Govt needs to ban wheat exports in the wake of Russia-Ukraine war: Ahmad Jawad

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Vice President of Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF), Ahmad Jawad has called upon the government to impose a ban on wheat exports of local grains in the wake of serious repercussion of the Russia-Ukraine war, which will disrupt the supply of wheat in the international market.

In a statement issued here on Saturday, he said that although an earlier announcement by the Prime Minister last week to import two million tons of wheat from Russia reverberated a similar sentiment, the announcement did not accompany a proposed timeline, and was interpreted as a move to buttress country’s strategic reserves. Now, only a bumper yield can help save the day and protect the country from an exorbitant import bill in the midst of a global price spiral, he added.

Ahmad Jawad suggested the government to maintain wheat stocks through procurement during the on-going harvest and put a stop to wheat exports in all scenarios.

It is true that wheat prices in the international commodity market are witnessing extreme volatility due to ongoing conflict in the Black Sea region, and it is unlikely that prices will stay within this range for more than six months. Historically, international prices bottom out post-April on a seasonal basis, as production estimates from major producing regions – especially India – begin to trickle in during the post-harvest period.

He further told already cash-starved Pakistan will be facing an increasing food import bill as experts fear up to a 15 per cent drop in the domestic wheat yield due to shrinking acreage, poor application of fertiliser, water scarcity, limited certified seeds, etc, leading to further reliance on imported grain. Estimates suggest that the country will need to import around four million tonnes of grain to meet the local shortfall.

In this regard he feared that Pakistan’s wheat import bill in the worst-case scenario may climb up to $4 billion during FY23.

However with Russian and Ukranian wheat off the market, world import requirement of 190 million tons (excluding China and Pakistan) will have to be met from elsewhere. It is hard to fathom if Pakistan will be able to afford large volume orders from either Americas or Australia, considering competition from wheat deficit nations and high freight costs. Difficult choices lie ahead for Pakistan to address looming wheat shortage. Act timely.

It also noted here Pakistan had harvested a bumper crop and produced a record 28.75m tonnes of wheat last season. It had to import 2.2m tonnes of grain to meet local requirements and build strategic reserves of 1m tonnes. A 15pc loss in the yield means there will not be more than 25m tonnes wheat output this year.