September 19, 2023

Strengthening of the agricultural sector | By Muhammad Zahid Rifat

Strengthening of the agricultural sector

The SUSTAINABLE growth of the agricultural sector is vital to ensuring the country’s food security and rural development.

It is a major contributor to employment and foreign exchange earnings. Moreover, it also provides industrial raw materials, so the growth of this sector obviously has multiple links with the global economy.

It contributes 22.7% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides jobs for around 37.4% of the country’s active population, manager of the rural landscape and environmental shield in the protection and modernization of production and ecosystems resilient to climate change.

The improvement of agricultural production systems will certainly and surely contribute to increasing agricultural incomes, reducing consumer prices and improving the diversified food supply in addition to generating an exportable surplus.

During the post-COVID-19 period, the sharp rise in prices of various commodities has obviously further enhanced the importance of this sector, especially for net food-importing countries.

The recent unprecedented flash floods caused by the heaviest rains in history have not only massively damaged and destroyed roads, infrastructure, bridges and affected over 33 million people, but have completely washed away standing crops. over forty lakhs acres in different parts of the country.

In view of this massive devastation and aware that the country’s progress, development and prosperity were directly and proportionally linked to Pakistan’s agricultural sector, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the other day a massive package of incentives and of initiatives amounting to as much as Rs 1800 billion in the current financial year, which was quite appreciable four times more than what the farming community was receiving in the previous year.

Highlighting key features of the much-needed package for farmers, the Prime Minister reportedly said that commercial banks were avoiding providing loans to small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs and instead seeking safe investments, the mark-up on loans by farmers belonging to the affected areas by the floods has been lifted, the center and the provinces will also provide more than 8 billion rupees to small farmers in the flood affected areas, in addition, the government will also provide loans worth 50 billion rupees to young people living in rural areas, a mark-up below the market rate and 6.5 billion rupees was earmarked for this purpose, following difficult negotiations between the federal government and the fertilizer factories, the price of DAP per bag has been reduced by more than 2500 and it will now be available at Rs 11250 instead of Rs 14000.

In addition, it should also be noted that the center, in collaboration with the provinces, will provide up to 1.2 million bags of certified wheat seeds free of charge to farmers in flood-ravaged areas and that an amount of 13, 20 rupees will be allocated for this purpose. To this end, the federal government is also importing 500,000 tons of urea, of which 200,000 tons have already arrived in the country, in order to strengthen the country’s important agricultural sector, a subsidy of a high amount of 30 billion rupees will be given to urea so that small farmers can get the fertilizer according to their needs at comparatively cheaper rates, to facilitate farmers who cannot afford fairly high prices of locally made tractors, the government has also decided to import five-year-old second-hand tractors.

There is much more to the package for farmers announced by the Prime Minister in response to requests made from time to time by the farming community.

These incentives, it is worth mentioning here, include supply of electricity at a fixed rate of Rs 13 per unit, supply of gas at a cheaper rate to fertilizer factories, interest free loans for the transfer of 3 wells lakh solar-powered tubulars, duties on tractor parts reduced to 15 percent and interest loans of Rs 5 billion to landless haris also feature prominently in the kissan package of Rs 1.8 trillion agricultural loans .

The federal government has in most cases provided facilities and incentives, as also mentioned above, ensured that farmers in flood-affected areas of the country are targeted to ensure their speedy rehabilitation and normalization of activities agricultural production as soon as possible. for the prosperity of the farmers means the progress and development of Pakistan, which is an urgent need of the hour.

The Prime Minister announced the package of initiatives and incentives for the farming community, fully appreciating the bitter fact that farmers in the flood and rain affected areas of the country have been hit very hard financially and if they do not are not assisted and assisted at the earliest, they may not be able to grow new crops, which could lead to food insecurity in the country in the coming months.

If the massive kissan package thus announced is implemented in letter and spirit with sincerity, dedication and determination by all concerned and the facilities thus provided are used by farmers mainly in flood-affected areas, one can easily say that this package will turn out to be the best possible and excellent in all respects, as accused by none other than the Prime Minister himself.

It is also worth mentioning here that the representatives of the farming community have welcomed and appreciated the packages of incentives and initiatives announced by the Prime Minister saying that all their demands have been fully met.

Farmers across the country had just recently staged a sit-in in Islamabad in support of their demands, their demands and grievances were conveyed by the relevant Federal Ministers to the Prime Minister who assured them that all their demands would be given due consideration with kindness. and appropriate measures announced in due time because the role of the agricultural community in reviving the national economy and guaranteeing food security can in no way be compromised.

The agricultural community package indeed bodes well for strengthening and revitalizing the country’s important agricultural sector.

The federal government, through the Prime Minister, had done its duty in this regard. It is now up to all downstream to ensure proper implementation and farmers to take full advantage of the facilities and incentives thus offered and get the cropping pattern in order at the earliest.

—The author is a retired Assistant Controller (News) of Radio Pakistan, based in Lahore.