by Higerta Gjergji

Tens of thousands of Pakistani farmers took to the streets to protest the government’s refusal to purchase their grain, which resulted in prices plummeting and massive income losses. The demonstrations, which are mostly concentrated in Punjab, which is known as the ‘granary’ of Pakistan, are protesting the excessive imports of wheat that have saturated the market during an expected exceptional harvest.

During a protest in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, the police intervened by force against the demonstrators, using batons and arresting several people, Kissan Ittehad Pakistan General Secretary Mian Umair Masood, led the demonstration, told that more than 250 Farmers were Arrested by police in Lahore. Police sources, however, say that 46 demonstrators were taken into custody.

Farmers are asking the government to stop imports and buy their products at a fair price to avert an economic crisis in the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector, which accounts for 23% of the Pakistani GDP, is a fundamental component of the Pakistani economy, leading to concerns about economic and social stability.

According to data from the Ministry of National Food Safety and Research, between September 2023 and March 2024, more than 3.5 million tons of wheat were imported into Pakistan from the international market, where prices were much lower. Due to the excess, at the beginning of April this year, when Pakistani farmers began harvesting wheat, the country’s national and provincial department for food storage held more than 4.3 million tons of wheat in its stocks.

This excess leads to a lowering of grain prices, which for the rest of the population is positive, but not for farmers who cannot cover their costs. The government typically purchases around 20% of the grain produced by local farmers at a fixed price, which corresponds to approximately 5.6 million tons, factoring in a 2023 yield of 28 million tons. This intervention in the market ensures price stability, prevents hoarding and maintains the supply chain. This year, however, he announced that he will buy only 2 million tons of wheat from Pakistani farmers.

The government’s purchase of national wheat each year helps to determine the price at which the rest of the farmers’ grain is sold to millers and others on the market. This public intervention is called the support price and is a policy aimed at guaranteeing a minimum income for farmers. Wheat prices have now collapsed on the market and are well below the support price.

The peasants’ alliance has said that protests against the crisis will be relaunched throughout the country. “I have contacted many groups of farmers and we have decided that we will protest. Not for ourselves, but to save the country”, said the president of the Kissan Ittehad farmers’ body, Khalid Khokhar. “If farmers don’t have money, how can they invest in other crops?” This will lead to a crisis in other agricultural sectors besides wheat, triggering a vicious circle.

Addressing a press conference, Khokhar accused the caretaker government of causing a loss of more than Rs 400 billion to the national exchequer by importing wheat worth $1 billion (about Rs 277 billion) in a context of foreign exchange shortage. The Kissan Ittehad farmers’ organisation has announced that national protests will resume on 10 May.

On the cover photo, a 180-degree aerial panorama of Old Lahore’s Food Street and famous Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan ©Vasiq Eqbal/