LAHORE (Staff Reporter): Punjab Government in collaboration with FAO United Nations and World Bank jointly organised a “Punjab Wheat Sector Stakeholder’s Conference” under “Strengthening Markets for Agriculture and Rural Transformation (SMART) program at P&D Complex. In the conference, Punjab Food Department, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and World Bank brought together stakeholders from the wheat sector to discuss how the sector could best move forward to serve the interests of all stakeholders. Addressing the conference, Punjab Chairman P&D Habib-ur-Rehman Gilani, in his opening remarks, stated the importance of Wheat Sector to the Punjab’s economy is well known. He also stressed that Agriculture can be an engine for future growth by shifting towards high value added commodities, boosting export revenue and creating jobs, raising productivity & future-proofing the sector in terms of water availability and climate change.

He also said that Modernising the wheat sector is a key part of the SMART Punjab Programme launched earlier this year. SMART is a coherent package of policy change, institutional strengthening and reorientation of public investments in agriculture over the next five years that is designed to increase farm productivity, incomes and value addition, improve climate resilience and foster agribusiness development. SMART Punjab is supported by a US$300 million Program-for-Results loan from the World Bank, he added.

Addressing the conference, Provincial Secretary Food Shoukat Ali said that Punjab Food Department is committed to assist food security in the province and maintain a fit for purpose wheat reserve. He highlighted that ensuring that both these goals are met, we have to also make sure our policies are sustainable.

Secretary Food underlined that the Punjab Food Department must look at options to modernise the wheat sector including a revision of existing policies that were designed more than half a century ago. He stated that “The discussions with stakeholders are an important input towards getting this right, coupled with support from FAO and the World Bank, we are preparing a note in the next month on how we can gradually reduce wheat reserves to sustainable levels whilst fulfilling our core objectives”.