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Analysis of Wheat Crisis in Pakistan: Factors and Strategies for Sustainability

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The recent wheat crisis in Pakistan can be attributed to two primary factors. Firstly, the Punjab government abruptly withdrew from the market, leaving room for the private sector to exploit the situation. Secondly, import permissions were extended until March and April, coinciding with the domestic wheat harvest period.

The Punjab government’s sudden departure from the wheat market, though theoretically sound, was marred by poor execution. Advocates of a free market have long proposed a gradual withdrawal from wheat procurement over 3 to 5 years, with a focus on small-scale growers to address inefficiencies within the wheat administration. However, last year, the procedural burden reached a staggering 199.75 billion PKR, excluding warehouse rental costs, and failed to significantly increase productivity or stabilize prices. This policy also led to a substantial debt, with the Punjab government alone accumulating 680 billion PKR.

The Punjab government’s withdrawal from the procurement process has thrust farmers into a dire crisis, potentially leading to reduced cultivation, decreased production, and heightened reliance on imports. To address this, it is imperative to reinvest saved costs into enhancing wheat productivity, lowering production costs, improving interprovincial trade, promoting precision agriculture, addressing machinery inefficiencies, and capitalizing on changing rainfall patterns.

Furthermore, the wheat crisis has underscored the urgent need for consistent and reliable criteria to determine annual wheat requirements. Inconsistent import decisions based on outdated parameters have led to significant disparities, indicating the need for a coherent estimation system to forecast demand accurately.

Addressing these issues is not just a matter of importance, but a responsibility for ensuring the sustainability of wheat production in Pakistan and preventing future crises. Lastly, it is important that interest of farmers may be protected. Consistent work is essential to tackle the issue once and for all.

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