RABI crops play a significant role in the economy of our country exclusively because of wheat which is an integral part of the said crops. It is the first staple food.
An assessment made on the basis of decrease in the sowing area, poor quality seeds and particularly lower use of fertilisers (due to rising prices) give birth to a risk of low production of Rabi crops, specifically wheat.
It is a matter of great concern that the decline, to a grear extent, in the production of wheat, gram, mustard, canola, barley and other crops are not only due to a decrease in the sowing area, poor quality of seeds and high costs of fertilisers but also due to the late declaration of support price, negligence on the part of the ministry of national food security and research (NFS&R) and provincial governments.
Taking into consideration the sowing target, one can get an area of 22.50 million acres for wheat recognised for 2012-2013 while it was, in fact, 21.6 million acres that was sown on.
Similarly for gram the sowing target was 2.6 million acres for 2012-2013, which was also not attained. Other Rabi crops such as canola, mustard and barley also conceded decreased sowing area due to illiteracy of the farmers, accompanied by their lack of interest.
Furthermore, the prices of fertilisers showed more than 100 per cent increase during the last few years which added fuel to fire and due to which small farmers were left powerless to provide the requisite magnitude of urea and DAP to their fields.
On the one hand, a urea bag (50kg) was accessible at about Rs1,100 in 2010, which is now being sold at Rs1,800. On the other hand, the rate of DAP (diammonium phosphate) about two or three years ago was Rs2,200-2,600 for a 40kg bag and is now available at Rs4,000 a bag.
It has been estimated that 10 per cent reduction in the usage of fertiliser can fetch about three to four maunds per acre decrease in overall production.
As a matter of fact, the domestic farm sector is facing serious harm as a result of mishandling by rulers. Thus the Rabi crop production target would be missing.
Meanwhile, small farmers will not be able to procure urea and DAP fertilisers because of their high cost. Moreover, the wheat production target of about 25 million tons, fixed by the government, would not be achieved due to the above-mentioned constraints. The country would hardly produce 23.5 million tons of wheat in the upcoming season, while our demand for 2012-13 wheat production should not be below 26 million tons.
To avoid future food security, we need to take steps to keep a balance in fertiliser prices, educate illiterate farmers and ensure the availability of certified and registered seed varieties.
SARFRAZ NASEER Burewala