The federal government has started the process of importing another 500,000 metric tonnes of wheat in the wake of its shortage following the recent devastating floods in several parts of the country.
The Trading Corporation of Pakistan has already issued a tender for the import of wheat.
Sealed bids have been invited from international suppliers of wheat till November 28.
The sealed bids would be opened the same day.
Bids have been invited for the import of wheat from December 16, 2022 to February 8, 2023. It has also been decided not to accept bids of less than 100,000 metric tonnes.
In September, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Pakistan might have to import about a million tons of wheat because of the destruction of farmland following the floods.
“It can come from Russia, but the country is open to other offers,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with a foreign news agency.
“The country also needs fertiliser because factories involved in their production are closed,” he added.
Flooding likely worsened by climate change has submerged one-third of Pakistan’s territory and left 33 million of its people scrambling to survive, according to the prime minister.
Even before the floods began in mid-June, Pakistan was facing serious challenges from grain shortages and skyrocketing crude oil prices sparked mainly by Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and the war that followed.
One dimension of grain purchases taps into one of Pakistan’s most existential issues — its relationship with neighbouring India.
When asked about the possibility of buying grain from India if needed, the prime minister said the notion was impeded by “a legal bottleneck” — Kashmir.
“India is a neighbour, and Pakistan would very much like to live like a peaceful neighbour with India,” the prime minister said.
“But that has certain prerequisites. India has to understand that unless and until the burning issue of Kashmir is resolved through peaceful talks … like peaceful neighbours, with the sincerity of purpose, we will not be able to live in peace,” he added.
In the same month, the federal government had decided to supply 1.5 million tonnes of wheat to the provinces to overcome the shortage amid devastating floods.
It approved the provision of wheat to Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The wheat crisis had already started in the country during the tenure of the PTI government when middlemen and hoarders stocked it up to inflate prices.
Widespread smuggling to Afghanistan was another reason leading to the disappearance of wheat flour from the market.
Keeping in view the situation faced in the past, the government has been working on building strategic reserves to address any shortage of wheat in the country.
Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) Managing Director Saeed Ahmad Nawaz said the rains and floods had damaged the wheat stock at the government warehouse.
“However, wheat fit for human consumption has been successfully separated from the damaged stock and is now being supplied,” he added.
“Due to the current situation, food security may remain a matter of concern in the coming months. The high prices of urea, electricity and other inputs have discouraged farmers to sow wheat,” he explained.