By Shabbir Mir
The Gilgit-Baltistan government has decided to purchase wheat from local farmers at lucrative rates and steer clear of buying the crop from Punjab.
This was announced at a news conference at Gilgit Press Club on Thursday. Speaking on the occasion, G-B Food Secretary Rai Manzoor, who spearheaded the move, said the decision was made during a recent cabinet meeting chaired by G-B Chief Minister Hafeezur Rahman.
G-B has always purchased wheat from Punjab. The move will break the cast and establish a new trend in the purchase of wheat.
“Overall, this is a revolutionary step as thousands of families directly linked with the agricultural sector will benefit from it,” he said. “The government plans to purchase one bag of 100 kilogramme of wheat for Rs4,200.”
Hope and faith
Prior to this decision, the federal government would purchase a bag of 100kg wheat for Rs3,200 as part of G-B’s quota. Transportation costs would increase the cost of each bag to Rs5,400. The region receives 1.5 million bags annually from Punjab through Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco). The wheat was subsequently sold at subsidised rates for nearly 1.5 million people in G-B.
Although there are no facts and figures to corroborate its claim, the regional government plans to use the new scheme to initially meet the requirement of nearly half of G-B’s population. An agricultural project has also been approved for the region.
“We have ensured the region is included in a scheme under which urea is provided to farmers on subsidised rates,” Manzoor said. “This will facilitate local farmers. Previously, G-B was not included in the plan.”
The federal government has been giving special subsidy on wheat supply to G-B since the 1970s, which was introduced by the then PPP government and continued for decades.
The G-B government has stopped the supply of wheat to a private company based in Punjab that has been offering grinding services to it for a long time. It has instead decided to hire grinding services from another mill. The move will help save over Rs20 million from the region’s economy.
“The Punjab-based firm offered its services at Rs175 per bag while the same weight of bag can be ground at Rs120 per bag,” Manzoor said. “The government will now be able to save over Rs10 million.”
According to Manzoor, the decision was taken after rates from both companies were compared.
“Since the other mill was charging lower rates, we decided to opt for
it,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2015.