LAHORE: Punjab’s farmers forged an alliance on Thursday to resist any move to allow free trade with India in agricultural products from Wagah-Attari land route, claiming that such a decision would destroy country’s agriculture and throw its growers out of business.
Farmers Associates of Pakistan (FAP), comprising large growers and Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), representing smallholders in the Punjab, have vowed to resist opening up of trade with India in agricultural products.Speaking to reporters, FAP president Tariq Buchha said the grant of free access to Indian farm products into Pakistan through Wagah would allow India to determine prices of our crops.
He cited numerous input subsidies being given to Indian farmers to keep down their prices.
“This simply means that the grant of non-discriminatory market access (NDMA) to Delhi without safeguarding interests and future of our agriculture will badly harm farmers and impact long-term food security of our people.”
He was critical of the government for not including any farmers’ representative for negotiating the parameters of trade in agriculture with New Delhi.
“Those who are representing Pakistan in trade negotiations with India do not have the slightest idea about agriculture and how the free trade through the land route will affect Pakistan’s food security and its poor farming community.
“We demand that the farmers be given full representation on the India-Pakistan Joint Trade Forum and allowed to negotiate safeguards against cheap agricultural imports from across the border.”
FAP director Hamid Malhi said the farmers are not opposed to trading with India, but they wanted trade to be fair.
“We are not afraid of India. We are only worried about uneven playing field and unfair competition that the Indian subsidies have created. If the government wants to open up trade through Wagah, it should first raise its import taxes equivalent to subsidies given to India’s agriculture.”
PKI president Khalid Khokhar said India gave its agriculture sector subsidies to the tune of $50bn.
“The other favours Indian farmers get from their government include free electricity, cheap urea, free water for irrigation, low-priced seeds, cheap transportation, subsidised pesticides, and agricultural machinery like tractors. In short, the Indian government supports its farmers and agricultural sector a lot. They have set subsidised price for 26 crops.”
“On the other hand, farmers in Pakistan are getting expensive electricity, high-priced fertilisers, costly seeds, substandard agricultural machinery and are paying 17pc General Sales Tax on inputs, which is unique to Pakistan as no country in the world has this tax on agricultural sector, he said.