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Ikram Junaidi


Published Date: Jan 28, 2015

Wheat subsidies only benefit big farmers

ISLAMABAD: “Wheat support policies and subsidies given by the government benefit only big farmers because as many as 58 percent of farmers do not produce surplus wheat,” said University of Auckland Professor Dr. Asif Saeed.
He gave a lecture on Tuesday titled “Pakistan’s Wheat Economy and Food Security: A Review of Various Policy Perspectives”, organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Dr Saeed said although in 2007 the support price was increased from Rs625 to Rs940 per 40kg but wheat production could not be increased.
He also talked about wheat smuggling in Pakistan and how the ban on transportation of wheat and flour from Punjab to other provinces is violated.
Dr Saeed explained that although Attock is not a wheat producing area, 20 to 30 flour mills have been established in the area because of its proximity to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Flour made at these mills is then easily transported to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and from there even to Central Asia, he said.
He said wheat was grown on 40 per cent of cropped area in Pakistan and annual production is between 20 to 24 million tons.
While Pakistan produces sufficient wheat for its requirement, over 50 per cent of households are food insecure because they lack the resources to buy food.
Pakistan’s wheat economy and food security discussed
“People get 53 per cent of total calories and 59 per cent of daily proteins from wheat. Pakistan needs to overcome its over-dependence on the wheat economy. One way to do this is to incorporate other alternatives to everyday food,” he said.
Dr Asif further said sustainability of the wheat economy requires structural reforms such as land organisation and stable market, etc. Similarly, political and social institutions involved in the process of policy-making need to be more accountable.
World Food Programme representative Krishna Pehari said, “More than 50 per cent of people are not consuming adequate amount of calories i.e. 2,100 calories per day. As many as 44 per cent of children, under five years of age, are stunted,” he said.
Agriculture University Faisalabad Vice-Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmed said there was a misconception in society that “as long as we have wheat, we are not insecure but fact is that over 50 per cent of the population is food insecure”.
“There is unholy nexus which is exploiting both farmers and consumers. Farmers are not receiving due compensation and consumers are paying much more than the actual cost,” he said.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Q. Suleri said that unfortunately there was no mechanism to analyse the production cost of wheat.
“People grow wheat because traditionally it is an embarrassment for them if they live in a village and still have to buy wheat from the market. So they cultivate wheat to avoid the stigma,” he said.
He was also of the view that wheat support prices did not eradicate poverty in rural areas.
“The government of Punjab has to repay Rs75 billion loan with interest to banks because that amount is used for purchasing wheat from farmers, storing it and selling it on subsidised rates to flour mills,” he said.
“Unfortunately, Pakistanis find it difficult to adapt to change. People will use wheat flour even if alternatives are available in the market,” he said.
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