The flash floods earlier this year, followed by persistent standing water due to inadequate drainage, created uncertainty about prospects for the timely planting of the 2023 wheat crop.
Despite these challenges, seeding of the crop progressed well and achieved 92.08% target. However, it has been observed that certain areas of Punjab, KPK and Balochistan are facing wheat shortages mainly due to hoarding, smuggling and profiteering spree. According to Ministry of Food Security & Research, available stocks are at 4.6 million metric tons (MMT), sufficient for the next 4-month needs of the country.
Furthermore, import orders of 2 MMT of wheat are tendered; while, 1.4 MMT have already reached.
The current ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat is due to mistrust between center and provinces, worsened by anomalies in the wheat distribution mechanisms. Otherwise, there is no wheat shortage in the country.
Pakistan’s wheat consumption is estimated to be at 31 MMT against 28.36 MMT of production target. It may create a shortfall of 2-3 MMT which can be met through wheat import.
Price hikes in wheat prices in Balochistan, KP and Punjab are mainly due to speculations, hoarding, smuggling, inter-provincial mistrust, and inefficient distribution systems. These issues can be resolved through effective administrative measures and dialogue between federation & its units.
On the production side, it is estimated that wheat production target of 28.26 MMT will be achieved in coming season.
The federal and provincial governments need to focus on enhancing agricultural productivity by employing latest technologies, research, and training farmers.
There is also need for better coordination for availably and release of wheat not only to control flour prices but also to quash market speculations. In this regard, strategic reserve storage can also be a big help.