By Yasir Ameen, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, February 17, 2014
The stagnant production of wheat and its exceeding local demands in food consumption may lead the country to import eatable commodity in huge volumes up to 1 to 1.5 million on annual basis for avoiding the crisis in terms of shortage and price-hike, and concerns on food security become more demanding due to growing population.
The country which exported wheat to different countries for past three years will receive tons of wheat shipment from Russia this year for meeting local consumption. It is because of the fact that wheat production in the country has increased merely by 0.3 percent per annum, whereas annual population growth rate has been 2 percent during the last five years that boosted wheat demand by more than one million ton in three years.
The wheat is the basic commodity contributing more than 50 percent of the daily caloric consumption of the population in Pakistan with an individual consumption stood at 8 kg/month head.
Although Pakistan is amongst the top 10 wheat producers in the world, its average productivity hovers around 2.7 tons per hectare, below the world average, and even lower than yields recorded in many countries.
The Federal Committee on Agriculture has fixed national wheat production target at 25.5 million tons, which is unlikely to meet the target. Out of this, Punjab is supposed to produce 19 million tons, Sindh 3.8 million, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 1.35 million and Balochistan 0.85 million tons.
The production of wheat crop is disturbing as the sustaining current level of production in medium- term would become increasingly difficult due to climate changes and unexpected lower rains.
A Q Durrani, a notable agriculture researcher said the decline in seasonal rains has affected the production of wheat in the country but it could be tapped through irrigation systems in the fields properly by the government.
The water management should be modernized to provide adequate supplies to lands—no more no less—which include proper reservoirs to keep the crop from excessive waters in the case of floods and torrential rains.
The production of wheat crop could be increased through improving the efficiency of soil and land through its soil survey and pH assessment. These measures will help providing insight of lands potential and its requirement of fertilizers to sprout the crops in quantum, he added.
It has been witnessed some progressive farmers have been able to harvest 4-5 tons of wheat from one hectare in irrigated areas through use of technologies. This suggests we can realize substantial production gains through replicating experience of progressive farmers on a much wider scale.
Unfortunately, most of farmers who have small land holdings, cannot afford investment in new technologies and costly inputs surging by 10 to 15 percent from past year.
According to recent Census on Agriculture, more than 85 percent of farmers (which make up more than 40 percent of farm area) have land holding of less than 5 hectare.
Al though Sindh exceeded the sowing target to reach 1058 hectare, Punjab -the largest wheat producer – fell short of target by 2 91 thousand hectare to reach
The area under wheat cultivation has been showing a declining trend in recent years after peaking at 9.1 million hectare in FY10, area under cultivation has fallen to 8.7 million hectare in FY13. The fall was mainly concentrated in Punjab, as Sindh recorded a marginal rise.
A number of wheat growers in Southern Punjab, who had been suffering from heavy rains and floods, preferred growing sugarcane. Similarly, farmers in central Punjab, particularly in Sahiwal and Pakpattan have shifted to potato and maize, which offer higher returns.
Reportedly, some farmers in Punjab opted for third and fourth pickings (of their cotton crop) in anticipation of better prices towards the end of the season.