ISLAMABAD - The Government will ensure the procurement of wheat at the announced support price and never let the farmers to be exploited at any cost, said the Federal Minster for Food and Agriculture. Nazar Muhammad Gondal, in a meeting here on Thursday, has assured the farmers of the country that the present Government would purchase the wheat from the farmers at the announced support price of Rs 950 per 40 kilogram. He added that agriculture was backbone of the country and the present Government would not leave the farmers on the mercy of the exploiters. Commenting on the statement of Minister, an official of the Ministry said that the same claims were made last year by the Federal Government. But, later it put the farmers under the PASSCO control and they had to face many problems such as non-availability of bags and exploitation by the procurement staff. He said that the PASSCO came under the Federal Government and on the other side the Punjab Food Department that was under provincial control, which performed better as compared to the Federal department. In Punjab, Chief Minster Shahbaz Sharif had announced that there was no need for the officially provided bags to pack up the wheat and said that the Government would pay them for their personally arranged bags as per the market price. The official said that the Federal Government should also take such decision in this regard to facilitate the farmers, as the provision of bags was a very big tool with the PASSCO officials and employees to exploit the farmers. Gondal, in the meeting also, said that the Government would not dispose of the available stocks of wheat at the present and asked the provincial food departments and PASSCO to take care of the stocks. He said that there was no inter-provincial restriction on the movement of wheat in the country. The Minister categorically stated that wheat would never be subsidised locally, as that would result in the distortion of the market mechanism. He said that surplus wheat was the result of good support price and the Government would continue to support the poor farmers. The Government has set the target of 7.5 million tons of wheat to be procured this year. The Government has stocks of 4.4 million tons available (as of March 29) at present. The representative of the Finance Ministry informed the meeting that the ministry will provide the cash to provinces and PASSCO for procurement and there would be no issue of the non-availability of cash for the purchase wheat. It was decided in the meeting that Punjab should review its decision of partial purchase (8 bags per acre) from the farmers, as that could discourage the bumper crop production in the province.