ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to face three million tons wheat deficit next year as the country’s estimated consumption is 29 million whereas production will be around 26 million tons.

The projected consumption of 29 million tons includes buffer stocks of one million tons of wheat, 1.2 million tons for seed and 0.3 million for poultry feed.

The issue of wheat deficit came under discussion at a meeting of National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce, headed by Syed Naveed Qamar.

During discussion on import of wheat through Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), Secretary Commerce Sualeh Ahmad Faruqi confirmed that wheat deficit had also been projected for next year.

Chairman TCP Riaz Memon informed the committee that the government had imported 2.165 million tons of which 1.6 million tons was imported by TCP and 0.465 million tons by Passco. He further stated that 30 bulk vessels of TCP arrived from October 2020 to March 2021 and not a single vessel went into demurrage.

According to him, average imported wheat at port was Rs 45.6 per kg, adding signing of commercial agreements with recipient agencies helped in efficient cargo clearance from port by recipient agencies and timely payment of dues i.e. 91 percent amount was recovered as on March 3, 2021. The total invoice amount was Rs 81.64 billion, of which Rs 74.71 billion is received while Rs 7.28 billion is receivable.

He said the next consignment of 0.3 million tons wheat would arrive in August 2021 to avoid glut in the market and ensure that prices of domestic wheat did not plummet. This was confirmed by Secretary Commerce who assured the committee that there would be no glut in the market due to imported wheat as its arrival has been delayed till August.

The committee members criticised Punjab government for revising down Minimum Support Price (MSP) from Rs 1800 to Rs 1650/40 kg. This price will certainly encourage smuggling of wheat to Sindh where price is Rs 2100/40 kg. Private sector will also make all out efforts to procure wheat despite ban on procurement by the provincial government. According to Article 151 of the Constitution, it’s a common market, which means goods cannot be restricted.

After the standing committee’s meeting, Syed Naveed Qamar lamented the projected wheat shortage next year, adding that wheat production in the country was going down whereas import was on the rise. He further stated that support price of wheat fixed by the government was unrealistic. Sindh has announced minimum support price of Rs 2000 /40 kg whereas Punjab revised it down - from Rs 1800 to 1650/40 kg.

“Who will sell his wheat at Rs 1650/40 kg, when the price of imported wheat is Rs 2500/40 kg,” he queried.

Naveed Qamar contended that continuation of import of wheat was in the interest of mafias, adding that expensive wheat was being imported in the name of price control.

“We are extending benefit to farmers of other countries but are not ready to give subsidy to Pakistani farmers,” he said.—MUSHTAQ GHUMMAN