LAHORE – The participants of a discussion have stressed upon the government to ensure purchase of wheat directly from the growers at a support price and save them from influential middlemen. They also urged the government to make the process of getting gunny bags easy so that the farmers could get proper return of their investment and labour.

They discussion, organized by the Nawa-i-Waqt, TheNation and Waqt News, also believed that the use of DAP and Urea (fertilizers) had decreased by some 20 per cent due to their high prices. “The result will be a less yield this year,” the speakers feared. The topic of the discussion, held at Aiwan-i-Waqt on Tuesday, was “Wheat harvesting and problems of farmers.”

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Food and Environment Mansha Ullah Butt, President PTI Kissan Wing Punjab Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, Director Farmers Association of Pakistan Tariq Bucha, Vice President Kissan Board Sarfraz Khan and Chairman Agri Forum Pakistan Ibrahim Mughal participated in the discussion.

Mansha Ullah Butt claimed that the government has devised grower friendly mechanism for procuring wheat. He said that all arrangements for procuring wheat at 374 centres across the province would be finalized till April 12. He said that besides constituting committees at district level, the government has established a helpline to facilitate farmers. He said that the process of procuring wheat from farmers would start by April 20. He said that the small growers selling 50 bags of wheat would be paid cash from the bank and they would have no need to open account.

Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said that the growers could not get support price last year and the same was expected to happen. He said that considerable increase in the prices of inputs including fertilizers discouraged farmers from growing wheat. He said that good rains have increased per acre yield this year and now the farmers would be at the mercy of PASCO and Food Department.

Tariq Bucha suggested the government to involve grower organizations in the process of wheat procurement to save small farmers from exploitation. Sarfraz Ahmed Khan said that the government would not procure all wheat from the farmers and as such they would be at the mercy of middlemen again. He said that the growers were forced to give bribe to “Patwaris” and influential middlemen managed to get jute bags through back door last year. He urged the government to take measures to save growers from the exploitation of middlemen.

Ibrahim Mughal said that middlemen, flourmills and dealers mafia has made plan to purchase wheat from growers at far less rate than the support price. He said that the mafia would sell wheat to the government at support price with the connivance of corrupt officials. He said that the mafia was expected to earn Rs 10.62 billion. He said that the government should take measures to ensure that this money go to the pocket of growers and not the mafia.