ISLAMABAD: The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) set a wheat production target of 27 million tonnes for 2019-20 Rabi season from a projected crop sowing area of 9.2m hectares.

Last season the country produced 25.507m tonnes of the commodity from 8.833m hectares.

The committee, which met under the chair of Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mahboob Sultan, also fixed production targets for other Rabi crops including gram, lentil, potatoes, onion and tomatoes.

The output target for gram has been set at 525,500 tonnes; lentil 8,700 tonnes; onion 2.1m tonnes; and tomatoes 600,000 tonnes. Gram is grown mainly in Thal and contributes about 80 per cent to the production.

The committee proposed that provinces should focus on oilseeds and pulses cultivation in order to reduce the import bill.

For Rabi 2019-20, Indus River System Authority (Irsa) advisory committee has anticipated a shortfall of 15pc of water for irrigation. During Rabi season. provinces are allocated 31.44 million acre foot (MAF) of water, however prevailing weather conditions are supportive and shortage is manageable.

Pakistan Meteorological Department told the meeting that summer monsoon rains from July-September remained normal and well distributed all over the country. Significantly, above normal (46pc) rainfall was observed in Sindh while Gilgit Baltistan, AJK and KPK received 24pc, 22pc and 14pc - slightly below the normal.

Due to rainfall received in late September and early October, sufficient amount of soil moisture is available for sowing of Rabi crops. Weather outlook for October-December suggests that amount of rainfall will remain normal in agricultural plains of all the provinces.

The committee reviewed the performance of kharif crops and was informed that sugarcane production for 2019-20 is estimated at 64.77m tonnes from an area of 1.06m hectares; rice at 7.7 million tonnes over 3.36m hectares; maize output at 6.9m tonnes on 1.386m hectares.

Production achievements of major and minor crops like wheat, mung, mash, gram, potato, lentil, onion, tomato and chilies were also discussed during the meeting.

During 2018-19, banks also managed to meet the agricultural lending target of Rs1.174 trillion, achieving Rs1.25tr. A total of 4.012m borrowers were served during the period by 50 agriculture lending institutes including commercial, specialised, microfinance, Islamic banks and other microfinance.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019