Transparency in wheat procurement sought

In Business
April 09, 2024



KARACHI:

Progressive farmers and business leaders advocate for digitising data of all wheat warehouses in Sindh, a move they believe will benefit consumers and farmers throughout the year. This would also ensure availability of accurate and comprehensive data on all wheat transactions conducted by both the government and private sectors, easily accessible through a designated website, they told The Express Tribune.

Additionally, they noted that approximately 200 wheat procurement centres have been established in Sindh. However, digitising data of these centres will ensure transparency and eliminate corruption and cuts/kickbacks. It would also keep consumers, traders, farmers and government officials updated on related information. Currently, wheat is being sold at between Rs3,400-Rs3,500 per maund/40kg in the local market due to good crop availability. However, the government has fixed a rate of Rs4,000 per maund/40kg, resulting in losses for farmers.

“The Sindh government has 400,000 tonnes of wheat worth around Rs20 to Rs22 billion in warehouses right now and will purchase 900,000 tonnes of wheat through wheat procurement centres from across Sindh during this season. Public and private warehouses of Sindh have a capacity of 1.3 million tonnes of wheat,” said Leading Progressive Farmers and Agriculture Expert Nabi Bux Sathio.

Sathio explained that Sindh expects to get over 5 million tonnes of better wheat yield, while the country will notch around 32 million tonnes of a high wheat yield because of suitable weather conditions following adequate water supply. Moreover, despite setting an initial target of 29 million tonnes of wheat this season, conducive environment and other factors help raise a higher crop yield.

Read Indecision over wheat procurement denied

Highlighting the abundant wheat crop, he noted that the federal government has allowed it to export wheat. However, the expert voiced fear that by the end of October and November this year, wheat shortage could be expected. In a statement, Hyderabad Chamber of Small Traders and Small Industry (HCSTSI) President, Muhammad Farooq Shaikhani, said the official rate for a 100kg sack of wheat has been set at Rs10,000. However, following this decision, the price of wheat in the open market has subsequently decreased, resulting in direct financial setbacks for farmers.

Shaikhani underscored that the systemic mismanagement results in the annual burden of wheat shortages and fluctuating flour prices, which ultimately impacts both the public and traders.

He asked for digitising the inventory of wheat across all warehouses in Sindh, stressing the need to ensure availability of accurate and comprehensive data on all wheat transactions conducted by both the government and private sectors. Moreover, he noted the importance of daily updates to the website to facilitate proactive measures in averting potential food crises.

The HCSTSI president said that collaboration with the private sector diminishes reliance on government entities, ultimately mitigating risks associated with supply chain disruptions and bureaucratic red tape.

Meanwhile, he also stressed the urgency of engaging the private sector in wheat procurement, aligning with Islamic banking principles. Such involvement promises enhanced efficiency in the procurement process, as private enterprises typically boast streamlined operations driven by profit incentives.

He highlighted that incorporating the private sector would foster improved market integration, aligning wheat procurement with demand and supply dynamics for timely distribution and response to market fluctuations. Further, it will incentivise investment in wheat procurement and storage infrastructure and technology, facilitating modernisation of storage facilities, transportation networks, and adoption of contemporary agricultural practices, thereby benefiting the entire wheat supply chain.

Lastly, he emphasised that engaging the private sector would also enhance farmers’ welfare by enabling them to receive competitive rates from private buyers, thereby improving their livelihoods and fostering increased productivity.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2024.

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