The last Sunday was Word Food Day, a day which must have been celebrated in Pakistan to discuss the policy decisions taken in the past which have gradually destroyed the agricultural economy. Pakistan, being an agricultural country, used to have beautiful wheat fields that promised prosperity and food security for the nation. For years, the nation has been facing yearly shortages of primary food, and the trends suggest nothing will change for the upcoming wheat harvest. Due to a number of factors, the prediction looks rather gloomy. With time, farmers are becoming less interested in the crop on which the country’s food security depends because of the rise in input costs over the last year, brought on by the quick depreciation of the currency and the rise in energy prices. The cost of producing wheat might climb by 40%. Consider the facts: In the 2021 wheat sowing, a DAP fertilizer bag was sold at Rs8,000 which went up to Rs10,000 when the cotton sowing season was around, and now in the 2022 wheat sowing, the bag is being sold at Rs14,000. The Shehbaz Sharif government imposed a tax on fertilizer bags, which increased their prices. The saga of the DAP price just tells a portion of the tale. Growers are facing a similar price hike, forcing them to explore other crops with shorter harvest cycles, but delivering greater returns due to the uncertainty brought on by the delay in the wheat procurement price announcement. This is taking place while a sizable portion of Sindh and south Punjab is being badly damaged by destructive floods, and the land is still unsuitable for sowing. Additionally, a lot of seed was washed away by floods. Given that the demand is expected to remain strong, the supplier may have to make quality compromises, which might result in the widespread sowing of inferior seed.
While floods have caused the wheat crop to lose about 10% of its acreage, surprisingly, the federal government has set an absurdly high output goal of 28.4 million tonnes from an area of 9.3 million hectares while ignoring the actual situation. On the other hand, Punjab, the backbone of the wheat sector, is seeking permission to import wheat. The government must take quick decisions on wheat and sugarcane prices and shouldn’t come up with excuses to put off the long-overdue reform of our own agriculture industry and unwise, shortsighted policies.