ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan, Asias third largest wheat producer, will miss its output target by at least one million tonnes after several weeks of scant rains, officials said on Friday, but will not have to resort to imports. Dry weather has damaged a crop sown late last year, said Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of a prominent farmers association. Dry weather has badly hit the rain-fed areas and we will lose at least one million tonnes of wheat output this year, Mughal told Reuters. Pakistan had hoped to exceed last years bumper 24 million tonne wheat crop. The dry spell has even affected the first watering of the crop in the irrigated land, Mughal said, adding that he did not expect the situation to lead to imports. A ban on wheat exports, imposed in 2007 because of shortages and high prices, remains in place. Wheat is a staple food in Pakistan and about 22 million tonnes are consumed a year. Any shortages or steep spike in prices often inflames public anger towards the government. Arif Mehmood, a chief meteorologist at the government weather bureau, said no rain had fallen across most of the country in December and January because of the El Nino weather phenomenon, and reservoirs are low. But a weather system could bring rain on or soon after Jan. 22, he said. If we get some rainfall in this system then okay, otherwise we are definitely approaching a meteorological drought, Mehmood told Reuters. Pakistan relies on rain in catchment areas as well as snow across northern mountains to replenish its rivers during warmer months. But very little snow had fallen this winter, Mehmood said. The situation is not good, he said. We need moderate to heavy spells of rain and snow in different parts of the country for a week. FOOD MINISTRY CONFIRMATION Food Ministry spokesman Qadir Bukhsh Baluch said there had been a more than 50 percent loss of wheat output in the barani or rain-fed lands that contribute about 2 million tonnes to total output. In 2008, Pakistan produced about 21 million tonnes of wheat after the area planted fell short of target, and the government had to import to cover the shortfall amid rising prices and a public outcry. The new government increased the amount it pays farmers to encourage them to grow more and wheat production rose to 24 million tonnes last year. With output about two million tonnes more than annual consumption, the government last year removed a 35 percent tax on the export of wheat products like milled flour, with the aim of exporting about 200,000 tonnes. No official figure is available for how much or what kind of products were exported.