FARMERS across the country, especially those in southern Punjab are facing a fertilizer crisis; there isn't enough of the stuff to go around. The importance of fertilizer cannot, of course, be overstated. It has come to be a necessary catalyst in the vast network of sowing, tending and harvesting that is our economy's mainstay, agriculture. Expectations of bumper crops abound in the corridors of power and the press these days. Little do they know that these will amount to nothing if the fertilizer situation isn't rectified soon enough. Though the inflationary policies of the Shaukat Aziz regime led to rampant inflation earlier on, it was in 2007 that the price hikes were unleashed in their full fury. Those continue to this day. This inflation was powered substantially by food inflation. This food inflation was, curiously, not a direct result of the fiscal recklessness and loose monetary policy that were jacking up the prices of everything else. It was a result, rather, of a gross mismanagement of the agricultural goods market. Last year, for instance, we had actually produced more wheat than our demand, but due to a mismanagement of exports, we had to import the stuff. In an ironical twist of the fate, the amount we had to import was coincidentally the same as the excess wheat we had that year. This year, our import of urea and other fertilizers has left much to be desired. Not enough was imported. The MINFAL Minister told reporters at a press conference recently that the required quantum had been procured. That is certainly good news, but it doesn't end here. Steps should be taken to ensure that there is a clean and efficient distribution of the fertilizers to the farmers who need it most. Efforts should be undertaken to ensure that there doesn't emerge a black market for fertilizers. Steps should also be taken to ensure it reaches farmers with smaller plots as well, so that the fruits of a possible bumper crop could be equitably distributed.