KARACHI:

The government should intervene through subsidies, modern technology and farmers’ education, as the cost of doing business for farmers has increased manifold during the past few years.

“If we only talk about fertilisers, a significant jump has been witnessed of up to 150% – especially in DAP and potash,” said Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) Vice President Ahmad Jawad while talking to The Express Tribune.

He was of the view that the situation of locally manufactured urea was also “bleak”.

“Farmers have to wait in long queues to get one bag of urea,” he lamented, hinting that “we could face a crisis now”.

“Now, we will import a minimum 3 million tons of wheat to feed our population,” he said.

“Similarly, tractor prices have also gone up, sliding away from the farmers reach,” he underlined, adding that electricity cost for tube wells had also increased.

Jawad also urged the incumbent government to pay fertiliser subsidy directly to farmers through the ministry of food security and provincial governments in an effort to reduce prices, “which have skyrocketed and led to a less-than-required consumption”.

“Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) prices have crossed Rs10,000 a bag, dealing a major blow to the farmers,” he underlined.

“The farmers’ cost of doing business has jumped in recent years,” Sindh Chamber of Agriculture President Miran Mohammed Shah said.

Unfortunately, the impact of subsidies provided by the government, mainly on agri implements, land levelers, solar tube wells, drip irrigation etc were not trickling down to farmers, he lamented.

“Government needs to facilitate small-land holding farmers over and above these subsidies,” he said and added: “Because the government cannot subsidise things to a greater extent due to IMF conditions – especially in the agriculture sector”.

“There will not be any impact on traders and companies related to the agriculture sector as they pass on their cost to their customers, however, farmers and end users get affected the most.”

In terms of crops, farmers’ cost of production has “increased manifold in the past few years, while their output has not kept pace with the cost”, said Aamer Hayat Bhandara, cofounder of Agriculture Republic, while talking to The Express Tribune.

“Although the hybrid seeds improved the crops quality in comparison to the conventional ones, it was not free,” he said, adding that the farmers paid for it without getting the desired returns.

“When the government gives subsidies to the businesses working in the agriculture sector, it should also be linked with improved farmers’ productivity,” said Bhandara.

“The government has been working on technology improvement and farmers’ capacity building for the last around 30 years,” said Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah.

“The government has spent billions of rupees; still we have not achieved the expected results.”

“Subsidies are not beneficial every time,” Shah remarked.

“Globally, one million dollars are spent on agriculture as a subsidy every minute but that is aggressively criticised,” he added.

The government must provide a level playing field, where “farming remains a viable means of livelihood”, otherwise people would leave the sector or the crops that were not making profits, he emphasised.

“This can lead to food insecurity,” he cautioned.

He was of the view that the government could help farmers through better policies.

Elaborating further, he said tractors in Pakistan were outdated and expensive – up to Rs4 million a tractor – just “because farmers cannot import it and local industry is given unnecessary protection that eliminates the competition”.

“The local tractor producing companies do not bother to innovate to bring new technology or reduce the price,” Shah said.­­

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2022.

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