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Measures to improve farming

June 17, 2012

THE Sindh budget 2013 has allocated Rs13.69 billion for agriculture which is 350 per cent higher as compared to Rs3.25 billion of 2007-08 fiscal.

Growers appreciate certain initiatives including allocations, though meagre, for on-farm water management (Rs740 million for lining of watercourses), subsidy on agriculture inputs and scheme of subsidised tractors.

Other notable schemes are disbursement of agriculture loans of Rs100,000-500,000 for small farmers through Benazir Zarai Cards by Sindh Bank.

This year around, 2,000 small farmers have been advanced Rs430 million. Sindh Bank will manage agriculture credit line for small farmers at seven per cent interest subsidy with an allocation of Rs4 billion.

“We feel that the government has tried to make some allocations for the agriculture sector which is 2.36 per cent of total budgetary allocations. It indicates that the government will spend Rs1,053 per acre during this fiscal year on farmland,” says Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB). It is commendable that the government has increased the number of subsidised tractors for growers from 6,000 in 2011-12 to 15,000 in 2012-13 budget.

Likewise the water and drainage sector has been given an allocation close to Rs8 billion. “But I can’t refrain from saying that it is too small. The Sindh government has admitted that works done on restoration and rehabilitation of damaged irrigation is not enough. The government can rectify it while the budget is debated and passed in the Sindh Assembly,” Nizamani says.

The irrigation sector needs around Rs51 billion since floods and heavy rains in 2010 and 2011 which damaged infrastructure substantially while the government claims to have so far released Rs17 billion, he adds.

The Sindh government is spending Rs1.5 billion on the repair of damaged LBOD system in Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Badin districts. The authorities claim that 70-90 per cent of the work has been completed in all these districts so far.

Under the project, a grower’s watercourse is lined to the extent of 30 per cent of the total length of a watercourse. Growers are interested in lining of the entire length of the watercourse to get its benefits. Agriculture engineering department says that while there is no harm in lining the remaining part of the unlined watercourses, over 20,000 watercourses still remain unattended.

General Secretary SAB Mehmood Nawaz Shah says that a block allocation is not seen in agriculture budget for any mega project.

He, however, appreciates initiatives taken in respect of Agro Processing Expo Zone for fruits, vegetables, flowers and allied products.

Agriculture has been fully devolved after the passage of 18th amendment. Adequate allocations should be made by the government to purchase sugar, wheat and paddy crops. Only then the government would be able to force rice or sugar factory owners to pay support price fixed by the government for major crops, he says.

According to Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) official Dr Nadeem Qamar, mechanised farming will be spurred by subsidy on 15,000 tractors. Simultaneously, he says, the federal government should have reduced GST on agricultural implements.

However, the Sindh government has rightly allocated Rs100 million for implements.