The Wheat Crisis

January 22, 2020

The unprecedented hike in the price of wheat flour across the country and its acute shortage has made the life of common man more miserable, but the statements from the power corridors can only be termed mercy less.

The unthoughtful remarks have not only hurt people but also have provided ample opportunity to opposition for point scoring.

After the statements of Minister Railway Shiekh Rashid and Firdous Ashiq Awan the media talk of president Alvi on wheat crisis, that he is not aware of it, drew strong reaction, especially on social media.

One can argue that it is not the job of President to know the control or know exact commodity rates but his staff should have apprised him of the major crisis the general public was suffering from.

Apart from the political maneuvering, the wheat crisis is real and it is severe- It does not seem to go away immediately.

Even, if provincial governments release stocks and hoarders are dealt with iron hands, it will take time- even weeks to stabilize the market.

But, eventually this crisis will be over soon. The new crop will enter the market by March and by April the country would have ample wheat, but it is time to do some soul searching. PTI government can make some major policy shifts to avoid any such crisis in future.

For example it can start from fixing the responsibility of the present crisis and to investigate who make large sum of money by exporting wheat at very cheap rates.

After fixing the responsibility and punishing the culprits it can make policies which ensure that ample stocks of commodities remain in the country.

If some crop is short, a mechanism may be developed to import it timely and if some commodity is surplus, it should not be exported on mere verbal estimates.

The present wheat emergency exposes the faulty assessment of the crop estimation, store statistics and grain availability.

The reform process should start from crop estimation. In today’s digitalized world where world  crop estimates are available with international organizations through real time digital maps, the obsolete procedure of crop estimation from Patwar office must be abolished for good.

The procedure of procurement and storage must also be revised and should be made transparent. It is no secret that staff steals wheat from the storage and fill sand in the bags.

The export of essential commodities should only be allowed after physical inspection of the stocks. The process of fixing support price must also be revisited and should make apolitical and transparent.

 Massive reforms in the agriculture sector are must. Pakistan is agriculture based country. There are many government research based agri instructions but they have been dysfunctional from last many years or decades due to shortage of funds.

They have a capability to produce high yielding seeds, if provided sufficient funds. Agriculture experts like Mr. Jehangir Khan Tarin, who have made a fortune from farming can also be consulted to bring a green revolution in the country.

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