Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that the Kisan (farmer) Card was a step in moving towards modern agriculture and would "transform and change" Pakistan.
The prime minister was addressing the distribution ceremony of the Kisan Cards in Multan where he said that time would prove that this was a step towards modern agriculture.
He hailed the Kisan Card as an "amazing concept" and said that the help that farmers would receive through it would "transform and change Pakistan because farmers are actually the backbone of Pakistan".
The prime minister was in Multan on a one-day visit to distribute the cards among the farmers and also "lay the foundation stone of the South Punjab Secretariat", said the Prime Minister's Office.
"The prime minister will also launch public welfare and development projects in Multan."
Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed on the importance of farmers and said: "The more we strengthen our farmers, the more we will strengthen our country."
He said that the adoption of and movement towards new technology would make life easier for the people and also bring a decrease in corruption. Due to technology, the premier said, paperwork was eliminated and thus, the interaction where a person could take a bribe from another would also be eliminated through the Kisan Card.
The premier said that the subsidy on DAP (diammonium phosphate), which was previously Rs500, would also be increased to Rs1,000 under the Kisan Card.
"Subsidies will also be available for seeds and pesticides," said the prime minister, adding that loans to farmers would also be provided through the card and preparations for this were already under way.
He also added that the Kisan Card would be used to provide support to farmers and provide them money in moments of "calamity" and crisis.
"The Kisan Card will provide protection to all of Pakistan's four to five million farmers and going ahead, will create ease for them so we can provide things at lower prices to our people."
He hailed the efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, his team and administration, Habib Bank Ltd and the Punjab Information Technology Department for their work on the initiative. "This will transform and change the lives of farmers."
The premier said that during the PTI government's tenure, farmers had gained an additional Rs1,100 billion due to the prices they received for produce such as sugarcane, wheat and corn.
"Pakistan's poverty is concentrated in rural areas," he said, adding that the additional money that farmers would gain would help to improve their standard of living. He said that reducing poverty had been the "real purpose" of the PTI government since day one, adding that it was now "moving towards that target".
The prime minister also mentioned other measures the government was taking to improve the agricultural sector and pointed out the Rs300bn transformation package.
"Water is a very big problem. If farmers face water shortages then their produce is affected," he said, adding that two big dams were being made after 50 years to address this issue and Rs220bn from the transformation package was set aside for the fortification and lining of canals. Additional small scale water projects were also being carried out, he said.
He also stated that due to his efforts, agriculture had been brought under the scope of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to benefit from Beijing's agricultural technology and seed development. Pakistan's own research institutions on seed development would also be revamped, the premier said.
The prime minister also stated that a lot of agricultural produce that was imported, would now be grown in Pakistan, adding that the country's favourable climate and temperature provided the necessary conditions to increase crop yield.
"Our farmers are still using old methods," lamented the premier and stated that extension services were being privatised. A trained professional per Union Council would be responsible for visiting farmers on a motorcycle in the area and informing them about new agricultural techniques.
"There is great need for this because we need [to adopt] new [agricultural] practices," said the prime minister, adding that Pakistan's agriculture was subsistence level so "we will train them (farmers) through extension services to increase their productivity."
He also pointed out initiatives to develop Pakistan's livestock and said Pakistan still imported milk due to low productivity. Thus, Rs40bn have been set aside to import semen so livestock breeds could be improved, said the premier.
"You will see that change will come in one to two years and because of that, milk production will increase three-fold," he said, adding that improving the breed of livestock will not only allow Pakistan to provide cheap milk but also export cheese and milk.
"We can earn $25bn just from cheese and milk exports in the next three years."
Prime Minister Imran Khan lamented the losses that vegetables and fruits suffered at 50 per cent and 20pc for grains. "So we have decided to develop storage for them and food processing plants," he announced, adding that billions of rupees were lost due to 20pc of wheat being lost and fruits and vegetables could otherwise be provided much cheaper.
Among other measures he mentioned were doubling of loans for farmers, local production of fertilisers, doubling cereal production as well as improving local production of medicinal plants, corn and developing the fishery sector such as prawns.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had decided to personally oversee the agriculture sector and would provide details himself on the various initiatives, along with their timeframes.
South Punjab job quota
Addressing a ceremony in Multan later in the day, the prime minister said it had been decided that residents of South Punjab would get quotas in government jobs commensurate with the area's size and population.
He said he had visited all areas in Pakistan and it was "clear that South Punjab had been left behind", adding that 33 per cent of the province's population lived in South Punjab but the budget allocation for the region was only 17pc.
The premier said that according to data he received, over the last seven years, the budget allocated for South Punjab had been redistributed to other areas that former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif decided.
"There was a loss of Rs260bn in seven years in South Punjab, the money that should have been spent here was spent elsewhere [instead]. This is why the people wish a separate province is made."
Prime Minister Imran said the establishment of the South Punjab secretariat was a start because now the people would not have to go to Lahore to get their problems solved, adding that the government would introduce a constitutional amendment for the creation of South Punjab province.