A couple of weeks ago, Syed Fakhr Imam, the Minister for National Food Security and Research, told the National Assembly that Pakistan is no longer self-sufficient in wheat. The Parliament has been informed that there has been a decline in the per acre yield.

At the same time, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has allowed the private sector to import wheat. This step has been taken to control the wheat and flour prices in Pakistan.

The question that one could like to pose here is: how did we come to a point where Pakistan has to import wheat?

Wheat and barley used to be the two important cash crops in Pakistan. One can live without barley, but we in Pakistan can’t live without wheat.

And now there is scarcity of wheat in Pakistan. The demand and supply equilibrium has dwindled, and its dynamic nature means it will continue to do so from time to time.

The import of wheat is a worrying sign. The amount imported might suffice for a while, but afterwards what will happen? What about our golden wheat crops?

The growing trade, especially keeping in mind the many benefits of Gwadar Port, and its link to other parts of the world through the Belt and Road Initiative, is favourable owing to many reasons. But instead of this route being used by Pakistan to import its own staple food, it should focus more on exports.

We must keep the future in mind, and bring in mechanisms that encourage our provinces to produce more. Luckily all provinces of Pakistan are agriculturally beneficial. Together, their outputs should merge seamlessly to address the food needs of the country, with the surplus being exported.

Of course, we grow many kinds of crops in Pakistan. Punjab, being the most fertile land, has the lion’s share in cultivation. 76% of wheat is produced in Punjab. The rest is shared between the other three with Sindh growing 16%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 5% and Balochistan 3%.

The sowing time is usually October-December. The harvest is in June-July, overlapping with the monsoon season, which is now upon us.

Late harvest of cotton, rice and sugarcane causes delay in wheat plantation. So if we want to improve our growth rate, we must harvest the previous crops on time.

Indeed, the hoardings are badly affecting the produce. The mismanagement has led to crises as well.

There is so much that needs to be addressed. But if there was ever a sign of a crisis, it is the fact that the production of a country’s staple food is declining.

This needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. There can absolutely not be anything more important than addressing the wheat shortage in Pakistan.