Punjab may fall short of its wheat planting quota this year

According to sources cited by The News, Punjab is likely to fall short of its wheat sowing objective for the 2022-23 season, which could be considered a huge blow to the country’s food security.

Due to the failure of the Sindh government to sow even 75% of the projected 4 million acres due to flood damage, the development of wheat tilling in Pakistan’s key agricultural plains has been sluggish, resulting in a decrease in national grain production.

Amid the wheat planting campaign, the Punjab Agriculture Department concluded that cultivation on the designated land is impossible this year.

According to the Crop Reporting Service of the state Agriculture Department, Punjab may fall short of the Federal Committee on Agriculture’s (FCA) target of 16.5 million acres this year.

Despite numerous obstacles, we anticipate that wheat cultivation in the province will reach at least 16.2 million acres this year. A government official said that the 16.5 million-acre target for this year is projected to be missed by a narrow margin.

Based on the present rate of wheat planting, he predicted that 74% of the intended area would be cultivated by November 20, 2022, which was previously regarded as the best time to cultivate a healthy harvest. He hastened to add, however, that due to a change in temperature pattern, the best planting period was now projected to extend to November 30.

According to the official, wheat planting has been delayed in the rice zone due to two recent rainstorms and in the mixed crop zone due to unnecessary delays in sugarcane crushing. Considering the planting pattern, it was anticipated that wheat cultivation would be substantially finished by the first week of December.

This year’s wheat sowing campaign has focused mostly on timely sowing, the use of certified seed in larger areas, and the promotion of fertilizer use. Farmers are receiving the subsidy on seed and fertilizer bags.

In response to a question on the lingering sugarcane crushing, the official expressed severe concern that sowing on up to one million acres could be delayed due to the intransigence of sugar barons to press their demands.

Regarding the availability of urea, the Agriculture Department official thought that, due to a scarcity of natural gas, local production of this essential fertilizer could not keep up with demand.

“We anticipate that the approximately 500,000-tonne urea gap might be covered by timely imports,” he added.

Punjab would receive 140,000 tonnes of the already imported 200,000 tonnes of urea. He stated that the remaining 300,000 tonnes would be imported by December this year.

The lower economic value of wheat crops has been one of the primary causes for the relatively small projected wheat planting area. President of Kissan Ittahad, Khalid Khokhar, stated that the rival crops, such as oilseeds, have posed a significant threat to wheat due to their significantly higher returns on the local market.

He added that the government’s emphasis was on increasing the support price, which was a viable alternative to some extent, especially when considering the expected burden of rising food prices on consumers.

In contrast, he noted, the government should take initiatives to lower production costs, which might assist farmers in maintaining a lucrative company.

He also voiced concern that the province’s wheat sowing area may not grow as large as the government desired.