Pakistan now moving towards stopping agri imports: Cheema

LAHORE:Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) for Food Security and Research Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said that following the effective measures taken by the present government, Pakistan was now moving towards stopping the import of agricultural commodities.

In a meeting with office-bearers and members of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) here at FPCCI Regional Office, he said that food demand increased with growth in population, and “We have streamlined the wheat procurement and ensured proper returns to farmers for their hard work by increasing the wheat price to Rs 1800 per 40kg from Rs 1400, besides giving subsidy on wheat flour to the end consumer. The government will continue to facilitate the common man”.

Cheema mentioned that in Pakistan, wheat flour consumption was 108 kg per person per year. He explained that though wheat production was 1.5 million tonnes in surplus this year, three million tonnes was being imported so as to meet the 120-day strategic reserves. A food dashboard was also being developed to monitor the food demand and supply as well as storage situation etc. Magistrates were being appointed in every market to control price-hike. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan would holding a farmers’ convention on June 30, in which, farmers would give their input for policy formulation in this regard, because government was committed to maintain a balance in agri produces’ prices for farmers, industry and the end consumers.

The SAPM said that currently, six crops including cotton, soybeans and wheat were costly in the world, and as per international organizations’ reports, Pakistan’s produces were inexpensive when compared with global prices. In Pakistan, there would be no shortage of agricultural raw materials for next seven years, he assured. “We are going for profitable agricultural commodities. We are building warehouses in the villages and giving interest-free loans for cold and other storage systems in rural areas,” he maintained. He said that palm trees were being planted along coastal line of the sea. “We will meet the needs for palm oil by planting three million palm trees,” he said and added the government was also focused on enhancing olive yield and for this purpose, Rs 8 billion had been allocated for next financial year, which would be distributed among the farmers to produce high-quality olives. Pakistan would soon become the world’s largest country in olive production, he said.

Cheema mentioned that considering the need for livestock, comprehensive measures were also being put in place that would increase maize production to eight million tonnes from the current maize yield of 3.2 million tonnes. He further said that four billion rupees had also been set aside for enhancing the cotton production and its related research initiatives, adding that nine million bales of cotton were expected to be produced this year. Earlier in his welcome address, FPCCI Regional Chairman Chaudhry Muhammad Saleem Bhullar said that cotton support price should be fixed at Rs 5,000 per 40 kg and farmers should also be given soft loans. Country’s growing population was also increasing the food needs day by day. Despite being an agricultural country, he said, Pakistan often faces agrarian shortages. To increase agricultural production, he called for encourage institutions like National Agricultural Research Center (NARC).