ISLAMABAD - As the government has decided to import 300,000 tonnes of wheat to overcome a current shortage of flour in the country, major stakeholders fear that it would impact negatively on agriculture sectors.

The approved import of wheat by the PTI’s government is expected to reach by the mid of March, at a time when the wheat supply from Sindh will also be ready to meet the crisis-like situation in the country.   The expected bulk of wheat, estimated in millions of tonnes, in the end of March, might cause market crash, background discussions with the agriculture economists and stakeholders left this impression.

Among the major factors which led to wheat flour crisis, the new experience of wheat supply [in tonnes] for the poultry sector instead of using maize has not created much positive impact. The maize in this year reportedly was insufficient due to climate change.

The wheat crisis mainly came into limelight in the country, especially Sindh and KP last month when transporters suddenly went on strike in Sindh protesting against the increase in petroleum prices. Apart from undue decision of exporting wheat, the decision of a ban on the inter-provincial movement of wheat between Punjab and KP is also considering as negative.

Another factor related to ill-planning to meet the requirement of fast increasing population in the country as Pakistan touched over 2 million with an average annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent, but no proper planning is visible to increase the production of wheat.

It is believed that the wheat production estimated as over 2.7million tons was sufficient but the decision of export was not favourable. Pakistan is also anticipated to miss the wheat production target of 25.6 million tons in case of expected heavy rains.

Though Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed to restore smooth supply of wheat flour to the markets all across the country, some stakeholders still believed that there was no such shortage in the country.

“There is no shortage of wheat in the country. The import of wheat may create another trouble,” said President Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (Punjab), mentioning that mafia involved in hoarding and smuggling need to be checked. The cost of production has increased manifold, which led to create issues. The Urea rate has jumped from 1,300 to 2,040, DAP from 2,300 to 3,800 and increase in the rate electricity charges, he said sharing factors behind the wheat crisis.

About the decision of importing wheat, he said a large amount of wheat in millions of tonnes could not be handled easily by the government.

President, small famer association, Zia ul Haq said that there was need to rely on available stock of wheat in the country. “Small farmers will be badly affected from the decision of importing wheat,” he said. In past, though Pakistan had faced such kind of crisis to meet its domestic requirements. In March 2007, the then government had also decided to allow export of 1.5 million tons of wheat at $225-232 per ton. Whereas, the country started facing shortages of wheat soon and it had to import one million tons of wheat in December 2007.

According to the figures, the food department of Punjab had 4.26 million tons of wheat in its reservoirs in the start of last year.  The government had reportedly decided to export half a million tons of grains to offload the stocks.