Pakistan, despite being an agricultural country, was unable to meet its target for wheat production for 2019-20. Taking the factors and conditions into consideration that the wheat-growers are facing, the shortfall of wheat is not surprising at all. While the government was not offering competitive support prices to the growers, hoarding, smuggling and climate change were additional factors for our failure to meet our target for the 2019-20 crop that had been set at 25.45 million tonnes.

And all the indications tell us that the wheat production target will not be met in the current fiscal year (FY) either. According to statistics, the monthly demand for wheat is slightly over 2 million tonnes. This is 0.6 million more than the last year’s demand, which was 1.4 million. The growing demand for grain is only natural as our population is continuously growing. To avoid another wheat crisis in the near future, the government needs to shore up supplies for a month.

The crucial players are farmers. And the government should support them. If the growers are incentivised, they will grow more wheat. So far, our policies were mostly facilitating millers, as evident from the recent subsidies of Rs20 billion given to them. The fact that the government is resisting the farmers’ demand to increase the wheat support price and offering assistance to the mill owners shows the misplaced priorities in play.

The government can avoid the shortfall in the production of wheat by taking some small but result-oriented steps. The most important of all measures is incentivising wheat growers. In this regard, accepting the farmers’ demand for increasing the wheat support price is urgently needed. Another incentive that the government must offer to farmers should be subsidised bags of wheat seeds. If the officials curtail smuggling, hoarding and rationalise prices in the local market, hopefully, things will improve going forward.