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Corruption, Not Climate Change, Impacts Wheat Crop Production in Pakistan

Immigration News

The food grain crisis in Pakistan is not a result of climate change, but rather greed and corruption that are turning Punjab from a ‘bread basket’ to an impoverished region.

Farmers have taken to the streets to protest the government’s low procurement rates and prices. Successive governments have implemented corrupt agricultural policies, causing farmers to receive less return each cropping season. Last year, the government ordered the import of wheat amid an unprecedented wheat flour crisis, which forced people to stand in long queues across the country and make do with less bread and sweets during the festival season. Many children went to school without lunch, and some families survived on one meal a day. Several people died in skirmishes that had become a common sight in these long queues.

Farmers are now upset with the government’s refusal to purchase the bumper crop they managed to produce against all odds.

This issue is compounded by other long-standing problems. In Punjab, as in other provinces, farms have been overtaken by real estate projects, mostly run by the army. Thousands of acres of fertile land have been converted into high-premium housing schemes managed by the Defence Housing Authority, the army’s real estate conglomerate. Additionally, the army has taken over several thousand acres for corporate farming, threatening the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers.

Another major problem is the recent scandal involving fake fertilizers, which has caused significant losses to farmers in Punjab. Thousands of acres of fertile land have been affected by chemical pollution. In Narwal district, over 2,100 acres of wheat crop had to be destroyed due to fake fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in a loss of over Rs 300 million to the farmers. Fake fertilizers and pesticides lead to crop failures, reduced yields, soil degradation, water contamination, and health hazards for consumers.

The scale of the fraud is evident from the number of companies involved in the scandal. Nearly 46 companies are implicated. This is not the first time such a scandal has occurred. Last year, a bogus fertilizer factory was raided, and fertilizers worth Rs 1 million were seized. In 2019, similar fake products worth Rs 200 million were confiscated and destroyed. The government had assured zero tolerance against the sale of fake pesticides and fertilizers.

However, in 2011, an official inquiry report revealed that a powerful group, including federal ministers, elected officials, and senior civil servants, allegedly embezzled Rs 300 billion through smuggling, dumping, and black-marketing of government-imported fertilizers. The report highlighted how the perpetual short supply of fertilizers and pesticides had become a big and dirty business, leaving farmers and farms in a dire situation.

Corruption and greed continue to undermine Pakistan’s agricultural sector, affecting the livelihoods of farmers and the nation’s food security.

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