Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed concern on Tuesday over the lack of comprehensive planning during the last four years regarding maintaining wheat reserves in the country, and regretted that Pakistan being an agricultural country was on the brink of a food crisis.
Chairing a review on the wheat stocks, the prime minister emphasised the need for ensuring buffer stock of wheat along with its release until the next harvest. He also sought an urgent report after determining the quantum of the buffer stock.
“Pakistan being an agricultural country is on the brink of a food crisis due to the lack of planning by the previous government,” he said. “Injustice has been done to the 220 million people by not making comprehensive plans for meeting the demand and supply of wheat,” he added.
“Buffer stock should be ensured along with the release of wheat until the next harvest,” the prime minister directed. He also directed that international consultants’ help should be sought to ensure quality and quantity in the import of wheat.
The meeting was informed that the wheat production in the country was estimated at 26.389 million metric tons (MT), while the reserves of last year stood at 1.806 million MT. It was also informed that the total reserves would be 28.199 million MT against the national demand of 30.79 million MT.
To eliminate the gap between demand and reserves, the government has already decided to import wheat in a timely manner through the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The prime minister emphasised the public money should be saved by importing wheat at lowest possible price.
According to the ECC decision, the meeting was informed, the second tender for 300,000 MT of wheat import saved $34.54 per MT. Shehbaz lauded the efforts of the Commerce and Food Security and other relevant ministries on importing wheat on reduced prices.
The meeting also reviewed progress on the government's agreement with Russia for the import of 2 million MT of wheat, and the progress on the import of wheat through the Gwadar port. The meeting was informed that talks with Russia were in the final stages.
The prime minister issued instructions that measures should be taken soon to ensure the import of wheat through Gwadar port. He issued special instructions that the buffer stock of wheat should be determined and a report be submitted to him soon.