Middlemen and dealers have started fleecing the wheat growers by purchasing wheat at the price of Rs1,000 against the support price of Rs1300 fixed by the government due to delay in official wheat procurement.

They are already facing financial crisis due to delay in the start of wheat procurement by the Food Department in Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad and Gujranwala districts.

The official wheat procurement has not yet been started due to which the wheat growers were again at the mercy of the middlemen and dealers and are forced to sell their wheat on very low price of Rs1,000 per mound (40kg). However, the government had announced to purchase good quality wheat at the rate of Rs1,300 per mound (40kg).

The wheat harvesting and thrashing was on its peak in these districts and the growers were unable to store their harvested wheat due to bad weather. Thus, they were moving to the middlemen and dealers in the open markets for selling wheat in a bid to avert the financial losses.

The government had announced to start issuance of gunny bags from April 15 but the issuance of the gunny bags and plastic bags has not yet been started due to some unknown reasons. The government had also announced start of official wheat procurement from April 20 while the process has not been started.

The Food Department had established 43 official wheat procurement centres in Gujranwala Division, with fixed official target of 4,320,000 bags procurement for this region.

When contacted, the Food Department officials said that regular wheat harvesting has not yet been started due to the bad weather in this region. He said that the gunny bags would be issued after the regular wheat harvesting.

Kissan Board Gujranwala Division President Amanullah Chatta expressed grave concern over the delay in issuance of the gunny bags and start of procurement. He said that due to inordinate delay in start of official wheat procurement till now, the rate of the wheat yield has dropped to Rs1,100 per mound (40kg) in the open markets.

He urged the government to ensure early start of the official wheat procurement in the larger interest of the wheat growers in a bid to save them the financial crisis.

District Coordination Officer Asif Tufail has said that the official wheat procurement will be started from April 25 as the department has completed all the necessary arrangements at all the nine official wheat procurement centres established in Sialkot district.

He added that the government would purchase as many as 82,000 metric tonnes of wheat directly from wheat growers in Sialkot district. He said that the process of the official wheat procurement has been computerised.

Meanwhile, Provincial Minister for Food Punjab Bilal Yaseen said that the government would purchase every seed of wheat from the growers.

He stated this while addressing a meeting of DCOs and district food controllers. He said that government would purchase 4 million metric tonnes of wheat worth Rs130 billion in Punjab, for which the provincial government has established 378 procurement centers in Punjab.

He ordered the tough monitoring of all the processes of the procurement at the district level under the supervision of the DCOs. He said that the official wheat procurement now will begin in Punjab from April 25. He said that the government is encouraging the growers at every level, adding that the department will issue gunny bags in the first five days of the procurement.

He narrated that the Punjab government has fixed Rs1,300 support prices for one mound wheat and will pay Rs 9 per mound as delivery charges to the growers. He said that the Punjab government has established the online complaint cells at centres across Punjab to ensure early redressal of complaints.