January 2020




Mubarak Zeb Khan Updated January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Unreliable estimation of the size of the wheat crop and delays in taking appropriate decisions are being blamed for a wheat flour crisis that has been in the making for some time, Dawn has learnt from knowledgeable sources.

A crisis had already begun to brew as far back as May last year when the authorities were alerted to the possibility of a wheat shortage, but the government took cosmetic measures like imposing a ban on export of the commodity. Even that decision by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet about the ban came late in the day after the food security ministry had sent several reminders to it.

Background interviews and conversations with officials of the relevant departments have revealed that reporting on crop estimates is often faulty and this has caused crises in the past as well. For instance, in 2007-08 wheat was exported in sizeable quantities at lower prices after it was wrongly estimated that the country would get a bumper crop.

A similar error in estimating the size of the crop was committed in 2014, which led to panic buying and import of wheat in May and August of that year.

Under the existing scheme, crop reporting systems in the provinces inform the federal government about the crop production and estimation data. “No matter how reliable this system is, we have to depend on it,” an official of the food security ministry told Dawn.

According to him, the federal government has no other system to estimate the crop or monitor production. The decision to export wheat also comes from the provincial governments. “We have documentary proof about crop reporting, stocks and export permissions,” he said.

Based on an assumption about surplus wheat in the country, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on April 27, 2018 — that is, before the last general elections — allowed the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (PASSCO) to export 0.5 million tonnes of “surplus wheat” at a rebate of $155 per tonne through the sea route.

Following in Mr Abbasi’s footsteps, the ECC headed by then finance minister and present Planning Minister Asad Umar allowed export of 0.5m tonnes of wheat on Nov 20, 2018, with a subsidy amount of $105 per tonne.

The allocated quotas were 0.1m tonnes for PASSCO and 0.4m tonnes to be shared by Punjab and Sindh. The decision was taken on the request of the two provinces and PASSCO.

When the decision was made, it was reported that the country had a total wheat stock of 10m tonnes.

On the first day of last year, the ECC headed by Mr Umar allowed export of another 0.5m tonnes of wheat. The quotas allocated for export were 0.1m tonnes for PASSCO, 0.25m tonnes for Punjab and 0.15m tonnes for the Sindh government.

As per the ECC decision, the export of wheat and wheat products was to be completed by April 30, 2019, while the entire process, including codal formalities of the exporters, was to be completed by June 30.

On April 17, it was reported that the country had a total of 28.16m tonnes of wheat, including leftovers from the previous year. In May, a completely new scenario was being presented and panic began to set in.

The response from the food security ministry came in the shape of a summary that was sent to the ECC three times in June, calling for a ban on exports. The ban, however, was imposed on July 25, 2019.

Between July 2018 and June 2019, the total quantity of wheat exported was recorded at 689,487 metric tonnes. But the details, according to the ministry official, paint a rather different picture that passes the buck to the previous government.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government allowed the export of 1m tonnes of wheat, but the total amount of the commodity exported came to 163,000 metric tonnes. The remaining quantity of 526,487 metric tonnes exported was the outcome of previous government’s decision that was implemented in letter and spirit by the incumbent government.

In the last year of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government (2017-18), a total of 1.19m tonnes of wheat was exported, which is the highest quantity to be exported in the last 10 years.

Despite a ban, data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shows that between July and Dec (2019-20) a total of 48,083 metric tonnes of wheat was exported. “We are investigating how this happened despite a ban on wheat exports,” the official said. He, however, added the bureau might have committed an error and reported the export of wheat by-products as that of wheat.

The annual wheat production in the country has ranged from 21m tonnes to 25m tonnes over the last 10 years. Wheat flour accounts for 72 per cent of Pakistan’s daily caloric intake with per capita wheat consumption of around Rs124 kg per year, one of the highest in the world. This is the reason why an increase in wheat price causes political unrest in the country.

Under the Rules of Business of 1973, the food security ministry is responsible for keeping a watch over the prices of food grains and foodstuff imported or those required for export.

According to a senior ministry official, the ECC has been briefed on a weekly basis on the evolving situation ever since the emergence of the wheat crisis. “We are constantly updating the ECC over the wheat situation in the country,” he said, adding it was the responsibility of the decision-making forum to timely order corrective measures.

He said the federal government had allowed dispatch of 850,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve supply to the flour mills. However, a strike by transporters added to the problems by causing delays in transporting wheat to the two provinces.

On Jan 22, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered a high-level inquiry to identify the reasons behind the shortage of wheat or wheat flour and fix responsibility for it. The inquiry will also look into the issue of transporters’ strike that added to the crisis.

An estimated 50pc of the wheat crop is consumed on the farm or within the village where it is produced and is not traded in the market. Usually 25pc of the total produce is procured by the public sector agencies at a set purchase price (currently Rs1,350 per 40 kg). The remaining 25pc of the crop is purchased by the private sector. The government largely controls the wheat marketing system.

Wheat prices and the movement of wheat are controlled at the provincial and district levels. The federal government controls the market through a minimum guaranteed support price and an issue price for wheat sold to flour mills.

In Pakistan, wheat is planted from October to December and harvested in April-May. The estimates for the upcoming crop can be realistically made by February-March on the basis of the area under cultivation, water availability and climatic conditions.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020



Shafiq Butt Updated January 27, 2020

SAHIWAL: Commissioner Muhammad Ahsan Waheed has directed 26 flour mills of the division to set up ‘fair price stalls’ at their entrance gates to make flour available to the people at subsidised rate of Rs783 per 20kg bag.

It is said there are 12, 10 and four registered flour mills in district Okara, Sahiwal and Pakpattan, respectively and they have also been directed to set up stalls at their entrance gates.

Food Department Deputy Director Shaikh Abdur Rauf while talking to Dawn says the ex-mill rate is Rs22 less than the actual rate offered at different fair price shops in the Sahiwal division.

Mr Rauf claims that other than fair price shops, 15, 14 and nine private shops have been set up in Sahiwal, Pakpattan and Okara where flour is being sold at Rs805 per 20kg bag.

In the open market, fine quality flour is being sold at Rs1,000 and Rs1,400 per 20kg bag.

The commodity is being sold in division at three different rates

The officials claim fair price shops are being set up to control the flour price in the open market that the stockists have raised after the media outrage at the flour shortage.

The citizens belonging to the low-income groups, both from the urban and rural localities, are buying buy flour from the mills gate. However, there are allegations of the bad quality of flour being made available there.

Talking to Dawn, a customer says flour being sold at fair price shops or at mill gate is not good quality.

A fair price shop dealer in Farid Town locality alleges that the flour supplied at fair price shops or sold with at ex-mill rates rate at the mills’ gate is substandard and of low quality.

“The flour mills are not sending their popular brands to the fair price shops but their second rate brands,” he says.

There are reports that shopkeepers are selling their best quality wheat flour at Rs70 per kg. Many flour dealers in the city admit there is no shortage of flour both at the mills and with stockists but a 20kg flour bag being sold in the district at three different rates of Rs783 (ex-mill), Rs805 (fair price shops) and Rs1,400 (fine quality).

The food department officials claim they are daily monitoring 600 shops across division. Mr Rauf, the deputy director of the department, categorically denies reports of the shortage of flour in Sahiwal division.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020



Shafiq Butt Updated January 27, 2020

SAHIWAL: Commissioner Muhammad Ahsan Waheed has directed 26 flour mills of the division to set up ‘fair price stalls’ at their entrance gates to make flour available to the people at subsidised rate of Rs783 per 20kg bag.

It is said there are 12, 10 and four registered flour mills in district Okara, Sahiwal and Pakpattan, respectively and they have also been directed to set up stalls at their entrance gates.

Food Department Deputy Director Shaikh Abdur Rauf while talking to Dawn says the ex-mill rate is Rs22 less than the actual rate offered at different fair price shops in the Sahiwal division.

Mr Rauf claims that other than fair price shops, 15, 14 and nine private shops have been set up in Sahiwal, Pakpattan and Okara where flour is being sold at Rs805 per 20kg bag.

In the open market, fine quality flour is being sold at Rs1,000 and Rs1,400 per 20kg bag.

The commodity is being sold in division at three different rates

The officials claim fair price shops are being set up to control the flour price in the open market that the stockists have raised after the media outrage at the flour shortage.

The citizens belonging to the low-income groups, both from the urban and rural localities, are buying buy flour from the mills gate. However, there are allegations of the bad quality of flour being made available there.

Talking to Dawn, a customer says flour being sold at fair price shops or at mill gate is not good quality.

A fair price shop dealer in Farid Town locality alleges that the flour supplied at fair price shops or sold with at ex-mill rates rate at the mills’ gate is substandard and of low quality.

“The flour mills are not sending their popular brands to the fair price shops but their second rate brands,” he says.

There are reports that shopkeepers are selling their best quality wheat flour at Rs70 per kg. Many flour dealers in the city admit there is no shortage of flour both at the mills and with stockists but a 20kg flour bag being sold in the district at three different rates of Rs783 (ex-mill), Rs805 (fair price shops) and Rs1,400 (fine quality).

The food department officials claim they are daily monitoring 600 shops across division. Mr Rauf, the deputy director of the department, categorically denies reports of the shortage of flour in Sahiwal division.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020



A Correspondent January 27, 2020

BADIN: Huge swarms of new breed of locusts has landed in Badin, Seeriani, Talhar and Tando Bago, eating away crops and green leaves and bark of trees.

Affected farmers told this reporter that the insects started invading their fields on Saturday and continued to mow down standing crops of wheat and tomatoes on hundreds of acres. The fresh attack had literally broken their back as it inflicted on them losses on a massive scale, they said.

Leaders of local farmer organisations and Save Badin Action Committee, Khalil Ahmed Bhurgari, Mir Noor Ahmed Talpur and Azizullah Dero, lashed out at both federal and Sindh governments for not taking the threat from locusts seriously and demanded immediate aerial spray in the insect-infested areas to exterminate them before they wriggled out of their cocoons and destroyed all farmland.

They said that the insect had been in the desert of areas Khairpur, Sanghar and Tharparkar for the past seven months where it continued to breed and multiply. They would fly out of the breeding grounds unhindered after attaining maturity and land on farmland of their choice to eat away standing crops, they said.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020



From the Newspaper January 27, 2020

Last year, the government launched a five-year agricultural revival plan worth Rs309 billion. Yet the nation braved the worst-ever wheat crisis at the beginning of this year.

Wheat flour prices crossed the Rs60-per-kilogram barrier and touched even Rs70 per kg in some areas. The wheat mafia and corrupt provincial and federal bureaucracy allegedly minted tens of billions of rupees during the crisis — the second one under the PTI government. The first one had jolted markets last year.

At the bottom of the wheat crises of 2019 and 2020 is the lack of provincial coordination. The last year’s crisis made sense because there was some shortage of wheat at that time, although a lack of coordination in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also had a hand in it.

But this year, initially no shortage of wheat was there to be blamed. The crisis originated in Sindh and spread across Pakistan owing to an inharmonious working relationship between Sindh and Punjab and between the provinces and the federally run Pakistan Agricultural and Storage and Services Corporation (Passco). The grant of permission for wheat exports despite a ban also deepened the crisis. And, as expected, the government has now allowed imports of wheat up to 300,000 tonnes.

Why does the Ministry of National Food Security and Research not issue a quarterly update on the revival programme?

Had the agricultural revival plan been developed with honest and candid input from the provinces and had its implementation mechanism been well-defined, the wheat crises of 2019 and 2020 could have been averted.

Similarly, had this revival plan been effective, yearly food inflation not skyrocketed to 16.7 per cent and 19.7pc in December 2019 from just 0.6pc and 0.5pc a year ago in urban and rural areas, respectively.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating: the wheat crisis and the surge in food inflation show the agricultural revival plan is ineffective so far.

And, what has apparently failed this plan is the simple fact that it was developed and presented in a mysterious way and is being implemented mysteriously too. The PTI came to power in August 2018, but initially kept struggling mostly on the external sector of the economy that was in bad shape. It rolled off the much-awaited agricultural revival plan after almost a year in July 2019. But the plan seemingly lacked sincerity of purpose. The provinces in whose domain agriculture falls were not taken on board despite the fact that they were to contribute Rs225 billion to this plan and the federal government was to offer only Rs84bn. What further annoyed the provinces was that despite a 73pc financing share of the provinces, the plan was titled “Prime Minister’s Agricultural Emergency Programme” and premier’s friend Jahangir Tareen unveiled it.

This agricultural emergency programme focuses on (1) productivity enhancement of wheat, rice and sugar cane, (2) oilseed enhancement, (3) conserving water through the lining of watercourses, (4) enhancing the command area of small and mini dams in barani (rain-fed) areas, (5) water conservation in barani areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, (6) shrimp farming, (7) cage fish culture, (8) trout farming in the northern areas, (9) the saving and fattening of calf programme and (10) backyard poultry programme.

Isn’t it the duty of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR), the coordinating agency for the implementation of the agricultural emergency programme, to update the nation on the developments made so far in each of the above-listed areas?

Under the productivity enhancement of wheat, rice and sugar cane programme, the government had undertaken to do the following: (1) promote the use of crop-specific machinery by offering a 50pc subsidy, (2) develop high-yielding hybrid varieties and improve the provision of certified seeds, (3) set up new and upgrade existing modern research institutes by engaging international experts, (4) re-organise extension services at all levels — agronomy, plant protection and marketing and (5) upgrade and facilitate crop processing methods.

The MNFSR should have ideally remained in constant touch with the provinces and gathered periodical information on the progress made in each of these areas. That has not been done. Yearly progress on the entire agriculture emergency programme and its components will be made public via the annual economic survey. Why can’t the MNFSR issue a quarterly update on it? That would enable all stakeholders, including the provinces and farmers’ groups, to keep an eye on the pace of implementation of the plan and suggest ways for correcting any deviation from the decided course.

Preparing quarterly reports on projects of national importance and making them public are one sure way of achieving greater national cohesion and improving oversight on the working of democratic setups. If that is not done, the provinces and the private sector feel isolated. And, their feeling of isolation only widens room for unscrupulous elements, self-seekers and those bent upon sabotaging national causes. It is time for the government to engage all the provinces in the implementation of the agricultural emergency programme and remove their grievances, which are many.

Details of the financing mix of the programme should also be made public. Taxpayers also have a right to know whether all provincial governments are contributing their share to the financing mix as stipulated under the programme.

If this is not done, it is feared that the programme will not achieve the desired success. After having been hit by two wheat crises within two years — and as many mini–sugar crises — justifying the continuation of the Rs309bn agricultural emergency programme with the bulk of financing from the provinces will become too difficult for the PTI government. —MA

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 27th, 2020



Ahmad Fraz Khan January 27, 2020

Was it already too late when the government allowed the import of wheat last week? The answer is an emphatic yes, according to importers. They think that Pakistan had a valid import option only until November (that is, before the start of the current price spiral).

Had wheat been ordered then, it could have arrived in early December and kept the price and supply situation in control. Or the federal government could have given provinces the confidence to keep the market flooded and ward off speculative pressures.

Now, that option has lapsed for two reasons: the world prices have gone up by 10 per cent and the time lag has closed the window.

At present, the rate of Ukrainian wheat is around $245 per ton, which translates into Rs1,900 per 40kg — if port handling charges and transportation (to Karachi) are included. The price would increase correspondingly if it is taken beyond Karachi.

According to millers, the current open market price in Karachi is around Rs2,000 per 40kg, a margin of Rs100 per 40kg if the imports arrive within a day or two.

For the second factor, it would take anywhere between four and five weeks to complete the import process. By that calculation, consignments are expected to reach Karachi either in the last week of February or the first week of March, depending on the availability of ship and berth at the port.

It may take anywhere between four and five weeks to complete the wheat import process. By that calculation, consignments are expected to reach Karachi in either the last week of February or the first week of March

By that time, fresh wheat crop from Sindh is also due and would cause a massive drop in local prices, rendering the imported wheat way too expensive. Because of this scenario, no one is ready to risk import.

As a fallback, importers are seeking official buyback guarantee in case they fail to sell in the open market at a certain price before ordering imports, something the government is not ready for. It wants importers to calculate their own risks, something importers are refusing. This is the point where things are in a deadlock.

Some millers, however, are claiming that federal ministers are prodding some PTI enthusiasts in Karachi into import and they may order if some kind of preferential treatment is assured to them. However, the wheat import as a commercial venture does not make sense anymore. Politically, it may make for one or two importers.

In the absence of timely imports, the situation on ground is worsening for two reasons: supply hiccups and speculative pressure on wheat and flour prices. Punjab has increased supplies from 22,000 tonnes a few weeks ago to 25,400 tonnes right now, citing its own population figures and its dietary requirements.

It has also started supplying subsidised wheat to registered local grinders (chakis) at the rate of five bags each grinding machine. The supplies to local grinders would ensure a price of Rs42 to Rs45 per kilogram and ease overall pressure.

It’s true that it was local grinders where the price spiral started. But this supply increase has its limits: out of the total over 5,500 such grinders in the province, only 900 are registered and supplies are restricted to them only. Punjab would run out of its 2.3 million tonnes stocks at that rate of releases by the end of April, or even before if it has to increase releases to ease the situation further.

The fear for increase in supplies because Punjab’s theoretical explanation does not make practical sense in the federal context — where it has to ease pressure on other federating units as well; in practical terms it means wheat released for 100 million people (of Punjab) has to actually cater for, or at least supplement to, 220 million people’s dietary requirements. That is the point where market calculations and speculative pressure on price take over and inflate flour prices.

Provincial governance issues aggravate the situation even further. The failure of Sindh has been stupendous on three accounts. It first refused to procure wheat without checking the actual stock position. It then failed to check reported theft of its stocks. At the third stage, it delayed wheat lifting from Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) stocks even when the market went into a tailspin and it was allocated a share of 400,000 tonnes from the federal pool.

On its part, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to warn the federation on its vulnerability and its extent in the first place. It also failed to check its porous borders to stop slippage to the Afghan market.

Balochistan acted even oddly when its food department first refused to lift 50,000 tonnes off the Passco stocks and then rejected millers request to receive the same share on its behalf and grind it. All the federating units thus made their contributions to the national crisis.

However, it is the federal government that caused the crisis in the first place and then let the provinces turn it into a social disaster. Moreover, the same party that rules the Centre is in charge of three federating units as well.

First, it allowed around 700,000 tonnes of exports without assessing the domestic fallout, and permitted it as late as the beginning of the crisis at home. Once the situation deteriorated, it failed to read the causes correctly or at least respond in time. It lost two crucial months in understanding the situation and get convinced on the remedy and took decision, when, according to the wheat watchers, any action is almost meaningless.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, January 27th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on January 27, 2020

Omar Hayat an expert on the fisheries sector of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan has said that the Prime Minister’s initiative of the agriculture emergency lacks innovativeness, pro-poor approaches and technologies with potential to be scaled up for greater impact. Furthermore, provisions should also be to bring stakeholders on board.

Talking to this scribe, he said that the fisheries departments lack development of policy development capacities for enhanced advocacy and policy engagement and mechanisms to generate and share knowledge for development impact.

He said that departments throughout Pakistan have got weak extension services to cater to the need of the fish farmers. The training and visit model of extension services is not followed in letter and spirit for the development of the sub sector. Capacity building through short training with visit support of technical personals on regular basis would help the fish farmers to enhance their production on appropriate feeding regime of the species.

Similarly, he says that monitoring and evaluation is also an important aspect of development project which is completely lacking in the project documents as farmers fish rearing needs to be monitored for growth and mortality as this will impact the income of the farm. Each individual farmer has to be provided with the technical input for each production cycle so that he is able to get the grasp of raising fish at his facilities as an enterprise.

Value chain approach for livelihood diversification and poverty reduction for rural population is the appropriate approach for development which has not been looked into the development projects under the initiative.

He said that Value Chain Analysis should have been carried out and constraints to production, processing, transport and marketing should have been addressed with the other stakeholders. No doubt the main player is Fisheries Departments of the provinces. However, federal organizations should also be consulted so that the Shrimp and Fish culture can be developed for export particularly Trout Fish which has a great potential for local consumption and export with Tourism development.

Analyzing value chains helps to evaluate actors, processes, roles, the way actors share benefit, and the relationships and linkages among actors which has been totally ignored in the documents. The value chain analysis is an approach to enhance value added activities that would enable smallholders of fish producers to diversify income sources and reduce poverty. Value chain analysis is one of the basic dimensions in identifying activities, actors, relationships, constraints, and possible upgrading of production and marketing activities to add values and create opportunities for new actors (the poor) or new values/economic benefits for producers (smallholders) and actors in the value chain.

There are many other benefits of value chain analysis which needs to be addressed with each species of fish i.e. Warm Water, Cold Water, Brackish Water Fish Culture of the country.

The documents on Shrimp and Fish Culture, he said are totally salient on development of Business Plans for each enterprise which is going to be established under the initiative. Without a business plan the establishment of a Shrimp or Trout Fish Farm (Aquaculture) is working in the darkness. Proper monitoring of activities and day to day management will become difficult. The economics of cost benefit ratio of the enterprises will be difficult to be managed to profitable level. Break even of the enterprise based on 5000 kg/per cycle.

The success or failure of the imitative is based on business plan with availability of primary inputs of production i.e. Fish Seed and Fish Feed. The existing hatcheries are operating at minimum levels which are providing non certified fish seed (disease free). No pathological laboratories of fish disease are available in Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The one which is available is poorly staffed and equipped in cold water fisheries. The Trout Fish Hatcheries require proper technical evaluation for up gradation and enhanced production of seed to meet the requirement of Trout Fish Production Units in the Private Sector

Development of Fisheries and Aquaculture require appropriate understanding the basic principles of development and productivity enhancement of Fish production. The important and foremost thing in Fisheries and Aquaculture development is the availability of Seed for culture where it is shrimp farming, carp farming, Talipia farming or Hybrid Bass farming or cat fish farming.

The thematic areas under the plan are Shrimp Farming which is activity of brackish water in the coastal belt of Pakistan. We have tremendous potential to produce shrimp for export market. We have not been able to move forward in lieu of heavy investment made by Provincial Government and Federal Government in this endevour. The reason behind is non-availability of trained human resource.

Those who know the subject are reluctant to work in these locations which are mostly away from the main cities. The site selection is another problem in the development of shrimp farming in Sindh and Balaochistan Provinces.

The second area is Cage culture of fish throughout Pakistan, which has not been exploited for creation of jobs and income of the rural poor. Pakistan has number of water bodies throughout the country which can be developed under this initiative. We need to produce and ensure availability appropriate type of fish seed and its transportation from the Hatcheries to the production site.

The Fisheries departments lack the capacity to the requirement of the activity in the field. Further availability of cages at the local level needs to be produced by the industry for utilization by the communities as economical price.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on January 27, 2020

District administration arrested 59 nanbais (bakers) from different parts of the district in crackdown against the selling of under-weight roti. During the crackdown 59 nanbais were arrested for selling under-weight roti and shifted them to prison.

Meanwhile, DC Peshawar Mohammad Ali Asghar has said that the price of 115 gram roti is Rs10 and directed all tandoor walas to charge the same rate from the people otherwise stern action would be taken against them. Similarly, he said that those selling roti at the rate of Rs15 would also face legal action.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on January 27, 2020

Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P) and sugar industry are said to have reached an “informal” agreement to fix ex-mill price of sugar at Rs 80 per kg, keeping in view increase in sugarcane price and GST, well informed sources told Business Recorder

Sugar industry sources told Business Recorder that this year the harvest was slower than usual as the farmers held back the crop in order to ask for higher price in Sindh and some parts of Punjab with the situation in Sindh so bad that sugar mills shut down for a week. In Punjab rains also affected the crushing which aggravated the situation.

According to sources, at Rs 190/40 kg price of sugarcane, ex-mill price of sugar of around Rs 73 per kg would fetch zero rate of return for the mills. However, mills maintain that with a reasonable margin it would be Rs 80/ kg as 87 per cent of sugar is fixed by the government which includes fixation of sugarcane price and taxes.

A couple of years ago when the price of sugarcane was Rs 180/40 kg as per calculations of the Punjab government, total cost was calculated at Rs 73.47 per kg. With an increase in sugarcane price to Rs 190/40 kg, and with an increases in GST from 8 per cent to 17 per cent Rs 4 per kg was added to the cost in January 2017, and the price of sugar was Rs 65 per kg when there was a surplus of 2.5 million tons.

The increase in price from the previous estimate of Rs 63 / kg is an increase in sales tax and increase in the price of sugarcane. According to the information shared by the Provincial Cane Commissioners, on January 14, 2020, average ex-mill price of sugar was 68.95 per kg whereas retail price was Rs 75 per kg. However, the price of sugar reached Rs 80 per kg during this week.

Regarding supply-and-demand situation for the crushing year 2019-20 representatives of PSMA argue that they mostly agreed with the estimates of Industries and Production Division but they believed that the figure for estimated consumption for the crushing year 2019-2020 is inflated as according to them consumption will go down by 5 per cent as they had tough time selling sugar due to a variety of factors.

The representatives of Kissan Bachao Tahreek Pakistan (KBTP) in an appeal addressed to Prime Minister, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Chief Minister Punjab, Chairman NAB and Chairman FBR has accused the sugar millers of calculating the price of 100 kg of sugarcane at Rs 512 whereas the price of produced sugar, and by products is estimated at Rs 888 which implies that on every 100 kg sugarcane, mills earn Rs 376. The Association has also claimed that with unjustifiable increase in sugar price each mill is earning Rs 60 or Rs 70 million per day.

Ch Naseer Warraich, one of the representatives of the Association, told Business Recorder that since price of sugar has increased by Rs 25 per kg within two months, the sugarcane price should be fixed at Rs 300 per 40 kg for the remaining crushing season.

The Association has further claimed that sugar stock of Rs 75 billion is lying with the mills under fake names, and requested FBR to conduct an inquiry on this issue. PSMA, in a recent meeting with the Ministry of Industries and Production, conveyed that if estimate for consumption is revised to reflect the true situation closing balance at the end of crushing year 2019-20 will be more than 0.5 million tons instead of MoI&P estimate of 0.35 million tons.

The sources said Ministry of Industries and Production has convened a meeting of Sugar Advisory Board (SAB) on Monday (today) to discuss sugar situation and its increasing price across Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



HASEEB HANIF January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD. In order to promote four major pulses, Ministry of National Food Security and Research has prepared a summary to determine their purchase price which will be sent to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for approval.

Pakistan Agriculture and Storage Corporation (Pasco) will buy and sell about 30% of the domestic production of pulses with an investment of approximately Rs14 billion.

According to sources, federal government is pondering to determine the indicative price of four major pulses for the promotion of lentils in the country and has also prepared a summary for obtaining approval from the ECC. These pulses include dal chana, dal mash, dal moong and dal masur.

It has been proposed that the indicative price of dal chana be fixed at Rs90, dal masur at Rs120, dal moong at Rs100 and dal mash at Rs145.

The ministry is determining the indicative price of the pulses by taking into account the expenses borne by the cultivators and then by adding their profits. Pakistan Agriculture and Storage Corporation will buy these pulses from the cultivators.

These pulses will be stored at the Pasco warehouses from where they wil also be sold at the utility stores at a lower market price.

It is worth mentioning that currently the import bill for pulses exceeds Rs1 billion.

One of the purposes of the indicative price is to reduce the import of pulses, for which the government will invest over Rs14 billion.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: January 27, 2020

PESHAWAR: The provincial government on Sunday announced a programme for food-insecure households in the Newly Merged Tribal Districts (NMTDs).

This was announced during a meeting chaired by K-P Chief Minister Mahmood Khan at the Chief Minister House, a statement read on Sunday.

CM Mahmood agreed, in principal, with the proposed plan as a safety net to reduce inequality and eliminate malnutrition in NMTDs.

The chief minister was further briefed that the plan will be a part of the Ehsaas Programme and is proposed to be initiated as a pilot project in Orakzai tribal district. It will receive technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP).

If successful, the Orakzai model can be replicated in other prioritized tribal districts. CM Mahmood said that the initiative aims to provide effective and comprehensive safety nets to the marginalised and vulnerable segments of the population by distributing food items to severely and moderately food insecure households of NMTDs.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2020.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: January 27, 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) under the supervision of its Director General Irfan Memon raided and sealed a production unit of Malik Foods on Sheikhpura Road and seized more than 4,000 kilogrammes of unwholesome food.

Meanwhile, the authority sealed the factory for lack of cleanliness and manufacturing substandard biscuits and snacks. PFA Director General Irfan Memon said that biscuits were being produced with expired food ingredients while the team also witnessed the usage of rusty vessels, stagnant water in the production area, poor storage system and abundance of insects.

The factory was guilty of noncompliance of instructions; it failed to produce a food license and record before the authority.

PFA watchdog team confiscated nearly 3,000kg ready food, 1,000kg raw material, banaspati ghee, artificial sweeteners, chemicals and loose non-food-graded colours.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2020.



The Newspaper’s Correspondent January 28, 2020

SARGODHA: A swarm of locusts has attacked farms in Sargodha and adjoining areas, including Sahiwal, Shahpur and Sillanwali.

Farmers say the insect attack has inflicted unbearable losses on their crops. They said they with the assistance of agriculture department officials started spray to save their crops from locusts.

A spokesperson for the agriculture department said that some tehsils of Sargodha and Khushab districts, including Sahiwal Sillanwali, Shahpur, and Noorpur Thal, were vulnerable to the locust attack.

Agricultural experts say sprays are just repellent and force the swarm to fly away from the area.

Also, a meeting of the district disaster management committee reviewed the situation of the threat of locusts and advised farmers to use spray. District management committee head Hameedullah Malik warned that it was necessary to destroy the larva before it matured in two weeks.

It was added that aerial spray in Sargodha will not be possible hence 100 vehicles wil be provided. He said that green area of Sargodha and thal(desert area) will be under great threat.

KINNO: Sargodha district is known for the taste of citrus, commonly known as Kinno, and produces more than two million tons citrus, almost 90 percent of the yield of Pakistan.

The government is taking all necessary steps to enhance the yield besides facilitating growers on exports of the citrus products.

This was stated here by Provincial Minister for Manpower Ansar Majeed Khan at the inauguration of a citrus festival on Monday. He said agriculture and food Ministers would soon visit Sargodha and initiate all steps for the welfare of farmers.

Deputy Commissioner Abdullah Nayyar Sheikh said the government would set up citrus research centre in the district to help farmers to boost citrus produces.

He added that Sargodha produced Kinno worth Rs30 billion and growers may enhance the yield by reaching out profitable markets in the world.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020



A Correspondent January 28, 2020

BADIN: A number of protesting cane growers and farmers were booked at the Tando Ghulam Haider police station on Sunday evening on the complaint of the management of a sugar mills near Matli for rioting and obstructing its employees from their routine work.

On behalf of the mill’s management, Ashfaq Ahmed Rajput lodged the FIR against 26 growers and farmers, who had held a demonstration outside the mill’s main gate on Friday in protest against non-payment of their dues that pertained to the procurement of cane over the last many years.

The complainant stated that the protesters vandalised the mill’s property and hindered its employees’ routine work during the demonstration. He named six suspects in the FIR and stated that they were accompanying 20 to 25 unknown protesters.

No arrests were made till Monday evening.

The nominated suspects, Babu Siddique, Mehmood Arain, Khalil Zaman Nizamani and Noor Ahmed, speaking to local reporters, rejected the allegation made in the FIR. They said the mill’s management implicated them in the “false” case in its attempt to silence them. They said cane growers and farmers owed millions of rupees to the mills which it was not ready to pay off even after many years.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020



By N H ZUBERI on January 28, 2020

Secretary general, (Federal) of the Businessmen Panel (BMP), Ahmad Jawad, has demanded the government to give incentives to the private sector on the import of plants of olives, so that farmer will get proper price of the produce.

He said olive trees cultivation an addition in the horticulture sector. It can reduce the dependency on the import of palm oil in coming years subject to proper mechanism of marketing.

There is no proper extraction units which could hammer its production.

He said the government had ambitious plans for increasing its olive production and it had the potential to take over Spain as the biggest producer of olives in the years to come under a project in Chakwal. The agriculture department of the Punjab had almost planted more than one million trees on an area of 3200 hectares and 750 farmers of the district benefited from it.

No doubt, country had more land suitable for olive cultivation than Spain, the largest producer in the world. We wanted to increase its olive production in a way to help its cash strapped economy. “Every year Pakistan imports olive oil worth US $2 billion, as country’s economy depended on agriculture still more attention was needed to solve Pakistan’s future crisis by taking new and revolutionary steps”, he added.

Olive tree was not only a great carbon sinker but could also stop land erosion.

According to an expert, the olive plants would also mitigate the effects of climate change. “Pakistan has vast potential for olives produce.

Ahmad Jawad said the olive farming can be carried out in the country’s areas, witnessing frequent droughts, frosts, heat waves and warming caused fire events. Because the olive trees grow well even with low water irrigation and are naturally capable to regenerate after being hit by frost, heat waves, fire incidents due to its marvellous regeneration capacity thanks to their dormant buds.

“Pakistan having almost 3.5 million hectares, suitable for tree plantation particularly olive grove” in the areas of Potohar area of Punjab and a few areas of Sindh. Similarly, in KP areas it has been estimated that 45 percent of Fata land is suitable for olive cultivation.

The highest appetite for cultivation of olive has been found in Bajaur followed by Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan, while in Balochistan the potential areas found suitable for olive cultivation were Zhob, Khuzdar, Loralai, Kila Saifullah and Musa Khel.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020




Cotton is considered to be a resilient and reliable lifeline of Pakistan’s economy; however, the reduction in its productivity over several years has negatively impacted performance of the entire economy. Importance of the cotton crop can be gauged from the fact that its share of agricultural GDP is 4.5 per cent, while its share of national GDP is greater than 1 per cent. Cotton is the main raw material for Pakistan’s textile industry, accounting for almost 70 percent of the basic raw material. According to the latest PCGA report, Pakistan will face a shortfall of 40 percent cotton production this year when compared to industry requirement of 15 million bales. In the fiscal year 2020, the crop size is expected to be less than 9 million bales necessitating cotton imports of almost 6 million bales. Pakistan is losing at least $2 billion directly and at least $8 billion USD per annum on account of low production of cotton. Increase in cotton production will have a direct impact of $ 1 billion per 1 million bales and a 7 times multiplier impact on the fiscal flows in economy. A normal cotton crop provides livelihood and employment to millions of the extremely poor and goes a long way in the struggle to fight off poverty.

Keeping in view the current year’s cotton crop shortfall and low productivity of crop, a further decline in cotton production can also be expected next year if the margin of farmer’s income from cotton production remains inferior as compared to other competing crops.

The low cotton production and poor quality is combination of several factors (poor quality seed, fake pesticides, poor pest management, obsolete ginning technology and a high level of contamination) leading to a sharp decline in production and profitability of the cotton crop. Some of the factors impacting the productivity and quality of cotton are:

Cotton production this year has been adversely affected by unfavourable weather conditions, attack of pink bollworm, whitefly, cotton leaf curl virus (CLCV), and other insects which were not controlled because of adulterated pesticides and bad quality seed. The high infestation of insect pests resulted in the loss of 2-3 million bales. This loss has further increased with the use of pesticides as 80 percent of pesticides are being used on cotton alone while remaining 20 percent are used on all other crops. Quality pesticides are required for effective pest control which are not available in Pakistan.

However, Pink Boll Worm can only be controlled by GMO varieties; pesticides cannot control it. When this pest appears on the surface of crop the damage to the crop has already occurred and whitefly has already gone beyond ETL (Economic Threshold Level).

Another measure of the disaster is the failure of cotton seed which is unproven, substandard and not resistant to pests and diseases (the old generation BT cotton). The world has shifted to 3rd generation genetically modified seeds and improved their cotton production and yield per acre but Pakistan still has the inferior quality and compromised seed. Due to this lack of quality seed, farmers have to buy the unproven seed and then undertake expensive sprays to control pests. As a result, the cost of producing cotton becomes substantially higher as it costs $ 1.8 per kilogram for Pakistan compared to India $ 0.71 per kg.

Weak Regulatory Framework, Complex and Unreliable Seed Registration Process allows proliferation of propagation and marketing of unsubstantiated seed. This is the biggest barrier to genuine foreign or local companies to enter the market and develop Pakistan specific seed through genetic modification targeted at the Pakistan specific problems.

The average farm-gate price of Phutti this season was Rs 3800 per 40 kg and ginning cost was roughly Rs 700 per bale plus 7% wastage. In contrast, market price of cotton was almost Rs 9800 per 40 kg (KCA-rate of grade 3 cotton). This huge difference in marketing and risk margin disappears into thin air. This huge gap between the farm gate and the market price generates inefficiency and inadequate return cash flow for the farmers.

There is indeed a great need to increase the cotton productivity of cotton which could increase the farmer’s income and meet the local requirements to promote the domestic textile industry. If this could be done exports of textiles would get a boost, economic activities in the country would accelerate, the foreign exchange could be saved and employment would increase. Not only is cotton production significantly less than its consumption, the produced cotton is also of low quality and highly contaminated. The international standard of contamination is 2.5 gram per bales whereas Pakistan’s cotton contains 18 grams of contamination per bale.

Contamination in hand-picked cotton in Pakistan is one of the most pressing issues concerning the quality and value of cotton. The Pakistani cotton is one of the most contaminated cottons in the world. Untrained cotton pickers from field to low ginned quality standards all add to cotton, fetching lower value in the market. Pakistani ginned bales contain up to 10% trash, world averages only 2 to 3 percent. There is a need to improve cotton quality by controlling contamination and trash content through enforcement of the standards laid down in the Cotton Control Act and Cotton Standardization Ordinance.

High trash content increases the processing losses and lowers the quality of output of yarns. Stains in cotton adversely further affect the dyeing process. Poor quality cotton in terms of its physical properties not only raises the processing costs at the initial input and intermediate stages but also reduces the output and quality of the final textiles, yarns, fabrics and apparels.

In the case of plastic material which is one of the most vicious forms of contamination, the damage becomes visible only by the time the fabric leaves the final finishing process, at which stage it is too late to apply any remedy. This can be described as the most significant contaminant which lowers the price yield of Pakistani cotton. Contamination of these polypropylene strings are mostly white colored or blue or red coming from fertilizer bags are extremely difficult to remove from cotton and even highest technology machines for its removal can remove only partially.

Polythene is also a contaminant and should be removed as well, but it normally melts at high temperature in the dying process of fabric but the polypropylene does not melt and remains in fabric and is spun with the cotton yarn and very difficult to remove at fabric stage. Such fabric or garment where polypropylene is found is eventually rejected from export or sold at a lower value.

The cleaning of contaminants is one of the costliest processes in spinning mills and none of the machines used for removing the contaminants can remove all the contaminants. In the process of cleaning trash, some contaminants get removed hence the machine- picked cotton is found with lower trash and contamination, however, if proper cleaning is used for hand-picked cotton in ginning and pressing factories, the same will certainly have lower contamination and lower trash with the advantage of better fibre parameters and a far better price for cotton farmers.

Traditionally, cotton is manually picked by women. Besides many benefits, a big problem of manual cotton picking is that the cotton pickers are essentially the biggest source of cotton contamination. The polypropylene contamination comes from fertilizer bags as lady pickers make picking bags or sheets from these bags and this is the biggest and worst contaminant. A comprehensive training and capacity building program should be developed to establish a system in the private sector for picking, grading and classifying cotton. Labelling of cotton bales with trash content, moisture content and weight of cotton bale should be made mandatory.

Farmer’s income can be increased by at least 10 percent only by controlling contamination factors. In conclusion, the difference of 10 to 14 percent in prices of “A” index cotton and grade-3 Pakistani cotton can be reduced and a substantial increase in cotton value can also be achieved by controlling contamination alone which is possible through adopting the following steps;

* All fertilizer should be packed in cotton bags to avoid contamination.

* Ban on use of Polyethylene film cotton-picking bags.

* Bags made of cotton be provided to cotton pickers to reduce contamination at the time of cotton picking. These bags should be prominently stamped and inked to avoid their usage for other purposes.

* Specialized targeted outreach programs should be designed to educate women cotton pickers focusing on the implementation of the better quality standards while picking cotton bolls from fields and how the better quality cotton with less contamination can add to the wages that women receive. These programs should have women trainers’ proficient in the local language of the area for efficient communication necessary for better learning.

* Cotton pickers should be incentivized in the form of Rs. 100 incremental wage per maund if the cotton picked is free of contamination, whereas, farmers will get at least PRs. 500/maund extra.

* Incentives shall be provided to ensure that proper premiums are paid for increased production of contamination-free graded cotton.

(The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the newspaper)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: January 28, 2020

LAHORE: Punjab Food Authority (PFA) Director General (DG) Irfan Nawaz Memon directed the food safety teams across the province on Monday to carry out a grand operation against the adulteration mafia and farmers who cultivate vegetables using industrial waste and sewerage water.

The PFA sealed nine food points and penalised numerous business operators with hefty fines besides serving warning notices to 11 eateries. DG Irfan Memon said that a godown was sealed in Sargodha after confiscating 3,300kgs of substandard pickle. He said a team sealed Yousaf Food Storage in Sikka Colony for conducting business without a food licence, storing poor quality pickle and dirty conditions.

“The use of expired and unwholesome food is injurious to health. It causes typhoid, food poisoning, diarrhoea and other diseases,” Memon warned.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2020.



By Rizwan Asif Published: January 28, 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh provincial governments have demanded that the federal government supply them with 400,000 tons of wheat in order to normalize the supply and price of flour, with Punjab warning Islamabad it would not be able to maintain the daily supply of flour to K-P if it does not get the requested supply of wheat.

Meanwhile, the federal government, in view of the current wheat and flour crisis and the provision in the past of controversial data on wheat cultivation and production by provincial governments, has decided to directly monitor this year’s wheat crop and its production and will use Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) satellite technology for the task.

The federal government will also issue alerts to the provinces regarding abnormal reductions in wheat production or serious attacks on crops while also prompting them to make timely imports in case of impending crises.

According to details, the Punjab Food Secretary, at a high-level meeting held in Islamabad on Monday, demanded that the federal government provide 200,000 tonnes of wheat from federal government warehouses administered by the Pakistan Agricultural Supply Corporation (PASCO) as the province lacked sufficient stocks to continue its daily supply of 150,000 bags of flour to KP while also meeting its provincial needs.

The stocks held by the Punjab government could only suffice until April 30, he said, adding that, without additional procurement from the Centre, the province will be at risk of a zero carry forward balance of wheat.

Speaking at the meeting, the K-P Food Secretary also demanded an additional 100,000 tons of wheat, saying that the Centre had only provided it with 450,000 tons of the 850,000 tons required by the province.

The Sindh Food Secretary told the meeting that, although the price of wheat in the open market had fallen significantly due to the rapid supply of the commodity from PASCO warehouses, the province still needed another 100,000 tons of wheat in addition to the 4 million tons already supplied by the Centre.

The federal National Food Security Minister and other federal officials said at the meeting that, in the wake of the recent crisis, the Centre and the provinces must ascertain their wheat procurement goals ahead of time or the country risked seeing an even more intense crisis than the one it was facing now.

In view of the contradictory and controversial statistics furnished by the provincial governments to the Centre in the past, the federal government will use SUPARCO satellite technology to continuously monitor the wheat crop with the help of high resolution images from satellites, federal government officials said, adding that any decisions on the procurement of wheat by the Centre will only be made after analyzing the data provided by the provinces as well as digital data from satellites.

The officials also expressed concern over locust attacks on wheat crops as well as other losses resulting from unprecedented rains in March and April. In case of a proven wheat shortage due to such circumstances, the federal government would advise the provinces on wheat imports to avert future crises, they said.

Sources said that the federal government had until now only lifted 19,000 tons of wheat from PASCO against the allocation of 200,000 tons for the first two months and it is estimated that only 100,000 tons would be transported by April of this year. Consequently, 100,000 tons of wheat will be given to KP and 200,000 of the total 300,000 tons to Punjab.

Federal National Food Security Secretary Hashim Popalzai told The Express Tribune that the Centre had decided to conduct its own monitoring of wheat production and supply rather than rely on statistics provided by the provinces.

Popalzai also said the federal government would be assisted by the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) in this regard and that the wheat crop would be strictly monitored for damages based on which wheat may be procured from abroad, adding that the federal Ministry for Food Security had also set up a special cell for the task.



January 28, 2020

BAHAWALPUR. Under the Prime Minister’s Agriculture Emergency Program, the Fisheries Department is going to initiate farming of shrimps at 2,500 acres of land across the province said Fisheries Department Deputy Director Tanvir Ahmed. He informed that the fisheries department has made arrangements to commence farming of shrimps imported from Thailand. For the same, he informed that water ponds in different parts of the province had already been established.

“The projects is called Pilot Shrimp Farming Cluster Development,” he said. Narrating details, he said that every applicant/farmer would get shrimp seeds and feed on a 75% subsidy in the first year and a 50% subsidy in the second year, respectively. Tanvir said that every farmer would have to establish salted water ponds to be spread over four to five acres of land.



Nasir Jamal Updated January 29, 2020

LAHORE: Sugar is the sweetest business in Pakistan even if it often leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

Sugar manufacturing in Pakistan is perhaps the most uncompetitive industry with serious ramifications for the country’s future water security. Yet it has profited hugely from its strong and extensive influence over politics that cuts across political divisions and party manifestos. The sway sugar magnates have over political parties cannot be matched by any other sector. Industry analysts attribute the presence of blurry lines between the sugar economy and politics to overregulation of the industry.

Helped by decades of favourable government policies that restricted competition and rewarded uncompetitive practices, the sugar industry has thrived as the most protected and profitable business in the country. It is perhaps the only business that has secured consistent financial, policy and political support from successive governments every step of the way because, in its case, it is hard to separate the industry elite from the political leadership.

The sweetener industry is helped by favourable government policies that restrict competition and reward uncompetitive practices

“The sugar cartel is represented by ATM machines in every political party,” Pakistan People’s Party legislator Dr Nafisa Shah had commented during a hearing by a parliamentary panel on rising sugar prices on August 8 last year.

According to analysts, politicians, who directly or indirectly own or co-own around 40 mills out of a total of 89, control more than 50 per cent of the sweetener’s highly fragmented market. Among the major players in the sugar business directly involved in the country’s politics, Jahangir Khan Tareen, a former industries minister under Gen Pervez Musharraf and now a close confidante of Prime Minister Imran Khan, is the largest with 14-16 per cent of the total market share.

PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Zardari is alleged to have controlling shares in the nine mills being operated by the Omni Group in Sindh. The group and its directors are currently facing investigations on charges of money laundering and corruption. Similarly, Interprovincial Coordination Minister Fahmida Mirza’s husband and former Sindh minister Zulfiqar Mirza is said to be the other major stakeholder in the sugar business in the province.

Khusro Bakhtiar, the national food security minister, and his brother Hashim Jawan Bakht, the finance minister of Punjab, are said to be other prominent players in Punjab apart from PTI ticket-holder and former federal minister Hamayoun Akhtar Khan and his brother Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan, who was the adviser on revenue to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

In Punjab, the immediate and extended family of Nawaz Sharif too owns several sugar mills. The Sharifs were recently caught up in a controversial relocation of two of their units to south Punjab as the previous Shahbaz Sharif administration in the province quietly lifted the decade-old ban on the establishment new and relocation of the existing mills from one place to another to benefit his family business.

Other prominent politicians who own or co-own or have owned sugar mills in Punjab include the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Zaka Ashraf, Sardar Nasrullah Dreshak, Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood and Mian Mohammad Azhar. Abbas Sarfaraz Khan, a former federal minister under Gen Musharraf, owns five mills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is the largest producer in that province.

“The partnership between the sugar industry and politics has developed over the decades because of over-regulation of the industry in the name of protection of interests of farmers and consumer. When you have such a heavily over-regulated business, it is natural for the industry to form and maintain direct strong political connections to have access to policymakers,” a former commissioner of the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) said on condition of anonymity. “The alliance between the industry and politics is a clear conflict of interest at the cost of public good. How can you expect anyone holding a public office ignore his interests? This naked alliance resulting from government policy of over-regulate the industry is the reason for formation of sugar cartels.”

Technically, the industry is over-regulated by the government in the name of protecting the interests of farmers and consumers as sugar is listed as an essential food item. Practically, the over-regulation is used to profit the industry elite as it allows the government to annually fix the price of sugar cane to influence the farmers’ decisions to grow enough raw material for the mills, purchase large quantities of the sweetener or heavily subsidise its export during years of surplus domestic production, hand out import quota in times of shortages, shield the producers from foreign competition and looks away when the industry cartel delays payments to the growers or jacks up their prices.

“The government claim of protecting the interest of farmers is exposed when the mill-owners delay harvest mostly to around middle of December instead of early November and withhold payments for their cane supplies for months and sometimes even for more than a year. So while higher cane support price increased the area under cultivation to 1.17mn hectares in 2014 at the cost of displacement of important cotton crop, the delayed payment of farmers is now reversing the trend,” the ex-SECP executive commented. “Similarly, the way retail sugar price is increased under pressure of the industry shows the level of authorities’ interest in safeguarding the consumers.”

Theoretically, the industry is also against regulation of the market by the government and uses it as an excuse to press for higher prices. But the mill-owners always shy from demanding its deregulation because they understand the importance of political patronage for their profits in years of surplus and shortages. Between 2012 and 2019, the industry produced surplus sweetener and forced the government to pay significantly large cash subsidies on exports to help it offload its stocks in the international market. In 2018, for example, the industry exported a hefty 1.6mn tonnes of commodity as the federal government gave a subsidy of Rs10.7/kg to “make the exports financially profitable for the mill-owners”. Sindh topped it with an additional subsidy of Rs9.3/kg for its mills. In 2019, only Punjab allowed a subsidy of Rs5.3/kg to the mills operating in the province.

An investigation conducted by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) in 2009 had found the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) involved in acting as a frontrunner for sugar cartel to encourage collusive behaviour from its platform to fix date for commencing crushing season, industry output and retail prices to ensure a closed and protected market. It also found the government’s involvement as encouraging anti-competitive practices by fixing the retail prices of the commodity.

In a policy note issued in May 2018, the CCP advised the government to get out of the sugar business and let the market forces of demand and supply work to determine its everyday retail rates. To protect consumers against any pressure on prices, it said, the government should maintain a strategic buffer of the commodity to allow itself the ability to intervene in the market and stabilise the prices in times of real or managed shortages.

According to the CCP, the government interference encouraged anticompetitive practices and cartelisation by the mill owners and had proved to be a disincentive for the industry to become competitive and efficient. “How come we have 89 sugar producers (with their cost of production varying from mill to mill and province to province), but every manufacturer is able to sell his product at the same price? Where is the competition?,” wondered Rahat Kunain, a former CCP chairman who had ordered the 2009 anti-trust investigations.

The government interference in the sugar market is creating rent for factory-owners and growers, a major factor responsible for the quick expansion in the manufacturing capacity in Punjab and Sindh. “We had 78 mills in 2009. Today we have 89 producers with industry running at 70 per cent of its installed capacity,” another former CCP official argued on condition of anonymity.

He said only deregulation of the industry could force the industry to become internationally competitive and venture into value-added products to reduce its cost of production: pharma and fuel grade ethanol; co-generation from bagasse; and molasses for both local and international markets. “An industry, which is over-dependent on government support and interference in the market for its viability will always look to increase and use its political clout to influence government policies to promote its business.”

It is not an easy job to separate business from politics. However, the deregulation of the markets can help weaken such links and force the industry to learn to survive on its own.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020



Reuters January 29, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures fell as much as 10 per cent on Tuesday, their most in over a decade, on mounting fears that a fast-spreading coronavirus in China will hit demand, amid a diplomatic spat with India.

The benchmark palm oil contract for April delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange hit its lowest since Nov 15, 2019 at 2,575 ringgit ($633.46) per tonne when markets closed on Tuesday. This was the biggest drop since prices fell 10.3pc on Oct. 24, 2008.

“It is because of the virus (that) all commodities are down,” a Kuala Lumpur-based trader told Reuters. China’s death toll from the virus has risen to 106 as of Monday, while the number of total confirmed cases surged to 4,515.

After three months of sharp gains, palm oil prices have declined 15.6pc so far in January, mainly after New Delhi slapped curbs on imports of refined palm oil and informally asked traders to halt all palm imports from Malaysia due to a diplomatic row.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020



Aamir Shafaat Khan Updated January 29, 2020

KARACHI: Millers have decided to reduce ex-mill price of various varieties of flour by Rs6 per kilo following improvement in supplies in government’s wheat to the mills, it emerged on Tuesday.

Chairman Pakistan Flour Mills Association (PFMA), Sindh Zone, Khalid Masood said after Rs6 per kg drop, the new ex-mill rate of flour No 2.5 has been fixed at Rs48-50 per kg followed by Rs52-54 per kg for fine and super fine (maida) flours.

“The price cut has been made specifically for Karachi,” he claimed adding that the new rates would become effective in a day or two.

When asked that rates of Ashrafi and Bake Parlor flour are still high, he said “these are brands and far superior in quality with normal flour varieties. They have separate customers.” The five kg and 10kg bag of these brands sell at Rs340-350 and Rs660-670 as compared to Rs290 and Rs580-590 two weeks back.

To a query that the rates of flour No 2.5, fine and super fine are very high in the markets, he said “we have cut price on ex-mill rates. The city government is responsible for taking notice of profiteering by the retailers.”

The federal government is told that importing wheat may not be a good idea

An improved supply of wheat by the government to flour mills has also made a positive impact in the open market where wheat prices have started decreasing.

The rate of a 100kg wheat bag, which was increased to Rs5,200-5,300 a week ago, now stands at Rs4,800.

He said 72 mills in Karachi are getting 1,200 wheat bags per day which was 300-600 bags last week. He anticipated more price cut in flour in case supply of government’s wheat to the flour mills further improves. Mills are getting wheat at Rs3,450 per 100kg bag from the government.

Khalid said mills were also focusing more in ensuring supplies of flour No 2.5 at Rs43 per kg. Mills were providing 24,000 flour bags, weighing 10kg each, in the six districts of the metropolis on a daily basis and the same 10kg bag of flour was also available in bachat bazaars. Flour mills in Karachi have also set up fair-price stalls each outside their premises, he claimed.

Commenting on the proposed duty-free import of around 300,000 tonnes of wheat, he said he informed National Food Security and Research Minister Khushro Bakhtyar on Monday that the import of the commodity might not be feasible as Sindh’s new wheat crop would arrive in March followed by Punjab’s new crop in April.

He said he further told the minister that the private sector, especially flour mills, was unlikely to import wheat as the landed price of Ukrainian, Argentinean and Russian wheat would come to Rs4,800 per 100kg bag. The high-quality Australian wheat was also more expensive than the Argentinean and Ukrainian wheat, he added.

The PFMA chief said: “We may not require imported wheat if supplies of grain from the government to the mills continue smoothly in the coming weeks.”

Wheat and flour prices in Karachi had been under pressure since April 2019 when the 10kg bag of flour was sold at Rs330-340 based on the 100kg wheat bag price of Rs3,000.

From April 2019 till date, consumers had paid over Rs30 per kg in various flour varieties.

Consumers braved wheat and flour crises owing to non-procurement of wheat by the Sindh government last year on the pretext that it already had 800,000 tonnes of carryover stocks of the previous crop.

The quantity of the carryover stocks was only on paper and the real stocks were just 500,000 tonnes in which half of the quantity was substandard.

Millers were forced to buy costly wheat from the open market due to the non-procurement of wheat by the Sindh government.

A month back, the Sindh government in the presence of flour millers had inked an agreement with the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) for procurement of 300,000 tonnes of wheat. However, the Sindh food department had already received 100,000 tonnes from Passco in December 2019. Millers in Sindh are now getting wheat from the remaining 300,000 tonnes of the allotted wheat.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter January 29, 2020

KARACHI: Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu on Tuesday called for planning a massive operation at “regional level” to combat the huge threat of locust attacks on crops and green fields. He said Pakistan and its neighbours in the region should join hands to eliminate locust swarms which were persistently devouring agricultural produce as well as green trees and fodder causing huge losses to the farming community, national exchequer and provincial kitty.

Mr Rahu was speaking to reporters outside the Sindh Assembly building on Tuesday.

Referring to the losses already caused by locusts in Sindh, he regretted that federal government did not take the challenge seriously at the outset; or else the menace would not have a prolific effect in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab.

Centre urged to declare emergency, take up issue at world forum to avert food crisis

“The federal government should launch an operation in collaboration with other countries of the region,” said the minister, and warned that locusts would inflict colossal losses to the country’s economy if they were not eliminated with such a concerted operation.

Mr Rahu said that the Sindh government was making all-out efforts employing all available means to eliminate the swarms. In this regard, he pointed out that the government had decided to procure a dozen aircraft and as many tractor airplanes from China to carry out anti-locust spray.

He said the federal and Sindh governments had devised a strategy under which the operation was being conducted in three six-month phases — Jan to June 2020, July to Dec 2020, and Jan 2021 to June 2021.

“There are many large districts of Sindh where locust swarms are there. At least 15 of our districts have been affected by locusts; Sindh has so far been the most affected part of the world from this menace,” the minister claimed, adding, “we again appeal to the federal government to take immediate measures to avoid further destruction of our agriculture sector. It’s better late than never.”

Asserting his point on regional level initiative, he said India, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Afghanistan were also faced with locust attacks so a coordinated operation at regional level would help achieve better results compared to isolated drives.

He said a meeting between senior officials of Sindh and federal governments was recently held where the federal authorities praised Sindh government’s effective steps to restrict the destruction to the minimum.

“The federal government has directed other provinces to follow what Sindh has done in this regard,” said the minister.

Mr Rahu said China had agreed to provide the airplanes and related chemicals for spray on the swarms.

He urged the federal government to declare ‘emergency’ for complete elimination of locusts from Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. It should also take up the matter at some world forum, he said, and warned that the country could face a food crisis if it did not declare emergency on this issue.

He said Sindh had so far used 50,000 litres of chemicals in the aerial spray drive, which was continuing.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2020



By APP Published: January 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Government of Balochistan was taking steps to enhance the export of fruits and vegetables to boost the agriculture sector through establishing food processing plants in order to preserve agriculture production across the province, said provincial Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives Zamrak Khan while talking to APP.

According to the minister, the provincial government was in process of ensuring the availability of cold storage near main production areas to facilitate local farmers.

Regretting the low production of agricultural products, Khan said, “Old harvesting techniques and non-availability of appropriate packing of corps remained main reasons behind less production.”

The provincial minister ensured government’s efforts to the sector as many projects were in pipeline in order to sensitise farmers about modern agricultural techniques for better production.

“The provincial government has initiated research based programmes in collaboration with international agricultural organisations. Besides, measures have been taken to prevent smuggling of fruits and vegetables to neighbouring countries,” said the provincial minister.

Emphasising development projects in Balochistan, Zamrak said that the government had initiated various infrastructure projects to connect production fields to markets in order to provide easy access to farmers.

The provincial minister said, “Government has built vegetable markets across the province to increase revenue which has already escalated to Rs100 million in the current financial year.”

He blamed water scarcity and prolonged drought in the province for destroying agriculture sector.

Zamrak said the provincial government has initiated radical steps to modernize the sector through introducing latest equipments and techniques to cope with the drought hit areas of the province.

Briefing on the details of the project, the provincial minister said, training on latest paramentres would be imparted to the officers of agriculture department at divisional headquarters in the first phase.

“The trained officers will educate and support farmers to transform agriculture practices to modern methods of farming in the second phase of the project,” said Zamrak.

He added that modernising farming methods was a priority of Balochistan government to increase agriculture output and facilitate farmers.

Overcoming other factors affecting production of crops in the province, Zamrak said, “Power outage during peak season of crops affecting the output of the products. The government is working to convert tube wells on solar energy to overcome load shedding crisis.”

He vowed to review the progress of the project in next cabinet meeting.

The minister claimed that agriculture was the backbone of Pakistan’s economy providing 50 per cent employment opportunities to the country’s workforce.

Addressing the issue of water shortage in Balochistan, the minister said, “Government is in process to construct more dams in order to improve underground water level in the province.”

Zamrak said the provincial government had decided to construct small dams spreading over a large area of the province to resolve water scarcity issues in Balochistan.

“Government has considered a plan to build dam on Bolan River with a cost of Rs1.5 billion to conserve water wasted in the province,” he said.

The provincial minister added the government had initiated the Balochistan Green Tractor Programme to distribute locally produced tractors among farmers working on small level in the province.

Talking about allocation of funds in agriculture sector, the minister said, “The provincial government has allocated Rs1 billion for a project to purchase 25 bulldozers in order to flourish the agricultural land and facilitate farmers especially in drought hit areas.”

The minister said the Balochistan government was working to develop irrigation system in the province in collaboration with the federal government with a cost of Rs32 billion

Encouraging farming of olive in the province, Zamrak said, “Balochistan government has allocated Rs100 million for development and boosting of olive farming in the province. Besides, it is working to encourage farmers for cultivating olive trees.”

Zamrak added that around 65,000 olive trees had been planted last year in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2020.



Manzoor Ali Updated January 30, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Wednesday declared emergency to control spread of locust in nine southern districts of the province following the entry of large swarms of pest to Dera Ismail Khan district.

The relief, rehabilitation and settlement department issued a communiqué declaring emergency to tackle the locust infestation in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Bannu, Karak, Kohat, Hangu, North and South Waziristan districts. It said the agriculture, livestock and cooperative department had shared a situation report regarding the locust infestation in southern districts of the province and apprehensions of their spread due to rising temperatures, and asked for the declaration of emergency to control the invasion.

The department said the province was wheat deficient and its southern districts were critical for wheat production, so immediate measures needed to be taken for the protection of crops and agriculture in these areas.

It said the emergency imposed under Section 16(A)1 of the Disaster Management (KP) Act would be applicable to the extent of proactive and reactive measures of the agriculture, livestock and cooperative department for locust control, including protection through sprays and other containment measures.

The department said the district management committees would be set up in every district for effective coordination.

Secy insists locust movement not severe, preventive steps under way

“These committees will be headed by the relevant deputy commissioners besides nine other officials from an array of government agencies. Besides, an emergency response cell will also be set up at the agriculture department and its district offices, while other departments have been directed to provide assistance to the agriculture department in fighting locust,” it said.

Saadullah Khan, a farmer from Daman area of Dera Ismail Khan, told Dawn by phone that a huge locust swarm had entered the area from Punjab.

Daman area is situated in the southernmost tip of the province and is connected to the Dera Ghazi Khan area of Punjab.

Mr Saadullah said hundreds of villagers spent an arduous day on Monday beating drums to scare away large swarms of locusts hovering over the crops throughout the day. He, however, said the locust did not damage crops apparently due to low temperature.

“The swarms were so huge that they looked like dust storm from afar and enveloped the entire area within minutes,” he said.

The grower feared a drought-like situation if proper attention was not paid to it as the locust would devour all greenery in the area, which depends on farming.

“Even most of the people have here taken loans for cultivating their crops,” he said.

Mr Saadullah said the rising temperate was likely to cause more damage to crops in the area. He urged the government to tackle the issue to ‘save poor farmers from starvation’ saying the locust has caused havoc in several districts of Punjab.

The grower said there were 22 hamlets in the area and they were all dependent on agriculture.

Agriculture secretary Mohammad Israr told Dawn that currently, there was a ‘locust movement’ in Daraband area of Dera Ismail Khan district.

He, however, insisted that the movement was not severe and preventive measures were being taken against infestation.

Mr Israr said swarms had entered the area from Punjab and the area currently affected was located close to the border.

He said the department of plant protection was properly equipped to conduct aerial sprays to control the pest but the agriculture department was trying to raise public awareness and mobilise communities in the affected areas to minimise crop damages.

Mr Israr said emergency was declared due to the possible damages to crops in Dera and Tank districts, where temperature usually went up a bit earlier compared to other areas.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2020



By Our Staff Correspondent | 1/30/2020 12:00:00 AM

HYDERABAD: Vegetable market traders have been given one day`s time to shift to New Sabzi Mandi along Lined Channel or face action on Friday after the administration imposed Section 144 CrPC on the old vegetable market on Hali Road with the approval of provincial government to stop trade activities.

A group of traders including vegetable and fruit wholesalers were called by an administration of ficer and told that they should shif t their businesses to the new site of the mandi.

Deputy Commissioner Ayesha Abro said that the traders had been given only one day`s time and thereaf ter the administration would take action under Section 144 to implement orders of judicial commission on water supply and sanitation which had ordered shifting of the market.The traders including Altaf Memon, Najmuddin Qureshi, Ziauddin, Haji Ikhtiar and Abdul Jabbar Arain met additional deputy commissioner-I Liaquat Kalhoro on Wednesday in this connection.

According to Najmuddin, administrator of market committee Shaukat Mastoi has not handed over possession of plots to wholesale fruit sellers and commission agents whose cases did not involve any disputes.

`We are ready to shift our businesses but we are being told to shift trade under open sheds without demarcating our plots in the mandi which is just mindboggling,` he said.

DC Ayesha Abro said that some cases of plots were mired in litigation and multiple claims. These cases were pending adjudication by courts.

But, Najmuddin said, there were no disputes in cases of vegetable wholesalers. A committee was formed to scrutinise the claims, she said.



OUR CORRESPONDENT January 30, 2020

ISLAMABAD. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday called for taking strict action against those involved in the hoarding and profiteering of wheat and cautioned that no complaint regarding the shortage of commodity surfaces from any part of the country.

Chairing a meeting on the prevalent wheat crisis, the premier directed the authorities to ensure adequate supply of wheat in the country.

PM Imran maintained that wheat and flour were essential commodities that required government’s special attention and regulations on their supply and prices.

He called for combating the issues of hoarding and profiteering of wheat with an iron fist.

The premier insisted for a devising a beforehand plan to meet the demand of wheat in the coming months.

Ministry of Food Security secretary briefed the meeting about the overall situation of wheat in the country including the commodity’s production, consumption, import and export as well as the underlying causes which led to the recent crisis.

The premier was told that the Economic Coordination Committee had given approval for meeting domestic requirement of the commodity.

It was further told that the crops reporting system in the country was being upgraded for the availability of data over the yield.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Minister for Energy Omar Ayub, PM’s Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and other senior officials.

Last week, PM Imran ordered a high-level inquiry and formed a committee to identify the reasons for wheat/flour shortage and fix responsibility for it. The premier took notice of the crisis at a time when all the stakeholders were passing the responsibility to each other.

An official statement issued by the PM Secretariat said that the committee was tasked to identity and fix responsibility on any individual/officer/organization, including any purported benefit to a private party, besides suggesting a way forward for future course of action.

The committee comprised Federal Investigation Agency Director General Wajid Zia as its convener and a representative of Intelligence Bureau not below BS-20/21 and director general of Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), Punjab, as its members. The inquiry report is to be completed by February 6 and then submitted to the Prime Minister Office.

The government has already allowed duty free import of 300.000 tonnes of wheat to ease an upward trend in wheat and flour prices in the country.

According to government statistics, 4.2 million tonnes  of wheat stocks were still available in the system. The quantity is enough for two months of domestic consumption-2.1m tonnes per month-while the fresh crop will also start coming to the market by the middle of March.

Officials said that wheat stocks at this stage last year were around 7m tonnes, compared to 4.2m tonnes this year.

At the time export of wheat was allowed last year, according to a food security official, the country had 10m tonnes of surplus wheat.



OUR CORRESPONDENT January 30, 2020

LAHORE. Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice (CJ) Mamoon Rashid Sheikh on Wednesday summoned complete record of sugar production, sale and storage on a petition seeking directives to authorities concerned to check its export to control the skyrocketing prices.

The CJ also directed representative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to collect data of all banks to ascertain which mills had pledged sugar stocks against loans.

The petitioner’s counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique contended that sugar was being sold at exorbitant prices and a mafia had made the life of people ‘miserable’.

He said the sugar mafia had created artificial shortage of the commodity to sell it at high rates.

The counsel prayed to the court to summon the record of sale and storage of sugar.

“Price control magistrates completely failed to control the price hike and the shortage emerged owing to flawed polices of the government,” he asserted.

Siddique argued that the shortage of flour and sugar could be overcome if the government stopped their export.



Amjad Mahmood Updated January 31, 2020

LAHORE: At least 204 mills have been found involved in creating wheat flour crisis in Punjab, reveals a report of the food department also submitted to the Lahore High Court.

The department also announces introduction of a software for real-time monitoring of flour movement from Jan 27 (last Monday).

The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, reveals that 14 of the mills, whose licences were suspended following verification of their role in the crisis, were located in Lahore division, eight in Rawalpindi, two each in Gujranwala and Multan, one each in Dera Ghazi Khan and Sahiwal divisions.

The report says that Since Dec 1, 2019, besides suspending licences of 28 mills wheat quota of 176 others has been put on hold, whereas a sum of Rs56.2 million as fine has been recovered from the units involved in the flour ‘scam’.

It claims that most of the people found to be guilty of creating the flour shortage belonged to influential political personalities, some of them also in the government.

A senior food official says that with the collaboration of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) they have launched a real-time flour monitoring software, Flour Ledger Management Information System, with effect from Jan 27 in Lahore on an experimental basis and the same would be extended to the entire Punjab by February end.

The report informed the court that the wheat flour crisis cropped up mainly because of the stress on demand in the wake of either no or less than the required procurement of wheat by the adjacent three provinces – Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan – during the 2019-2020 season contrary to the targets assigned by the federal government.

It revealed that neither Sindh nor Balochistan governments procured a single grain in the last season, while the KP procured just 77,000 ton of wheat against the assigned target of 300,000 ton.

Another factor, the report says, was rupee devaluation making exports by private traders lucrative.

It says price of wheat in the open market began to rise soon after close of the 2019-20 procurement drive in June 2019 and claims that feeling stress in the market the Punjab government started releasing wheat from public stocks in August, two months before the past practice, to bring about stability in the market.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020



Malik Irfanul Haq January 31, 2020

RAHIM YAR KHAN: A joint team of the food department and Punjab police on Thursday foiled a bid to smuggle flour to Afghanistan via Balochistan and confiscated four trucks loaded with 3,302 bags at the Daowala check post on Punjab-Sindh border, some 67km from here.

According to the food department, transportation of flour to Sindh and Balochistan especially from flour mills of Rahim Yar Khan is at its peak to earn huge profits. From December till date, a total of 14 truckloads of wheat flour have been impounded by the food department and police, seizing 9,057 bags.

There are four exit points from where the transportation of wheat flour takes place, including Kot Sabzal on national highway, Daowala near Bhong and Zahirpir interchange on M-5.

According to the food department sources, Of 95 flour mills in the district, 76 are functional. Flour mills owners get wheat quota from the food department at subsidised rates and are bound to provide flour to the open market. But [at the same time] different mills enhance their production due to wheat stocks procured from the open market and transport the flour to Sindh and Balochistan and [later] to Afghanistan.

Sources say the price of wheat flour bag in Punjab is Rs805 while it is being sold in Sindh for Rs1,200 and in Balochistan for Rs1,500 to Rs1,800.

The FIRs numbers 696/9 by Kot Sabzal police station on Dec 5, 2019, FIR 12/20 by Abadpur police on Jan 12, 2020, FIR 13/20 by Kot Sabzal police on Jan 13, FIRs 24/20 and 25/20 by Kot Sabzal police on Jan 22 were registered against all these trucks under Punjab Foodstuff Control Act 1958-3 and 1958-6.

The sources say three vehicles from the mills of Rahim Yar Khan Chamber of Commerce and Industry president were also among the trucks impounded on Jan 13.

On the other hand, a flour mills owner, Haji Ibrahim, told Dawn that there was no ban on transportation of wheat flour to any province under the 18th amendment. He said six years ago the Supreme Court had ruled that wheat flour could be freely transported anywhere in the country. “Only four mills cater to the needs of the district while the remaining units transport flour to other provinces,” he said.

He questioned under which rule the food department was registering FIRs against the flour mills.

Another flour mills owner requesting anonymity said trucks carrying flour were going to Sindh and Balochistan on a daily basis with the ‘cooperation’ of the food department inspectors.

District Food Controller Asghar Sahoo told this correspondent that there were no written orders on ban of flour transportation but the food department issued permits to flour mills for the purpose. He said a few days back he along with the RYK assistant commissioner raided flour mills of vice president of Punjab Flour Mills Association on a complaint of misuse of quota but could not find any malpractice there.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020



AP Updated January 31, 2020

JOHANNESBURG: The worst locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years needs some $76 million to help control and the money is required by, actually, now, the United Nations said on Thursday.

So far just $15 million has been mobilised to help stop the outbreak that threatens to worsen an already poor hunger situation for millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere, Dominique Bourgeon, emergencies director with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, told a briefing in Rome.

“You can imagine that a country that has not seen such a thing in 70 years is not well prepared,” he said of Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub.

The outbreak, blamed in part on a changing climate, now threatens to spread to South Sudan and Uganda and new rains in the weeks to come will fuel fresh vegetation and a new wave of breeding. The outbreak might not be under control until June when drier weather arrives, authorities have said.

But by then the number of locusts, if left unchecked, could grow 500 times, experts have warned.

If after April the money has come, it’s somehow useless, FAO chief Qu Dongyu told the briefing. So the timing, location, is crucial.

Already the locusts, moving in swarms of hundreds of millions, have stripped some crops bare. An Ethiopian representative at the briefing told the FAO that some farmers in Africa’s second most populous nation have lost 90pc of their production.

The locusts have been moving steadily toward Ethiopia’s Rift Valley, the country’s breadbasket, the UN says.

Authorities have said aerial pesticide spraying is the only effective control in the outbreak, but officials in Kenya and elsewhere have said more planes and more pesticide are needed.

A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometre of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometres long by 40 kilometres wide.

“We depend a lot on this season and we worry that the locusts will destroy our harvest and we end up remaining hungry through the rest of the year, waiting for October for the next cropping season,” one farmer in Kenya’s Kitui county, Esther Kithuka, has told the FAO.

Even before this outbreak, nearly 20 million people faced high levels of food insecurity across the East African region long challenged by periodic droughts and floods.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent January 31, 2020

HYDERABAD: The self-styled ‘All Hyderabad Farmers Action Committee’ has announced that it will raise the farm gate rate of milk by Rs10 per litre from Feb 1. It also hinted at a further increase in March if the cost of inputs did not come down.

Speaking at a press conference, members of the committee including Haji Amir Ghauri and Shaukat Ali Jatoi said that they did not have any representative body, therefore they had to form the action committee to raise the voice of livestock and cattle farmers and draw attention of the authorities concerned to their woes.

Referring to resistance by the provincial government and district administrations against any raise in milk prices, they said “if they want to destroy us, then let them do it. We will be forced to close our business instead of bearing losses,” said Amir Ghauri.

He said that due to increasing cost of milk production, they had to decide a Rs10 per litre hike in ex-farm rate from Feb 1. He produced a paper issued by director of the livestock/animal husbandry department, Hyderabad, allowing the farm gate rate at Rs101.81 per litre after assessing prices of milk production inputs. “But we have announced a rate of Rs100 per litre,” he said.

Mr Ghauri said that prices of various commodities in the country were skyrocketing and this had broken the backbone of dairy farmers as well. He said that the cost of inputs and animal feed had gone up manifold and they had repeatedly requested the administration to allow them a fair increase in the milk rate but to no avail.

He said that currently, the retail price fixed by the administration was Rs96/litre and the farm gate rate Rs90/litre. He recalled that dairy farmers had made a Rs10/litre raise two years back and a further Rs2/litre hike four months back. He argued that they did not get any subsidy from government though the input cost was increasing.

He said that around 500,000 to 600,000 litres of milk was produced in Hyderabad which was short of the city’s requirement. At present, he added, only 10 per cent to 15pc of it was supplied to Karachi which previously used to be around 40pc.

“A milk crisis may hit the city after this winter as in summers, the demand increases and production drops,” he apprehended.

He said that the retail price should be increased to Rs120/litre otherwise farmers, dairy owners and retailers all would have to incur losses.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on January 31, 2020

With scaling back cold, fishermen of Karachi are prepared to take on the tides for appealing seafood probably from next February 2020. Talking to Business Recorder on Thursday, President Native Islanders Fishermen Association, Asif Bhatti said that “this winter was intense and long for fishermen”.

He said that the fresh windy weather will help wind up the cold spell that took one fisherman’s life onboard while left three other paralysed. The deadly incident forced other fishermen to stop hunt and bring their boats to the moorages until the weather becomes pleasant and plausible for fishing, he said, adding that the operations will resume within two days.

He pointed out that the sea has more than sufficient bait for hunt which will help offset the fishermen losses they faced this winter from lack of operations. “Now weather is good for hunt,” he said, adding that boats are likely to unmoor to off the coast for a new start. The key species of fish, which the fishermen will like to hunt, include surmai, suwa, saram, dother, mulla, kund etc., and all those still having appeal on the global market.

Pakistan’ seafood export grew 23 percent to $225.071 million in July-Dec 2019-20, official figure say. Increase in the seafood export stands at $41.423 million in July-Dec 2019-20 from $183.648 million in July-Dec 2018-19, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shows.

Country’s seafood export grows to 94,000 metric tonnes in July-Dec 2019-20 that is 14461 metric tonnes increase from 79,539 metric tonnes in July-Dec 2018-19. In Dec 2019, Pakistan exported $40.776 million of seafood, up by 5 percent or $1.913 million from $38.863 million in Dec 2018. In term of volume, seafood export went up by 4.09 percent or 769 metric tonnes to 19,548 metric tonnes in Dec 2019 from 18,779 metric tonnes in Dec 2018.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on January 31, 2020

The prospects of opening up of African markets for Pakistani mangoes and kinnow have brightened as Kenya’s Quarantine Department shows willingness to allow import of Pakistani fruits after agreement between the two countries.

Kenya is the gateway to East African market and after the formal permission from Kenya’s Quarantine Department new avenues for Pakistani fruits, particularly mangoes and kinnow will open.

On the eve of the Pakistan Africa Trade Conference in Nairobi, Kenya’s officials and importers met with Pakistani exporters of fruits and vegetables to discuss ways and means to enhance two-way trade, especially to sign quarantine agreement between the two countries.

Waheed Ahmed, patron-in-chief of Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association, which represents the fruit and vegetable exporters in the Pakistani delegation, said that Kenya’s quarantine authorities have already visited Pakistan and reviewed the processing of mangoes and kinnow with the quarantine system in Pakistan.

The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of National Food Security and Research has also completed their homework and sent propositions to Kenyan authorities. At a meeting in Nairobi, Kenyan officials had said that recommendations for the Pakistan-Africa quarantine agreement have been forwarded to the Kenyan government, whose approval would begin importing mangoes and kinnow from Pakistan, he added.

Waheed said that Kenya is the gateway to East Africa and can become a good market for Pakistani mangoes and kinnow. “If the quarantine agreement is reached, Pakistan will get a better market from next season which could become a stable market in next three years,” he added.

Kenya is an appropriate market for citrus, which it imports from Morocco, Egypt and other countries, while there is no local mango available in summer in Kenya. So there are plenty of opportunities for Pakistani king of fruits, he maintained.

Kenya’s private sector has also expressed interest in strengthening relations with Pakistan in horticulture sector. Exporters in Kenya have evinced interest in acquiring ‘hot water treatment’ technology from Pakistan.

Waheed said this technology has been made common in Pakistan by PFVA and the country can provide the technology to Kenya’s private sector. There will also be follow-up meetings in the private sector of the two countries.

He said that now the ball is in Kenya’s court. He urged Pakistani authorities to sign a quarantine deal with Kenya at the earliest and if Pakistani embassy in Nairobi remains vibrant, exports to Kenya may begin from upcoming season of mango, which will boost exports, and help fetch precious forex.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020