ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Food Security Fakhar Imam on Friday expressed surprise over sale of wheat and flour at exorbitant rates soon after the harvest season.

The minister’s statement can be viewed as an indication that the price of wheat flour may further increase in the days to come.

Mr Imam wondered that more than six million tonnes of wheat was purchased from farmers after the harvest two months ago, but it had “vanished in the market”.

“Six million tonnes of wheat was purchased but [nobody knows] where it has gone,” the minister said while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly.

He said the country required additional 1.5m tonnes of wheat to cater to the need of people and therefore 0.7m tonnes of wheat was being imported. “We have given permission for import of 0.7 million tonnes of wheat,” he said.

6m tonnes of wheat purchased two months ago has ‘vanished’, NA told

Mr Imam said the growers had sold wheat at the rate of Rs1,400 per 40kg but now the commodity was selling at the rate of Rs1,800 to Rs2,000 per 40kg in the market.

He said the government was committed to constructing more dams to boost agriculture production in the country.

The minister said the country’s canal system had become dilapidated and needed overhauling to ensure agriculture growth.

NA Speaker Asad Qaiser said the ban on inter-provincial movement of wheat was unconstitutional. “If it is necessary, a comprehensive report should be presented before the house,” he added.

“If a sufficient quantity of wheat was available in the country, where did it disappear,” the speaker also expressed displeasure.

MNA Sardar Zulfikhar Ali said agriculture was an important sector and the government should pay special attention to it. “First of all we should improve performance of the related institutions and agriculture universities. Our agriculture departments are not farmer-friendly,” he added.

He said neither the country’s farmers were registered with any department nor there was any chamber for them.

The MNA emphasised the need to give subsidy to the farmers to bring them into the mainstream. “The rate of agricultural products should be frozen for at least one year,” he added.

Ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf member Rana Qasim Noon said the incumbent government had done more than any other government for betterment of farmers.

He urged the government to “save farmers from the tyranny of sugar mill owners” and announce at least Rs50 billion relief package for the growers.

“If the government does something for the farmers, it will be remembered for ever like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque.

Fakhar Imam said the suggestions presented in the house were commendable and would be given due consideration as Prime Minister Imran Khan always talked about welfare of the farmers.

Terming the launch of work on Diamar Bhasha Dam a “big achievement” of the government, he said shortage of water storage facilities was one of the biggest problems confronting the country. “Our waters come from mountains and spill into the sea,” he added.

He said Rs277 billion was allocated for agriculture sector in the last fiscal year and most of it was earmarked for water storage.

Mr Imam said the government had devised a short term policy for agriculture sector under which top quality seed would be provided to the farmers. “Wheat, cotton, rice and sugarcane are our important crops. We will ask the provinces to enhance the yield of cotton,” he added.

He expressed dissatisfaction over closure of the Punjab Seed Corporation and said none of the government had given importance to improving the quality of crops. The Punjab Seed Corporation was providing 30 per cent seed to the country, he added.

The food security minister said there was a law on the quality of crops but no one paid any heed to it and if a farmer produced a good quality crop he was not given due price.

He said the country’s agriculture research institutions were not giving desires results because they did not receive required funds. “Our leading research institutions – the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council and the National Agriculture Research Council – are not giving required results. Now the government has desired to revive seed producing institutes,” he added.

“We have 2.3 million hectors of land for cultivation and most of it falls in Punjab,” he said.

Mr Imam deplored that investors did not give due price of crops to the farmers. “Investors in agriculture sector have earned Rs33bn to Rs63bn during last 10 years,” he added.