LAHORE - The Punjab province, mainstay of the country's agriculture, is likely to suffer about 20 to 30 per cent shortfall in wheat production as the worst urea fertilizer shortage is badly affecting the crop, standing at the initial stage. The dream of 20 million tons of wheat production target seems improbable this year as the farmers are running from pillar to post to get urea (fertilizer), the most important nitrate for the wheat crop, prescribed by the agriculturists as a must for the wheat plant. The agriculturists say that non-availability of the fertilizer would cut down about 20 to 30 per cent wheat production. "The lack of urea (fertilizer) can reduce 20 to 30 per cent per acre wheat production as the wheat plant needs proper nutrition which is only possible through fertilizers input," Ramzan Rafiq, an agriculturist from Agriculture University Faisalabad said, when contacted. The government has fixed Rs 635 per bag as the price of the urea fertilizer but unfortunately the product is not available anywhere in the province at this rate. The Chairman Agri Forum Pakistan Ibrahim Mughal said 20 to 25 per cent shortfall in wheat production is most likely in the wake of the worst shortage of urea and its black marketing. Today, urea fertilizer bag is not available even at Rs 1100 in the province against its fixed price of Rs 635, he said, adding, we have unrealistically enhanced the wheat cultivation area to a considerable extent but the non-availability of fertilizer is badly affecting the crop. "This (urea shortage) is only because of the management problem by the baboos. This is a planning problem created by non-professionalism," he added. He said at present the country is facing shortage of 10 million urea fertilizer bags. "We need 50 million bags of urea for the standing wheat crop but only 40 million bags are available," he maintained. He also suggested the government to immediately import more urea fertilizer to overcome its shortage. The growers should use 25-kg (half bag) urea per acre while the same quantity should be used after 15 days during irrigation instead of using one bag per an acre at one time. The fertilizer dealers across the Punjab are actively busy in black - marketing in a bid to mint money and fleece the innocent growers by creating artificial shortage, Kashif Hussain a grower from Okara District commented. Taking advantage of the situation, the profiteers are selling it at Rs 800 to Rs 900 per bag in the black market, thanks to the good governance of the Punjab govt. "We have been visiting several markets in Vehari, Lodhran, Khanewal and even Multan in search of urea fertilizer for the last five days but to no avail. The non-availability of the fertilizer is hitting the standing wheat crop hard" Zafar Iqbal, a grower from Mailsi said, when contacted. Farooq Ahmed of Kisan Board, Pakistan said the poor growers are unable to buy the urea fertilizer at Rs 1100 per bag. He further stated that a great number of growers are not using urea fertilizer due to its high prices and black - marketing, which would reduce the overall wheat production to 30pc across the Punjab. It is important to mention here that the Federal Minister for Agriculture Nazar Mohammad the other day, said that availability of the fertilizer is the responsibility of the federal government but to ensure its selling at fixed rate is the liability of the provincial government. The Minister was replying to the farmers' complaints that black-marketing of urea is going on unchecked in southern Punjab. The urea scarcity is badly affecting the wheat crop all over the Punjab province, particularly in the districts of Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Vehari, Rajanpur, Sahiwal, Okara, Pakpattan and Faisalabad. It is worth mentioning that last year the Punjab province suffered one of the biggest wheat production shortfall, leaving no other option for the government but to import wheat to meet the flour shortage in the country. The government had to increase the wheat procurement price from Rs 625 to Rs 950 per 40-kg in order to encourage the farmers community to grow wheat to get the right price of their produce. But at present, it seems very difficult that the Punjab government would be able to achieve 20 million tons of wheat production target in the context of the worst urea fertilizer shortage.