Tightening Noose Around Wheat Hoarders, Exploiters


Tightening noose around wheat hoarders, exploiters

FAISALABAD, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th May, 2024) After a series of public welfare initiatives by the Punjab government, agriculturists have desired strict action and tightening noose around hoarders and exploiters to save precious money of poor farmers.

These market exploiters continue to fleece billions of rupees of poor farmers every year in one context or the other forcing them to live a hand to mouth life for being under debt at the hands of these market mongers.

Steps to rescue farmers from cruel clutches of exploiters would encourage them enabling them to more efficiently contribute to national economy as well as initiatives to address food security issues.

Being an agrarian country, Pakistan’s farmer force is main component of its economy but they are very commonly made to suffer as happening in the case of wheat crop wherein the exploiters force farmers to sell their wheat for Rs 2800 to Rs 3000 for 40 kg instead of the government announced rate of Rs 3900.

“Rs 1000 per 40 kg loss is too less. We had better wheat crop this year and hoped that money earned from it would help us in cultivating other crops. But, market players are not inclined to give us announced price,” remarked Muhammad Imran, a small farmers in Faisalabad.

“Since prices of seed, fertilizers and other inputs had risen recently resulting in increased per acre cost, offering us reduced wheat price means to make our survival difficult,” he said.

Appreciating recent measures in different sectors by the Punjab government, Imran appealed to deal with middlemen and hoarders to ensure better price for them. “First they exploit us when they lend us seeds and fertilizers and then by purchasing our crop on reduced price.”

What is happening with farmers in the case of wheat is a replica of what they faced during maize crop when the exploiters purchased maize crop from them Rs 700 to Rs 800 per 40 kg less than announced price.

The country has witnessed a bumper wheat production this year as the average wheat production in some areas remained around 45 maunds per acre. Therefore, its procurement by the government and purchase by private sector must be at par in terms of commodities rate.

“This time we had set a target of wheat sowing at 16 million acres but the sowing surpassed 18.5 million acres. This additional 1.5 million brought out a bumper crop,” informed an agriculture department official. “This bulk production created demand and supply imbalance and is one the reasons behind price issues.”

According to Dr Javaid Ahmed Chief Scientist, Wheat Department Ayub Research Institute, new wheat varieties like Akbar-2019, Dilkash-2019, Nawab-2021and Bhakkar Star played important role in enhanced productivity.

“We have done our bit in research and development by introducing good varieties. Now, it is duty of other government organs to sort out purchasing, storage and other market issues.”

As wheat is our main staple food widely cultivated across the country to ensure food security, there is dire need to safeguard its growers’ interest.

“Although we obtained bumper wheat production, yet could not get its announced price,” said another farmer, Muhammad Hasnain Khan. “As marketing is a complex phenomenon with exploiters often usurping farmers’ rights, the government should properly safeguard their interests like it was doing in many other areas.”

“If we calculate their expenditures on sowing a crop including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, tube well water and then its harvesting and threshing, farmers hardly earn profit with existing rate,” he recorded.

“The commission mafia remains active at almost all grain markets at the time of sowing and selling a crop firstly for offering farmers loans on high mark up and then buying their crops on lesser rates,” Khan said.

“As I pointed out that farmers’ with meager financial resources have to sell their produce as early as possible, for securing money for next crop, these market players exploit their compulsion,” he stated.

Also taking full benefit of social media for rumor mongering, these agents misguided farmers by saying that the government was not buying wheat this year, he further stated.

This situation calls for urgently carving a strategy to stem out these agents and ensure transparent purchase policy as Zulfiqar Ahmad, Information Secretary Wheat Growers Association saw it as a governance issue. “If the government pushes forward ‘Baboos’ to regulate wheat buying and procurement, the issue may be resolved conveniently.”

Besides urging the government to digitalize wheat purchase, he said, it should also encourage value addition to wheat related products, enabling growers to earn more profit.

Zulfiqar also suggested small silos at Union Council level and enhance capacity of present ones at tahsil level besides providing proportionate loans to farmers through ZTBL, against the stored wheat.

Therefore, a multi-pronged strategy and stringent measures were needed to reign in exploiters, ensure enhanced storage and check wheat smuggling to neighboring countries. Moreover, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also help regulate the entire system of wheat production, purchasing and procurement.

The experts fear that if prevailing market problems are not properly addressed, there can be likelihood of decline in wheat sowing acreage next season.

APP/iah/maz (APP Feature Service)