A farmer sows wheat near Chakwal. — Dawn
A farmer sows wheat near Chakwal. — Dawn

CHAKWAL: The Punjab government’s relief package for farmers under the banner of the Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Programme has still not been successful in helping farmers with wheat sowing.

It was announced that a subsidy of Rs4 billion would be given on different fertilisers and some recommended varieties of wheat seeds. Subsidy of Rs300 to Rs800 was supposed to be given on one bag of fertiliser, while Rs300 was to be given on one bag of seed.

The Punjab government has made it so that only farmers registered with the agriculture department will be given the subsidy, and therefore decided to register 5.2 million farmers in the province.

“During the PML-N government, fertilisers were sold at subsidised rates but now a farmer has to pay full price for fertiliser and has to scratch a voucher pasted inside the bag and send the hidden number to 8070 to get the subsidy. After doing this he receives money the next day through mobile money transfer,” an official from the Punjab agriculture department told Dawn.

But while the cultivation of wheat has been completed in the Potohar region and is almost complete in the rest of Punjab, the government has not released the subsidy to registered farmers.

According to officials, 78,000 farmers have been registered in Chakwal district recently but not a single farmer has received the subsidy so far.

“The Punjab Seed Corporation has given us just 200 bags of wheat seed, which we distributed among the farmers,” Agriculture Department Assistant Director Dr Khalid Mehmood said.Many farmers told Dawn that they did not find any vouchers inside their fertiliser and seed bags, while others believed the hidden number was not sent to the given number.

“I have purchased 52 bags of fertiliser including diammonium phosphate(DAP)but I could not get the subsidy on a single bag yet as the hidden number of voucher was not sent,” said Mumtaz Kahout, a progressive farmer from Janga village.

“Those 200 bags reached Chakwal after 80pc of sowing was completed in the district,” Mr Kahout said. “Wheat sowing is done earlier in the Potohar region compared to the rest of Punjab. That’s why subsidised seed should be made available in the area before Oct 15.”

“It would be useless if government manages to release subsidy after cultivation is done,” he added.

Ghulam Shah, a farmer from Thoha Mahram Khan village in the Talagang tehsil told Dawn that he purchased 12 bags of DAP but not a single one contained a voucher. Mohammad Faisal from Odherwal village complained that he bought 15 bags of DAP, all sans vouchers.

The farmers said they made frantic calls to agriculture helpline but the helpline did not respond.

When contacted, Director General Agriculture Extension Department Dr Anjum Ali Buttar told Dawn that subsidy has been delayed because funds had not been released yet.

“We have to receive Rs3bn to disperse the subsidy, but so far we have not got that amount,” he said, adding that the problems with helpline would be fixed soon.

“We are also going to re-launch the agriculture helpline within the next few days,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2019