The production of wheat in the upcoming Rabi season is expected to decline due to reduced profit margins and rising input prices, farmers are projected to look out for alternative crops like maize and rice, jeopardizing national food security.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has urged group efforts to secure food security in light of the imminent food scarcity following the floods.
The area cultivated with wheat fell by 2.1% from 2021 to 2022, to 8,976,000 hectares. In 2020-21, the area was 9,168,000 hectares. The production also declined by 3.9pc to 26.394 million tonnes against 27.464m tonnes a year before.
The decrease in yield has been attributed by officials to the fall in acreage, water scarcity, drought conditions at the time of sowing, decreased fertilizer uptake, and the heatwave in March and April. This reduction occurred despite the minimum support price being raised from Rs1,850 per 40 kg to Rs2,200.
Despite this, the Federal Committee on Agriculture has set a lofty goal for the Rabi season of 2022–23: producing 28.4 million tonnes of wheat on an area of 9.3 million hectares. The aim, however, is unlikely given the massive areas of agricultural land that have been submerged in Sindh and certain regions of Punjab.
Perhaps the administrators also failed to take into account the pricey wheat seed and high cost of fertilizer which could further decrease its uptake this season.
Progressive farmers worry that a shortage of goods may result from further declines in the area planted to wheat.
They attribute their concern to increasing production costs, illegal activity, a lack of compost, and declining profit margins.
Aamer Hayat Bhandara bemoaned the fact that after toiling for almost five months, the growers only received between Rs1900 and Rs2200 per kg in June and July for their harvest (Nov to April).
However, Mr. Bhandara added that middlemen (arthis) made a profit of Rs. 500 per 40 kg, and flour mill owners made Rs. 1300 per 40 kg by selling flour made from the same wheat in two months (Sept. and Oct.). He also added that for the remaining years, these mills would receive subsidized wheat from the food department, further soaring their profits.
He claimed that producers will probably buy the same wheat again as seed for Rs 5400 per 50 kg bag or Rs 4320 per 40 kg.
Mr. Bhandara continued by saying that the projected increase in the support price of Rs800 per 40kg was insufficient to entice farmers because the cost of production had virtually doubled in just one year. He asserted that one bag of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) cost more last year, rising from Rs6,000 to Rs15,000.
Mr. Bhandara advised that Punjab set the support price at Rs. 4000 per 40kg, as the government of Sindh has done, to ensure that input and output prices are equal.
He also suggested eliminating taxes on tube wells, offering DAP and urea compost at affordable prices, lowering the cost of seeds and pesticides rather than providing subsidies, providing farmers with concessionary loans, granting them access to the newest equipment on rent or with easy payments, and limiting the role of middlemen.
PM calls for collective action
According to APP, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the international community to work together to ensure food security in all nations in his message on World Food Day.
The prime minister claimed that recent disastrous floods in Pakistan have damaged standing crops on millions of acres in a series of tweets published on his Twitter account.
He continued, saying that an agricultural nation like Pakistan needs to import food goods to make up for these crop losses.
“Today the World Food Day highlights the need for global efforts to ensure food security in various countries of the world.”
“Due to climate change-induced natural calamities and rising food prices in the world market, the nutritious food, which was already short in supply, was expected to become scarce,” he tweeted.