Untimely rain spell, inflation add to Potohar farmers’ worries

Published April 21, 2024
Daily-wage workers, especially from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and South Punjab, are busy harvesting wheat crop.
Daily-wage workers, especially from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and South Punjab, are busy harvesting wheat crop.

As a prolonged spell of rain delays wheat harvest in the Potohar region, farmers have complained about an unprecedented rise in the cost of harvest, saying it has increased twofold on the back of an increase in the price of petroleum products compared to the previous year.

Though the harvest has begun in some parts of the plateau, farmers are worried that the untimely rains will harm the yield. They also fret about the rise in the cost of petroleum products, electricity, labour and agricultural machinery.

Chaudhry Rab Nawaz, a farmer in Gujar Khan, said the recent rains had delayed the harvest and he was waiting for clear skies to kick-start the harvest on his 60-acre land. He feared that the yield quality and quantity could be affected if the rain spell continued for a few more days.

Raja Sohail Janjua echoed similar sentiments, as he complained about the rise in labour costs. Last year, labourers would charge Rs1,000 for a day but now their daily wages have increased to Rs1,500, he said, adding that a “can of engine oil” for tractors that was available in the market for up to Rs4,500 during the previous season had also skyrocketed to Rs5,500. Similarly, a new oil filter cost him Rs950 instead of Rs150 a year ago.

Mr Janjua is also worried about rates thresher owners would charge him this year. Last year, the machine owners used to provide services for up to Rs4,000 per hour but this year there is uncertainty about their price since the harvesting season has yet to kick-start due to untimely rains. He feared torrential rains and hailstorms could affect the crop’s yield.

 Rains have forced farmers to leave crop bundles in the fields.
Rains have forced farmers to leave crop bundles in the fields.

Raja Zainul Abideen, another farmer in the tehsil, told Dawn that small agriculturalists were badly hit by the rising cost of agriculture. He said small landowners could not afford urea, DAP, or till their land as many as five times to make the land suitable for sowing due to inflation.

Due to an increase in the cost of fuel and tractors’ rent, they could not properly cater to their fields, adversely impacting the produce, he said, adding that a well-ploughed land fed with fertilisers would have a higher yield compared to a less-ploughed one.

About urea prices, Mr Nawaz told Dawn that the 50kg bag of DAP fertiliser cost Rs7,000 in 2022 compared to Rs15,000-16,000 in 2023. He added that the bag of urea that was available for Rs2,000-2,200 in 2022 was sold at Rs6,000 in 2023. He disclosed that the farmers had to produce these products from the ‘black market’, forcing many to refrain from using urea due to its non-affordability and shortage.

Amid these factors, Raja Zain urged the government to set the per mound (40/kg) price of wheat at about Rs5,000, which would be the minimum cost to cover their expenses as well as earn some profit.

He lamented that no subsidy was available to the farmers of the tehsil while the performance of the agriculture department was also disappointing. He said the survival of farmers had become “next to impossible due to the skyrocketing cost of living in the country”, and called upon the government to bring reforms for their uplift.

Procurement target

According to the sources in the food department, the government has set a minimum support price of Rs3,900/40kg, and has set a target of procuring up to two million metric tonnes of wheat during the scheme year 2024-25.

 A boy participates in wheat harvesting in his father’s field.
A boy participates in wheat harvesting in his father’s field.

Rawalpindi Food Department Deputy Director Mahar Abbas Haral said the spell of rain was causing harvest delays, adding that the “moisture content in wheat is counterproductive”. He added that heavy rains and storms could cause “partial damage” to wheat.

Mr Haral said that the quality and quantity of the crop may be affected, adding that climate change was impacting harvesting patterns.

Rawalpindi division Agriculture Director Syed Iftikhar Bokhari said he also noticed the suspension of harvesting due to rains. He, however, claimed that temperature would rise in the next few days allowing the farmers to expedite the harvest.

 Wheat crop is ready for harvest. If the weather remains dry, a bumper yield of the cash crop is expected. — Photos by the writer
Wheat crop is ready for harvest. If the weather remains dry, a bumper yield of the cash crop is expected. — Photos by the writer

Though the recent rains posed difficulties for farmers, it was fortunate that they were not accompanied by strong winds due to “lodging (fall) of crops stems was minimal,” he added.

The director said the farmers should get “maximum advantage of the expected hotter and dry week” to harvest the crop.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Another lynching
Updated 22 Jun, 2024

Another lynching

The chilling alternative to not doing anything — which appears to be the state’s preferred option — is the advent of mob rule.
Tax & representation
22 Jun, 2024

Tax & representation

THE taxation measures outlined in the budget for the incoming fiscal year have triggered a lot of concern among ...
Life of the party?
22 Jun, 2024

Life of the party?

THE launch of Awaam Pakistan, a party led by former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former finance minister...
KP’s ‘power struggle’
Updated 21 Jun, 2024

KP’s ‘power struggle’

Instead of emboldening protesters, CM Gandapur should encourage his provincial subjects to clear their due bills and ensure theft is minimised.
Journalist’s murder
21 Jun, 2024

Journalist’s murder

ANOTHER name has been added to the list of journalists murdered in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Khalil Jibran’s vehicle...
A leaner government?
21 Jun, 2024

A leaner government?

FINANCE Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb has reiterated his government’s ‘commitment’ to shutting down ministries...