LAHORE - The floods of last years, despite wreaking havoc, had left the agriculture lands more fertile and the farmers hopeful of yielding bumper wheat crop this year. But experts seem to be wary of the recent wet spell in southern Punjab which they believe could hamper the standing wheat crop. Before recent rains, it was being expected that Pakistan could harvest over 24 million tonnes of wheat crop.
Speaking to Pakistan Today on Monday, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan Ibrahim Mughal said that it was the first instance in recent decades that southern Punjab received heavy rains during April. He estimated that owing to heavy showers, around one million acres of wheat farms were experiencing heavy water logging causing delay in harvesting. Mughal said that farmers there would have to bear losses around Rs 10 billion, as rains had also affected the cotton and gram crops.
He said that the wheat harvest in Sindh normally begins in the first week of March and during second week of April in Punjab, but owing to showers Punjab is facing problem. Another agriculture expert Hamid Malhi said that he feared that in the wake of more rains country could face major crop loss. The agriculture experts also pointed out that the recent rains would leave negative impact on wheat procurement drive as wet wheat would be perishable. Punjab Food Department has vowed to start the procurement campaign from April 20.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, a Food Department official said that the provincial government had made all arrangements to ensure transparency during the procurement season. "Farmers would be provided complete protection against exploitation at the hands of middlemen and buying at the official rate of Rs 950 per maund (40 kilogrammes) would be ensured", he added. Official figures indicate that wheat crop was sown over 6.68 million hectares of land in Punjab and 1.08 million hectares of land in Sindh, while 0.73 million hectares of land was under wheat crop in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and 0.32 million hectares in Balochistan.