MULTAN - Former National Assembly speaker Syed Fakhar Imam has said that the paddy growers are faced with a very difficult situation because of about 50 percent decline in crop prices, asking the government to take immediate action to bail out the poor farmers.

Talking to The Nation here on Saturday, he pointed out that the paddy was being sold at Rs1200-1300 per 40 kg in the market compared to last year’s price Rs2,200 to 2,600. “There is a very powerful lobby that is not buying the paddy crop at this time of the harvest,” he added. He said that the growers lacked storage facility and the mafia exploited this shortcoming of the farmers. He said that the poor paddy growers had no other option but to sell their produce at a very low price to the mill owners or middlemen.

“The government needs to assist the paddy growers through making cash payments to them directly on an acreage basis. This subsidy needs to be made immediately to offset the heavy losses that the rice growers are undergoing,” he asserted. He warned that the country could face a serious wheat crisis if the government failed to assist the rice growers. “The wheat crop will be sown immediately after harvesting of rice but the growers do not have money in their pockets to carry out wheat sowing because of prevailing price crisis,” he explained. He said that the country would fail to meet the wheat crop target for 2014-15 and pose a serious food security threat to the country.

Arms smuggling bid thwarted: The district police caught an arms smuggler and recovered from his possession a big cache of automatic rifles and bullets during snap checking at Chowk Nag Shah on Saturday.

The accused was identified as Zahid Hussain alias Molvi, an MSc in Chemistry and police recovered seven rifles including one Kalashnikov, one M4 rifle, two 44 bore rifles and three MP5 rifles, three 30 bore pistols, one 9mm pistol and 3790 bullets.

Police sources said that the accused opened fire on police when he was stopped at a picket and tried to flee. However, he was caught and when his car was searched, police found big cache of arms hid in CNG cylinder, under back bumper and in hidden chambers especially made in the car. Police claimed that the accused operated between tribal area and South Punjab and sold the arms to outlaws after bringing them from tribal areas.

Meanwhile, Qutabpur police registered a case (788/14) against the accused under sections 324/353/186 and 7ATA. The department announced commendation certificates and cash prizes for the police party.