MFN status to India: FAP threatens to block agriculture products’ import
November 01, 2011: Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) has warned that if the decision to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India is implemented without taking farmers’ bodies on board, growers will be compelled to physically block imports of agri-products from India to safeguard the interest of Pakistani farming community.
This warning was issued at a especially convened meeting presided by Hussain Jahania Gardezi, Vice Chairman FAP, where all the FAP directors showed serious concern against, what they say, most anti-farmer decision. Analysing the affects of the implementation of MFN decision to India, FAP President, Tariq Bucha said, here on Monday, that government’s decision to give India the MFN status is unilateral and a step in a hurry without considering the pros and cons.
Federal government should not take and implement this decision without consulting the provinces. Pakistan’s internal situation, economy, especially agriculture sector is not capable to compete with Indian products. The sector has always remained neglected and suffered lack of investment on part of the government, whereas India has always given intense importance to its agriculture sector, augmenting it by giving subsidy and other incentives, the meeting observed.
He pointed out that urea is the only agriculture input in Pakistan, which is partially subsidised while India is giving 30 billion rupees to subsidise their agriculture inputs. By allocating only few billions ‘peanuts’, no importance is given to the sector in Pakistan’s budget while in India, trillions of rupees have been allocated for agriculture in their 2011-12 budget. In India, a urea bag is available for Rs 350 (Rs 700 in Pak) while in Pakistan it costs between Rs 1,800 – 2,000. Electricity is almost free in India while its prices in Pakistan have already become extremely unaffordable, he added.
FAP president said that if government of Pakistan allows Indian agriculture products to be imported, under the MFN regime, not only our farmers will be destroyed, but India will also take control of our markets through various typical coercive measures. These include water stoppage, resulting in eventual famine like situation in Pakistan. Th move will also effect our industry and the already high ratio of unemployment will rise manifold. Latest statistics show that there is 18 percent unemployment in our country (factually even this is much higher), he maintained.
If we open the doors of trade with India (irrespective of our interests), the day is not far when our labour will go to Chandigarh and Amritsar for employment as there will be no employment opportunity available on our side, besides encouraging crimes such as theft, dacoities etc, he warned. If agriculture turns unviable it will force the farmers to convert land to non-agriculture use leading to closure of factories shrinking markets and become deserted. The traders that feel so delighted on trade with India through MFN status should realise where will they sell their products and to whom as customers will have empty pockets, he remarked.
FAP president said that if the government is serious to give the status of most favourite nation to India, it must first of all do its due homework. Work on WTO rules must be completed first. It should read carefully the infrastructure of Indian and Pakistan’s agriculture sector, consult farmer’s organisations in Pakistan and take such decision after due diligence and full preparation.
He made it clear that FAP is not against trade with any country especially with India but without rules, equal opportunity and the consensus with the stake holders ie farming organisations such as FAP MFN status to India will be detrimental. He observed that the much-trumpeted 18th constitutional amendment has in fact caused great damage to Pakistan agriculture.
No one knows by whom and where decisions pertaining to agriculture are being taken? For example at this moment no one is there to regulate seed and substandard seed is being sold in the market without any let or hindrance. Both the federal and provincial governments are totally in the dark regarding the future course of action pertaining to the most important and critical agriculture sector, with specific reference to the future policy.
Moreover, though India had given MFN status to Pakistan in 1966, it also imposed Non-Tariff Barriers to hoodwink Pakistani public. According to the record, Pakistan’s exports to India could not increase beyond 332 million US $ since 1996-97. While on the other hand, without MFN status to India, exports to Pakistan increased manifold ie 158 million US$ to 2,334 million US$ during the same period.