PM Shehbaz Sharif rejects wheat import by private sector

PM urges provinces to join centre's wheat-seed distribution drive to facilitate flood-hit farmers

PM Shehbaz Sharif chairing a review meeting of National Flood Response and Coordination Centre. — Screengrab
PM Shehbaz Sharif chairing a review meeting of National Flood Response and Coordination Centre. — Screengrab

  • PM Shehbaz fears reduced wheat output in coming season owing to post-flood situation.
  • Asks Punjab, KP governments to rise above politics.
  • Offers two provinces to collaborate with federal government.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday rejected any possibility of giving a go-ahead to the private sector to import wheat after catastrophic floods compromised the country’s food security by wiping out the cereal crop from thousands of acres of farmland.

“In view of an emergency situation, I will not allow the private sector to import wheat,” he said, adding that the government was aiming to get better bidding on the wheat. The PM ruled out the idea while chairing a review meeting of the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre.

He said wheat production was likely to drop in the coming season because of the floods, but wheat import by the private sector was out of the question.

During the meeting, the premier also urged Punjab and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa governments to rise above politics as the country was grappling with floods-led losses and join the centre’s seed-distribution drive to enable farmers of the affected areas to cultivate wheat.

The prime minister offered the two provinces to collaborate with the federal government under the scheme, which will ensure funding for wheat seeds with a contribution of 50% from both sides.

Shehbaz also mentioned that Sindh and Balochistan had already agreed to join the federal seed-distribution scheme.

However, despite the offer by the centre, Punjab and KP refused to cooperate and instead indulged in playing politics on the matter, which is regrettable, PM said

“I request you to accept the offer in view of the plight of the flood-hit farmers. And if you still reject it, then don’t twist the facts that the Centre is not extending you assistance,” he said in a meeting also joined by Punjab and KP chief secretaries.

PM Shehbaz emphasised that Pakistan as a federation was comprised of its federating units and the situation called for unity at the national level.

The premier said the government was effectively carrying out relief and rehabilitation work in the flood-hit areas, while the total death toll had so far crossed 1,700 including children.

He said the federal government through National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was ensuring the disbursement of Rs880 million in compensation and relief goods including food, water, medicines, and mosquito nets among the flood-affected families across the country.

Also, the relief supplies received from the friendly countries are being distributed through the very transparent channel of NDMA, he said.

He said China was sending high-quality ‘winter tents’ for the flood-struck people to help them cope with the harsh cold.

The prime minister, who recently visited the Sohbatpur area of Balochistan, said the land there was still inundated posing the risk of an outbreak of water-borne diseases.