AS the harvest season nears its completion, the scourge of wheat smuggling into Afghanistan has reared its ugly head through the mutual connivance of the middleman and unscrupulous officials. The middlemen are picking up the crop from the farmers at a price far below the official support price and then smuggling it across the border at a higher price. Reportedly, the notorious truck mafia is also in cahoots with the middleman and is transporting the stocks greasing the palm of border officials. It is a vicious circle that would not just snatch the bread out of the farmers mouth, but would have serious repercussions for the countrys food security. One cannot help but hold the government responsible for turning a blind eye to this sinister network crippling the mainstay of our economy. The Punjab Food Department, as is its wont, is in a state of denial and has stated that the activity is not being done in the province. This is absurd because Sindh and Punjab are the biggest producers of wheat and it is common knowledge that the middlemen target these regions on a priority basis. The government must immediately launch a crackdown on the illegal smuggling trade and nail those involved in this shameful act. Already enough harm has been done to agriculture owing to a faulty procurement drive. Not many have been able to sell their crops at the support price, courtesy the free rein given to the middleman by the corrupt authorities. The heavy losses incurred by the farmers would naturally incline them not to rely on the wheat crop next season. In that case, we would have to import it but at a much higher price, putting a huge burden on the national exchequer. The government must put its act together and adopt a policy that is farmer friendly. They are producing staple food, for which they must be rewarded and not punished. The role played by the middleman must be curtailed and a crackdown launched on smuggling.