LAHORE, Nov 19: With the most propitious time for wheat sowing ends on Tuesday (Nov 20), Punjab is stuck at around 37 per cent of its target area of 18.6 million acres.
By Saturday last, it had sown wheat over 6.2 million acres against last year’s 7.1 million acres on the same day. Officials of the agriculture department list a number of factors hindering the sowing.
The cotton belt is the worst hit, with only 13 per cent; only 800,000 acres sown out of 6.3 million acres. Last year, the figure was 1.1 million acres in the belt by this time.
According to officials, two factors have hit the area badly as far as wheat sowing is concerned. Recent floods displaced a portion of population in the area. Secondly, the cotton prices started rising and farmers were now tendering the crop for maximum yield.
On the basis of additional care by farmers, Punjab has revised upwards its cotton target from nine million bales to 9.6 million bales. Naturally, the area under cotton is neither vacated nor sown. On top of it all, the moisture level is high in the area, which is hindering preparation for the wheat sowing. All these factors have slowed the wheat sowing down, officials said.
The barani (rain-fed) belt is leading the sowing drive with 90 per cent of 1.2 million acres target already achieved, says another official of the department. The late October rains in these areas have benefited farmers and soil in the area. The current sowing figure is five per cent more than the last year’s sowing till Nov 17.
The mixed area (excluding cotton and barrani belt), which has 9.2 million acres target, has crossed 50 per cent with 4.7 million acres already sown. Last year, the figure in the area was only 2.7 million acres on the corresponding day.
Ibrahim Mughal of the AgriForum, however, thinks that the Punjab government could do much better by improving its wheat planning. He said the current crop had special significance as the previous stocks were running dry and exposing the country to food risks.
He said during the last four years, Punjab has been fixing 15 million tons target for the federation and 19 million tons for the province. Both have never achieved them.
“In these fours years, the population has increased by 10 per cent, which needs an additional 1.2 million tons of wheat. Where is that reflection? With targets lesser than national requirement and the stocks running dry, the current season needs much better planning and execution. But there seems to be no serious effort on this front,” he regretted.