Senate panel for waiving loans of flood-hit farmers

Committee on food security directs steps to prevent wheat smuggling


Haseeb Hanif September 29, 2022
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

 

The Senate Standing Committee on Food Security recommended to the government to waive off the loans of farmers in the flood-ravaged areas and asked the relevant authorities to take action against the rising price of wheat flour.

The committee, which met here with its chairman Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah in the chair, also urged the authorities to take steps to prevent wheat smuggling in collaboration with the other departments concerned.

During the meeting, National Food Security Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema informed the committee that Afghanistan was completely dependent on Pakistan for wheat. He said that government had been urged to provide subsidy on fertiliser directly to the farmers.

“We asked that subsidy on gas to the urea plants should be stopped. The subsidy should be given to the farmers directly,” the minister said, as he painted a grim picture of agriculture in the flood-affected areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

Food security officials informed the committee that cotton was cultivated on 3.67 million acres in Punjab, while the crop had been decimated in Sindh. They added that cotton cultivation area was 12% less than the target.

“Overall in the country, the officials said, 35% of the cotton crop had been destroyed by floods. Last year, our cotton production was 8 million bales, this year it is 5 million bales,” an official told the participants. “Good cotton seed is not available.”

Apart from cotton, Cheema said, dates crop has also been 100% destroyed in Sindh. We will ensure seed supply to the farmers in collaboration with NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority),” he added.

The committee expressed concern over the rising prices of wheat flour and it directed the Food Security Ministry to take action on the price hike. The chair observed that a meeting of the Council of Common Interests should be called to agree to a uniform wheat support price.

The chair noted that smuggling was one of the major causes of wheat price hike and its shortage in the country. The committee called for a special briefing on the matter of wheat smuggling from the Ministry of National Food Security.

The committee was informed that wheat cultivation in Sindh and Balochistan would be difficult because the cultivable area in both these provinces was under floodwater.

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