Farmers allege forceful seizure of wheat by govt

By Staff Reporter | Dawn May 8, 2023

Farmers allege that the food department and district administration are forcefully seizing wheat from them, preventing them from keeping the commodity for domestic use or as seed for the next season.

The food department, however, says it recovered thousands of bags of wheat that were hidden in rice factories in the Gujranwala district during its campaign against the hoarding of grain.

Khalid Khokhar, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad president, said in a press release that in major grain markets, the price of wheat has reached the level of Rs5,000 per 40kg in the first week of May. He finds this situation concerning, especially considering that the district administration is conducting raids at farmers’ houses to obtain harvested wheat from them. Farmers are not even allowed to keep wheat for domestic use, farm labour or seed purposes.

Mr Khokhar also claims that the food department and district administration are so desperate to achieve the procurement targets that they have seized hundreds of bags of basic seed of a new variety, whose multiplication and processing rights have been purchased by a leading seed company. Despite having all the required documents and registration with the Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department, seed bags were not released, and instead, the seeds were mixed into ordinary food grains. He regrets the lack of commitment, seriousness, and long-term vision for national food security.

Mr Khokhar fears that the government’s shortsightedness and poor governance will negatively impact wheat production next year, as the country already has a low national average yield, and if certified seed is not available, the yield will further decline.

Meanwhile, Punjab Food Secretary Muhammad Zaman Wattoo, along with the Gujranwala deputy commissioner, raided 19 rice mills in Noshehra Virkan and recovered 63,128 bags of wheat that were illegally stored there. The seized grain was transported to the wheat procurement centres. The mills included Naimat, Shaheen, Nisar, Abdur Rehman, Hayat, Noor Bath, Four Star, Rajput, Alsadiq, Rehmat, Madni, Adil, Alfazal, Akmakka, Hanjra, Green For rice mills, and others.

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