A snapshot of Kasur’s agricultural sector

Published November 23, 2020
Unstable prices, a lack of cold storage, transportation, quality seeds and credit facilities are hindering the potential of the local farming community.
Unstable prices, a lack of cold storage, transportation, quality seeds and credit facilities are hindering the potential of the local farming community.

Founded by Pushtun migrants back in the 15th century and known as the burial place of the 17th-century Sufi poet Bulleh Shah, Kasur has been in the limelight in the recent past for all the wrong reasons. It has earned international notoriety for its child abuse cases, the best-known one being Zainab’s case that made the authorities enact the Zainab Alert Law for the protection of children.

Araen, Meo, Rajput, Kamboh and Gujjars are major biradaries/tribes in the district located adjacent to Lahore. Its headquarter is at a distance of around 50km southeast of Punjab’s capital and has earlier been infamous for water pollution because it is one of the seven major centres of tanneries. As a result of tanning activities of over 350 units, around 9,000 cubic metres of heavily polluted wastewater was being discharged into local water channels and drains along with the dumping of 150 tonnes of solid waste at various locations in the area daily.

This was not only leading to the degradation of the environment and posing a serious threat to human health through direct exposure to unhygienic conditions and drinking of contaminated groundwater but also indirectly through the effects of chemically polluted water on growth and yield of crops, and milk and meat output from animals. Almost 50 per cent of the area’s groundwater was unfit for irrigation.

Unstable prices, a lack of cold storage, transportation, quality seeds and credit facilities are hindering the potential of the local farming community in improving their earnings. These issues, combined with soil quality, are keeping the yields less than that in the adjacent Okara district

A wastewater treatment plant was commissioned with the financial assistance of the United National Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) in the late 1990s and the water contamination problem was contained to some extent. With the establishment of an industrial estate at its tehsil headquarters Chunian, a variety of other industrial units are being set up with the main thrust on textile spinning.

Farther west of the border with neighbouring India, the district is bounded by the River Sutlej in the southeast and River Ravi in the northeast, whereas the old course of River Beas bifurcates the district into two almost equal parts locally known as Hither and Uther or Majh. Both the areas have a height differential of around 5.5 metres as the district lies 198 metres above the sea level.

The farm area of the district is 393,000 hectares of which 295,000 hectares are under cultivation. The district lies in a simmered belt having subtropical land of vegetation, thus not very conducive for development of horticulture except in certain pockets in the southwest of the district near Pattoki, another tehsil headquarters, where a large number of nurseries have come up but do not find any market within the district and thus mostly cater to Lahore’s needs.

Sugarcane, wheat, rice, cotton and maize are the main crops grown in the district though millet, sorghum, moong, mash, masoor, oilseeds such as rapeseed/mustard and sunflower are also grown in minor quantities.

Wheat is sown on over 1.94 million hectares of land, while fodder is the second-largest claimant of area (over 1.23m hectares) and rice crop covers 0.902m hectares.

Citrus, guava and mangoes are major fruits, while peaches, java plum (jamun), grewia (falsa), lychee, banana, plum, pomegranate, pears and apricot orchards also dot the area. The total area under fruit orchards is over 8,299 hectares.

Potatoes, onions, carrots, cauliflowers, brinjals, bottle-gourds, turnips, garlic, ladyfingers and peas are the main vegetables grown in the district at over 20,360 hectares of land. Of the vegetables, potatoes claim the largest chunk of acreage — 13,162 hectares — while citrus and guava are the major claimants of the total land under orchards. Most of the fruit and vegetables are supplied to the provincial capital to fetch a better return for the farming community.

Unstable prices, a lack of cold storage, transportation, quality seeds and credit facilities are hindering the potential of the local farming community in improving their earnings. These issues combined with soil quality are keeping the yields less than that in the adjacent Okara district. Contract farming is also being introduced by some corporate firms as well as value-addition for sowing white varieties of potatoes to prepare chips and other products.

There are over 1.1m buffaloes and 0.39m cattle besides 0.47m sheep/goat in the district. But up to 72 per cent of buffalo and cattle suffer from selenium deficiency marring their reproduction and milk potential as well as leading to general health problems of the animals. Most of the milk production is dispatched for Lahore’s consumption and other nearby urban centres. Likewise, goats and cows are also transported to Lahore’s meat market, while some meat exporters are also benefiting from whatever the livestock are available.

As far as mechanisation of agriculture is concerned, there are 17,809 units of tractors in the district, comparatively more than any district in Lahore division as well as the adjacent division of Sahiwal. As per the Punjab Bureau of Statistics, the number of other farm implements in the district stands at 24,572.

The districts may be divided into two parts, a low lying or riverine area along the two bordering rivers and upland, away from the rivers. The riverine area is generally inundated during monsoon season. The water level in this area is higher than in the upland. The soil is sandy. The upland is flat plains sloping from north-west to south-west. Most of the cultivated area is canal fed, however, to meet water shortage, there are 31,886 electric and diesel-run tube-wells. These pump out mostly contaminated subsoil water which damages soil quality and yield as well as threaten the health of consumers, whether human or animals.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 23rd, 2020

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