Wheat Policy and Common Sense

Pakistan has the world’s fifth-largest population, and wheat is a crucial part of the Pakistani diet. Fortunately, Pakistan has fertile lands and achieves better yields in wheat production compared to other agricultural outputs. However, despite this, Pakistan faces wheat shortages and the government is often forced to import wheat each year, even during or just before the wheat harvesting season. Additionally, Pakistan supports the wheat demand of neighboring Afghanistan, directly or indirectly.

Each year, wheat imports and local wheat purchases become controversial. Either farmers are not given government-issued bags, or the government delays wheat purchases, forcing farmers to sell their wheat to third parties to avoid the monsoon rains ruining their crops.

Common sense would suggest improving local production and storage of wheat to avoid imports and potentially become a wheat-exporting country. The most logical solution would be to buy as much locally produced wheat as possible at international rates minus transport costs, store it for domestic use, and export any surplus to Afghanistan. This would encourage more farmers to cultivate wheat, thereby increasing production.

However, as my father used to say, “Common sense is not so common.” Each year, the Government of Pakistan restricts wheat purchases by fixing the volume and price for storage. Each year, wheat purchases are delayed, farmers protest, and an inquiry committee is formed to investigate the controversy. This cycle repeats annually.

When will the government learn from past mistakes? When will officials plan for the long term? When will a policy for wheat storage and export to Afghanistan be developed to end wheat smuggling? When will the government implement a policy to buy all the wheat produced and export the excess at a profit? When will the reports of inquiry commissions and the lessons learned from all previous inquiries be released?



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