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Farmers declares to launch nationwide protests from May 10 against wheat crisis

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Farmers in Pakistan are preparing to launch nationwide demonstrations against the ongoing wheat crisis, with thousands expected to participate. The protests are set to begin on May 10, starting from Multan, and come in response to plummeting wheat rates in the market that are much below the support price of Rs3,900 per 40kg. The decision to import wheat despite a local “bumper crop” has been blamed for the crisis. The farmers’ alliance, Kissan Ittehad Pakistan, has blamed the caretaker government for causing a loss of over Rs400 billion to the national exchequer by importing $1bn worth of wheat amidst a forex shortage and has called for action to be taken against those at the helm. 

Despite pledging to protect farmers, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government appears reluctant to thoroughly investigate the wheat import and take action. A cabinet committee has been constituted to ascertain why the last caretaker government imported the commodity despite ample supply in the country, but it remains to be seen whether this will result in meaningful action. 

Khalid Khokhar, the President of Kissan Ittehad, said that the protests against the crisis would be relaunched countrywide. “Not for ourselves, but to save the country,” he said. He blamed the “mafia” for making Rs100bn off the wheat import, while farmers lost approximately Rs400bn because they had to sell their wheat at lower rates. “The government lost another Rs150bn due to interest on the surplus wheat they did not sell,” Khokhar added. 

Khokhar warned that when farmers are suffering financially, it affects other crops, such as rice and cotton. “If farmers have no money, how will they invest in other crops?” he said. He also criticised the lack of government regulation in the market, citing urea as an example, with five different rates for the commodity. 

The Kissan Ittehad has vowed to lead nationwide protests against the government’s wheat policy, beginning in Multan on May 10. “There will be thousands of farmers, along with their livestock and families,” Khokhar said. “Our only goal is to extend relief. Without agriculture, we are nothing.”

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