SIALKOT
The wheat procurement target fixed by the Punjab government is feared to be missed in Gujranwala Division due to the rising trend of housing colonies on agricultural land and increasing prices of oil, seeds and cost of cultivation.
Housing colonies have reduced the agricultural area thus there would be lesser production of per acre wheat in the region, a hub of wheat. Officials said that the private housing colonies on fertile land had been established to a great extant due to which the under-cultivation area had reduced. They detailed that the cultivators were motivated by the property developers for sale of their fertile land on the lucrative packages. The property developers offer big profits to the land owners for private housing colonies especially in Sialkot, Daska, Uggoki, Sambrial, Pasrur, Satrah, Shakargarh, Narowal, Wazirabad, Gakhar Mandi, Gujranwala, Tatley Aali, Eimanabad, Kamonki and Noshera Virkan. Thousands of acres of agricultural lands have been converted into housing colonies and industries.
Meanwhile, the middlemen are very active in the field before the start of the official wheat procurement, as they are motivating the wheat growers to sell their wheat yield in the open markets instead of selling it at the procurement centres, established by the government to purchase wheat yield direct from the wheat growers.
The wheat growers are also giving priority to sell their wheat yield  in the open markets, saying that the supporting wheat prices were much less than the expenditures of the wheat cultivation including high prices of oil and seeds. Last year, the Punjab government had fixed wheat procurement target of 434,000 metric tonnes, out of which 427,233 metric tonne wheat worth Rs12.85 billion was procured in Gujranwala Division.
For this year, the wheat procurement target is likely to be fixed as 444,000 metric tonne for the division and it seemed that this target could not be achieved. When contacted, Gujranwala Division Deputy Director Food Naveed Ashraf said that the Food Department was making arrangements to ensure timely start of wheat procurement at the official centres. He pledged to leave no stone unturned to achieve the target. He also demanded relief for the masses. He urged the all the political and religious parties to unit and shun their political and personal differences to curb anti-Islam conspiracies.