Punjab to fall short of wheat target
By Noshad Ali
LAHORE: The Punjab government will not meet its wheat procurement target of 3.5 million tonnes even though it has extended its procurement deadline to September 30 and banned the inter-district transport of the crop, Food Department sources told Daily Times on Wednesday.
The department has procured around 2.3 million tonnes of wheat so far and is current buying approximately 5,000 tonnes a day. At this rate, 0.5 million tonnes will be obtained in the 100 days remaining to the deadline, a total of 2.8 million tonnes, 0.7 million short of the target.
The department has a “comfort level” of 2.6 million tonnes and this target is likely to be achieved. The department has permitted flourmills to purchase wheat on permits because the commodity would be safer there rather than with hoarders or traders, the sources said.
Food Secretary Shahid Hassan Raja said the department had stocked 2.4 million tonnes of wheat including last year’s surplus and 0.2 million would be taken from flourmills to meet the comfort level.
He said that if the government was unable to complete its set target of 3.5 million tonnes by September, the deadline would be further extended.
The crackdown on hoarders would continue as around 25 percent of hoarded wheat has been recovered from Rahim Yaar Khan, he said. The department will target Bahawalpur next for the crackdown. Wheat has been hoarded in ten districts of Punjab and the department is conducting operations against them one by one, Mr Raja said.
Regarding the inter-district ban, he said it would stay to prevent wheat or flour shortages. Other provinces would use imported wheat if they required it, though the NWFP and Balochistan were already getting wheat from the Punjab.
Wheat prices, he said, are stable and wheat is available for around Rs 370 to Rs 375 per 40 kilograms.