LAHORE: Pakistan Kisan Ittehad has threatened to “storm Lahore, hold a big protest rally and stage a sit-in in front of the Punjab Assembly,” if the government does not reign in cost of production or announce support price of cotton and rice.
Talking to newsmen on Saturday, its President Khalid Khokhar demanded that the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) procure both the crops at officially declared price and it must purchase at least four to five million bales of cotton and around one million ton rice.
Khokhar insisted that the ever-increasing cost of production had destroyed economy of farmers, pushing millions more below the poverty line. “The farmers of cotton, rice and cane, on average, are losing around Rs75,000 per acre every year because of gap between cost of production and price of sale,” he claimed.
He said: “The cotton production costs farmers around Rs3,235 per maund, whereas it fetches only Rs2,200 per 40 kilo. Similarly, the gap between investment and income in case of paddy is around Rs700 per maund. The cane is sold at Rs180 per maund against its cost of production of Rs202 per 40-kg. The cumulative loss of these crops turned out to be Rs74,800 if calculated at yield of 26 maunds for cotton, 35 maunds for rice and 750 maunds for cane. Even these yield figures are higher than national average, and only better farmers touch them. Even this higher figure does not reduce the quantum of loss.”
Kisan Ittehad wants TCP to procure cotton, rice
Because of these high losses, the farmers are left with no option but to either press the government for action or resort to protest, he said, adding: “The government can still retrieve the situation by abolishing general sales tax on inputs and straightaway bring the cost of production down by 17pc.”
Secondly, Khokhar said, the government should design the subsidy package in a way that the entire farming community benefits from them, instead of a selected few. Thirdly, for immediate relief to farmers, it must induct TCP into procurement of cotton and rice so that market sentiment could be stabilised on the higher side. Unless, the government takes these steps to save farmers and farming in the country, the growers would be pressed hard for agitation.
The situation is turning dire for the farming community, as shown by the figures above. For how long the government expects farmers to lose money on farming, he wondered.
One should not forget that all three crops are so-called cash crops, which are supposed to sustain life for farmers and also enable them to invest in food crop. With cash crops turning into a loss-making effort, the food crops are bound to suffer and generate bigger social crisis in the country by threatening food security, he said.
The farmers leader warned the PML-N that if growers continue losing money on every crop, it should get ready for different results of the local bodies elections, which it plans to hold this September.
The farmers have been taking to the streets regularly. It is time for the government to come up with a rescue package for farmers. Otherwise, the farmers are determined to take out even bigger protest rallies after Eid, he warned.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2015