With 240 million people, the first priority of the Pakistani state should be to ensure there is enough food to feed every Pakistani. For many years, the country’s national food security policy goal was to grow enough wheat to create a surplus for buffer stocks and export. For this, the government annually sets national sowing, output and procurement targets before planting begins. This policy worked well and the country more than doubled its wheat production between 1990 and 2011.
However, for the last decade, wheat production has hovered around 26m tonnes, peaking to above 27m tonnes in 2021. The floods of last year mean that Pakistan today is a net wheat importer. However, other long-term factors also play a role here: “climate change, low yields, lack of research, land fragmentation, poor international wheat trade policies, low mechanisation, high harvest losses, lack of proper storage, etc.”
According to an editorial in Dawn, “the only option for Pakistan is to increase wheat production. We can nearly double production by boosting the wheat yield from below 31 maund per acre to 58 maund per acre, equal to the average output in Indian Punjab. There is also massive potential to reduce on-farm and off-farm crop losses through improved harvesting, bulk handling and storage in modern silos. Additionally, there’s a need for making domestic and international wheat trade flexible. With large numbers of people facing moderate to severe hunger, and food imports soaring to nearly $10bn during the last fiscal, we are already running out of time to fix our farm sector in general and our wheat economy in particular.”