Centre urged to revive agriculture emergency programme, enforce Rs37bn subsidy plan

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The demand was made at a SAB meeting held on Sunday, chaired by Mahmood Nawaz Shah. — File photo
The demand was made at a SAB meeting held on Sunday, chaired by Mahmood Nawaz Shah. — File photo

HYDERABAD: The Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) has urged the federal government to revive its agriculture emergency programme and implement Rs37 billion subsidy plan forthwith.

The demand was made at a SAB meeting held here on Sunday, chaired by Mahmood Nawaz Shah, and attended by Dr Zulfiqar Yousfani, Dr Bashir Nizamani, Mian Mohammed Sharif, Imran Bozdar, Taha Memon, Abdul Rehman Khatti and others.

It said the production of cotton was declining every year and it had now reduced from 14.8 million (m) bales to 9.4m bales. It was alarming again this year that the federal and provincial governments had not announced any measures to arrest and address the issues being faced by cotton growers.

It said the textile industry would import cotton to meet demands. Many incentives were announced for the industry, but the country would have to spend precious foreign exchange in this regard, it observed.

It said cotton sowing this year again from March to May was impacted first by seed in Sindh. It was difficult to understand that the government permitted sale of seed with 50pc germination ratio, which was usually 75pc as per international standards of 98pc germination, the meeting said.

The participants said that prices of seed on the other hand should have been reduced with lower germination, but they were increased from Rs150 per kg to Rs250 to Rs 300 per kg. Seed germination in fact was lower than 50pc and farmers had to use double seeds from 5kg to 10kg in ridge sowing and from 10kg to 20kg in drill sowing, they added.

Local breed of locusts, which hovered during cotton sowing, was another problem, it said, adding that a large number of farmers had to sow seed twice or some had even sown cotton three times as the insects destroyed fresh plants quickly.

The SAB expressed concern over declining cotton production in the face of pest attack and seed rates etc. It regretted that those issues were not addressed yet while more complex problems were emerging now. It seemed that cotton producers would suffer losses again, it said.

It said the agriculture sector had suffered due to Covid-19, locusts, flight closures, demand contractions etc., as they negatively impacted the agrarian economy. It said the attack of locusts were accentuating negative impacts on the already effected agriculture and became a major threat to Pakistan’s agriculture in the coming days.

The SAB has demanded compensation to farmers whose crops were destroyed by locusts in the past six months. It said the government should keep provisions to cover future losses as feared by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Aerial spray should be started and Pakistan should press for a regional cooperation to control locusts, it said, calling for a comprehensive policy for cotton to achieve 14m bales production and for this high yielding, climate resistant, pure seeds be provided.

It said cotton rates needed to be rationalized to the extent of inflation in agricultural inputs. Pesticides should be regulated for its efficacy, and bio logical control measures should be encouraged and introduced, which required research and development in cotton. It said the federal and provincial governments should coordinate to devise a compensation package for agriculture, including waiver of taxes and electricity bills.

It said that Rs37bn subsidy programme of fertilizer should be initiated and the scheme should be simple and transparent so that it could benefit farmers of all provinces. It demanded revival of the agriculture emergency programme announce by the federal government.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020