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EditorialFood for thought in wheat crisis

Food for thought in wheat crisis

The Punjab chief minister has reprimanded the prime minister for “misquoting” him and giving the idea that he had requested that wheat imports be made available to the private sector. His basic demand is that Punjab be let to import wheat, whereas “the federal government is impeding the delivery of wheat and flour to the common man”. In a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Punjab’s chief minister pleaded with him to intervene and support the province’s request for 1.0 million metric tonnes of wheat, warning that “the province’s 2.85MMT wheat inventories may deplete by the end of February next.”

So, wheat is the problem of the day!

Pakistan is known as an agricultural country, but due to the misguided policies of successive governments, we now have to import even basic necessities such as wheat. The situation is currently deteriorating due to a political squabble between the federation and two provinces, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Both provinces are complaining about a wheat shortage, but federal government figures tell a different story. According to current data, there are enough wheat reserves to last until the next harvest, according to Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. These figures can be verified through the relevant forums and such forums do exist under the inter-provincial coordination guidelines. Both Punjab and the centre need to sit together and discuss the problems so that artificial scarcity of staple food is not allowed. The prime minister’s position is that his government will not allow any province to spend the country’s valuable foreign exchange on purchasing expensive wheat from the international market. His stance cannot be challenged as the country faces hard choices on the front of foreign reservoirs but this is also the federal government’s responsibility that all provinces get a sufficient supply of wheat to address their needs. The current stocks, however, give a sorry state. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif urged the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to join the federal government’s programme of high-quality seed distribution and not make it a political issue, stating that Pakistan is the common ground for all of us, with personal and political likes, dislikes, and interests.

While the federal government should make efforts to aid flood victims, it should never let the private sector import wheat and should not tolerate anyone making unauthorised profits at the expense of the populace during this trying time. Political point-scoring should not be applied to this issue because it is so important. The federal government should engage with the provinces and make a decision that is accepted by all parties in this regard. Political differences should be set aside on this occasion as we focus on the welfare of the populace, national stability, and the long-term impact on the economy of the country. This issue relates to the fundamental needs of the state and the populace.

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