ISLAMABAD: The Fede­ral Committee on Agriculture (FCA) on Wednesday set the wheat production target for the Rabi season at 26.46 million tonnes over an area of about 22.2m acres (9m hectares).

The target for wheat production in 2016-17 was 26m tonnes whereas actual production was 26.38m tonnes, according to the second estimates of provincial crop reporting centres.

The FCA approved a six-point strategy to achieve the wheat production target. The strategy includes maximum access to agricultural loan facilities, availability of quality certified seeds, timely availability and supply of fertilisers, promotion of the balanced use of fertilisers, increase in the supply and use of herbicides and the promotion of production technology.

The committee decided that the wheat support price will stay unchanged at Rs1,300 per 40 kilograms.

The committee also re­viewed the performance of Kharif crops of 2017-18. The production of sugarcane reached 81.44m tonnes while that of maize touched 5.27m tonnes.

The FCA proposed that the area of wheat cultivation be rationalised and that of pulses, oilseeds and other high-value crops be enhanced. The committee agreed to the potato production target of 3.81m tonnes over an area of 0.42m acres (0.17m hectares).

In view of the expected reduced rainfall in Oct-Dec, the Indus River System Authority’s advisory committee anticipated a shortfall of 20 per cent in the availability of water during the Rabi reason.

The Pakistan Meteo­ro­logical Department infor­med the committee that 10-15pc less rain should be expected in Oct-Dec whereas two to three spells of moderate rainfall are likely in Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and northern parts of Punjab.

National Food Security and Research Minister Sikandar Hayat Khan, who chaired the FCA meeting, told a news conference that the impact of the water shortfall will be passed on to Punjab and Sindh, which are major users of irrigation water.

The prevailing weather conditions are not promising and the shortage may extend to 25pc, he added. However, the shortfall position will be reviewed in the first week of November, he added.

KP and Balochistan will be exempted from the adverse effects of the water shortage, he said.

During the ensuing Rabi season, provinces will be allocated 29.5m acre feet (MAF) of water against 29.7MAF a year ago, he said. The provinces will also be asked to reduce the use of water that is currently available in canals.

About the availability of fertilisers, he said the supply of urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP) will remain at the comfortable level during the Rabi season due to the enhanced local production and sufficient stock position.

However, the availability of DAP may remain slightly inadequate because of insufficient local production and low imports by the private sector. The FCA asked the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to ensure sufficient availability of all requisite fertilisers at reasonable prices.

Responding to a question, Mr Khan said the shortage of tomato could have been avoided had Pakistan imported it from India. The reason for its shortage was the reduced tomato crop in Sindh following excessive rains.

The minister said that Pakistan saved Rs10 billion by not importing tomato from India. “No doubt its price increased in the market,” he said, noting that the resulting savings were pumped into the rural economy.

As for onion, he said its price will start decreasing shortly as the onion crop from Balochistan is making its way into the market. Onion from Sindh will also hit the market soon, he added.

The minister said Pakistan currently has roughly 11m tonnes of surplus wheat stock. The national requirement of wheat is 25.8m tonnes, including 1m tonne in reserve.

The government is trying to export wheat as much as possible before the arrival of the new crop, he said. Wheat exports to Afghanistan continue, but the provinces have also submitted proposals for the utilisation of the surplus wheat stock. These proposals are currently being evaluated, he said.

The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and provincial agricultural research centres have been asked to jointly produce the certified seeds of lentil to enhance its production, the minister said.

About oilseed crops, he said the current production does not meet the country’s need. The Punjab government is providing a subsidy to farmers to increase oilseed crops, he noted.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2017

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