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Situation of Wheat in Pakistan The agriculture growth has experienced mixed trends over the last six years

. The country witnessed unprecedented drought during the first two years of the decade i.e. (2000-01 and 2001-02) which resulted in contraction of agricultural value added. Hence, agriculture registered negative growth in these two years. In the following years (2002-03 to 2004-05), relatively better availability of irrigation water had a positive impact on overall agricultural growth and this sector exhibited modest to strong recovery. The performance of agriculture remained weak during 2005-06 because its crops sector particularly major crops could not perform up to the expectations. Growth in the agriculture sector registered a sharp recovery in 2006-07 and grew by 5.0 percent as against the preceding year’s growth of 1.6 percent. Major crops posted strong recovery from negative 4.1 percent last year to positive 7.6 percent, mainly due to higher production of wheat and sugarcane. Wheat production of 23.5 million tons is highest ever in the country’s history, registered an increase of 10.5 percent over last year. Sugarcane production likewise improved by 22.6 percent over last year to 54.8 million tons, both being record high production. Wheat is the main staple diet of country’s population and largest grain crop of the country. It contributes 14.4 percent to the value added in agriculture and 3.0 percent to GDP. Area and production target of wheat for the year 2006-07 were set at 8459 thousand hectares and 22.5 million tons, respectively. Wheat was cultivated on an area of 8494 thousand hectares, showing 1.0 percent increase over last year and 0.4 percent increase over the target. The size of the wheat crop is, however provisionally estimated at 23.52 million tons – highest wheat production in the country’s history, which is 10.5 percent higher than last year and 4.5 percent higher than the target. Actual production of wheat was recorded as 23.3 million tons during 2006-07. Government of Pakistan allowed export of wheat due to excessive production. However, the government imposed ban on export after wheat floor crisis except for Afghanistan. During 2007, about 500,000 mts of wheat was exported by various agencies including donation to Bangladesh. The food crises, especially of wheat were further aggravated with the looting of government wheat stores and private shops at various locations in Sindh province and blockage of roads and railways, which halted the supply chain within the country. The supply remained suspended by more than a week time, which made the people vulnerable to hunger and compelled them to consume less. Even with the resumption of supply, the prices are quite high as around Rs. 25/per kg, where the poor people cannot afford to buy. In addition, the due the energy crises, most of the factories were closed, which resulted in the unemployment of laborers (both regular and casual labors). According to the Government, the country has a total 1.89 million tones of wheat stock available (14 January 2008), while additional 1.5 million tones are being imported, which will reach Pakistan by end of February 2008. The wheat flour prices are Rs. 25/- per kg in NWFP, Rs. 24/- per kg in Sindh and Balochistan provinces at present (January 14, 2008). The wheat flour average price was Rs. 15/- per kg during January 2007. The price increase over last year is about 66% in the open market. According to the Federal Bureau of Statistics reports, the prices of wheat flour increase by 58.46% since 11 January 2007. The situation may improve if the stock available with the government has been adequately released on regular basis and import of 1.5 million mts received by end of February 2008. However, the smuggling of wheat flour to tribal area and Afghanistan will aggravate the situation, while speculation and uncertainty will play a vital role in keeping the prices high. As a result, the food availability and access to food by poor people will remain a threat to food security.