Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharifs statement that the interests of small farmers are very much dear to him must be appreciated, though he needs to be reminded that a contrary impression emerged from the manner in which the policy of wheat procurement was implemented. It gave the grower a raw deal; the middleman took him for a ride. While we may not doubt his good intentions, also expressed in his speeches and his wish that the wheat procurement drive should have been executed in a better style, in the face of refusal by the government to pick up wheat stocks during the initial phase of the harvest, the hard-pressed farmers felt betrayed. Since they needed funds they had to sell their crops at a price far lower than the government support price and incurred heavy losses. A large section of the agriculturalists thus was not able to draw the benefit. It bears pointing out that the support price was raised last year to encourage landholders to grow more wheat, but it is a pity that the opportunity seems to have been lost in the sense that in the future the farmer would think twice before sowing wheat. Our administrative machinery like the food ministry cannot escape the blame of leaving the grower in the lurch. Consider the long tortuous process the farmers have to go through to get the gunny bags. Indeed, this season was no different than the previous ones. It is as if it is a virtual free for all. Though our farmers normally produce enough wheat not just to fulfil the domestic need but also to provide it to the international market, the viscous circle comprising hoarders, unscrupulous elements in the government and smugglers quickly moves in for the kill. In this point in time, wheat is reportedly being smuggled into Afghanistan to the detriment of the local market needs. Little wonder, it makes no difference whether we have a bumper crop. Mian Shahbaz needs to follow up his pledges of support with definite moves.