ISLAMABAD - Economists and agricultural experts on Tuesday, in a panel discussion, said that the market forces should be allowed to work more freely in the determination of agricultural prices instead of the Governments intervention in this matter. Food Security Centre, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics launched its research activities through panel discussion on the topic, Should Government be in the Business of Fixing Agricultural Prices, If Yes Then How? The experts included eminent national and international researchers and practitioners participated in the discussion. Dr Rashid Amjad (VC, PIDE); Dr ME Tusneem (member of Food and Agriculture, Planning Commission), Wolfgang Herbinger (Country Director, World Food Program); Dr Abdul Salam, Dr Mubarik Ali (Chief Executive, Punjab Agriculture Research Board), Mr Sakib Sherani (Advisor, Ministry of Finance) and Dr Munir Ahmad (Director, Food Security Centre, PIDE) were among them. Wolfgang Herbinger, Country Director, World Food Program, said that due to higher support price of wheat, Pakistan had bumper crop in last year as well as it was expected in the current year. Due to higher price of wheat, inflation has increased in the country, he added. Dr Mubarik Ali, Chief Executive, Punjab Agriculture Research Board, in his presentations, said that the Governments goal in price intervention was meant to protect small farmer from low prices at harvest time and from high input prices and to make food supply in the country. He further said there is a problem of storage capacity in the country. He was of the view that in period from 1961-71 and 2003-07 the Governments intervention in wheat prices was less while in 1972-02 and 2008-10, the Governments intervention was high. The other experts were of the view that the market forces should be allowed to work more freely in the determination of agricultural prices but with much effective regulatory rules to discourage exploitation of consumers through cartelisation. However, wheat being an important food crop, its price cannot be left on the market forces alone due to food security reasons. They were of the opinion that the responsibility of ensuring food security rested with the Government. Particularly in case of fixing wheat price, the Governments intervention should be limited to a minimal level to stabilise its price within the band of import and export parity prices. For this purpose, an optimal size of strategic reserves should be properly stored at convenient locations. The half-hearted and inadequately funded wheat procurement efforts activities on the part of Government will be disastrous. The present higher wheat prices cannot be de-linked from international prices for a longer time without involving huge financial and efficiency costs. Further, while fixing the wheat price, the prices of competing crops should be given due attention. Moreover, the efforts should be made towards the development of more output increasing, input conserving and quality/nutrition enhancing technologies and practices. The distinguished panellists were of the view that in general, the policy of subsidisation should be phased out in the log run. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Rashid Amjad, VC, PIDE/Chief Economist Planning Commission, pointed out that the leading role was being attached to the agriculture sector in the 10th Five-Year Plan.