unregistered seed companies are also barred from wheat purchase.
Besides routine security, the government has deployed army and Civil Defence officials at wheat procurement centres to take steps to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease and constituted dispute resolution committees at the district level to address farmers’ problems.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2020.