We are not made for wheat?

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WHEAT, THE most popular cereal crop of world, covers the acreage that no other cereal crop can ever get. Mostly, the wheat that is sown is for human consumption. Asian countries are at the top in the production and also the biggest consumers. Pakistan stands at 6th in wheat production. The present trends show that we will be going to produce more wheat in the coming years.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported wheat production during 2013 at 697.798 million metric tons the world over. The wheat production has surpassed previous years production with an increase of 6.8 per cent. China is the biggest producer of wheat. Pakistans wheat production was estimated to be 25.2 million metric tons during 2012-13. Higher yields were estimated before the harvest in China and Pakistan by the FAO.


Production is for consumption, so when talking about the human wheat consumption in Pakistan, one person is eating about 110 kg of wheat per year. (This is for a population of 175.31 millions to be compared with the wheat production). Other cereals like rice and maize are also being consumed by us. Rice is the second most consumed cereal in Pakistan with 12.13 kg/annum per capita.


We, the Pakistanis, have not been as demanding for wheat as it is now. Have you ever thought that the wheat which is being eaten by us is really needed by our body in such a great amount?


The unhealthy grains are being used to fulfill the needs of malnourished students of primary schools. Govt. of Pakistan assured the donation of 0.5 million tons of wheat to the World Food Programme (WFP) so that it could be provided to the malnourished children and to the students of primary schools (Economic Survey of Pakistan, GOP, 2012). So, how the big amounts of unhealthy grains can fulfill the actual nutrients needed by our body to work properly.


Wheat flour enrichment with Iron (Fe) programme, under the government of Pakistan, was supported and funded by US government for Pakistanis but that programme has never covered whole Pakistan and the same is expected. Another thing that is not accounted while running such programmes, the iron in the form of supplement that is supplied to the flour mills to mix it with the grounded wheat is sometimes sold somewhere else.


Any single cereal or a single food item that is consumed in such a huge quantity that is unable to completely nourish the demand of human body. As wheat flour is highly deficient in minerals and vitamins. Wheat is grown everywhere, no matter it is fertile soil or soil with no other crop achievable during the Rabi season. Almost 85 per cent of the area during Rabi season in Pakistan remained under wheat. It is not possible that the wheat that is produced have all the necessary nutrients which must be present in it to be called it as healthy grain.


When we take a look into near past, our elders were consuming wheat along with other cereals. Wheat was not the single most consumptive grain crop of Pakistan. They tend to grow a variety of crops or even wheat fields were having a large number of barley and oats in them. On the other hand, barley, oats were also grown in Rabi season and their flour was consumed. Wheat was produced in lesser quantity and during the harvest period (March-April) of wheat, there has always been an acute shortage of wheat. So they ate bread (ROTI) made from maize flour, ate barley flour. Barley is high energy cereal with high fiber content and lesser sugars in it.


The trend towards growing wheat and wheat everywhere must be brought down. The need of the hour is not to eat wheat flour alone, but try to consume a variety of cereals including wheat, barley, oats, maize and rice.


Eating less wheat and consuming a wide range of cereals and food (including vegetables, fruits) can make the population healthy.


The writer is associated with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.


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