May 18, 2013
ABDUL RASHEED AZAD
Production of major crops including paddy, wheat, gram and cotton lint is witnessing a decline in production due to skyrocketing input costs. According to a senior official of Ministry of Food Security and Research, in 2011-12 and 2012-13 Pakistan missed production targets of important crops ie wheat, rice, cotton and gram, while during the same period the cost of crop production increased by 25 to 30 percent.
During the past few years Pakistani rupee value against other currencies has sharply declined which has also made imported farm inputs correspondingly expensive, resultantly the food security situation has worsened. After the 18th Amendment, an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty is prevailing and for the second consecutive year the agriculture sector has suffered because of confusion over who needs to do what in certain areas of responsibility.
The country missed production targets of all major crops. Against a target of 25 million tons of wheat, 23.45 million tons of wheat was produced in 2012 and in 2013 the country”s wheat production is around 24 million tons against set target of 25 million tons. This drop of 1.5 million tons and one million tons cost the farmers around Rs 85 billion.
Similarly, cotton also missed the target by around 1.5 million bales and output was 13.58 million bales against a target of 15 million bales in 2011-12 and about 13 million bales in 2012-13, which cost the farm community around Rs 120 billion. Rice crop has dropped to 6.2 million tons against seven million ton target and this loss of over half a million tons in the paddy crop has cost the farmers Rs 34 billion in the past two years. Gram production came down to 250,000 tons from 550,000 tons. These 300,000 tons translate into a loss of Rs 28 billion a year. Put together, these fours crops account for around Rs 400 billion in the past two years to the farm community.
One can look at the gram loss alone to measure the negative impact. The Rs 28 billion loss last year has mainly hit four districts namely Bhakkar, Layyah, Khushab and Mianwali, which are among the most under-developed districts in Punjab. “Pakistan needs around 900,000 tons of gram to feed its population relatively cheap protein, but the country is at present producing only 250,000 tons of gram. In the past, Pakistan was producing nearly 800,000 tons of gram pulse. Even in worst-weather years, the gram production never came down to less than five maunds per acre. Unfortunately during the past few years it was only 2.2 maunds per acre. How and why did the production drop by more than 70 percent within a matter of few years no one knows”, Ibrahim Mughal Chairman Agri-Forum Pakistan said.
He said Punjab had around 35,000 employees in its agriculture department and another 47,000 in irrigation department. This huge manpower is looking after only 25,000 villages in the province, which makes more than three officers a village. “The employees of equally over-staffed departments of food, forestry, livestock and environment are in addition. What these employees were doing during the years, no one knows,” he added. He said Pakistani farmers had the capability to enhance farm production by 50 percent if the government reduced input cost and brought them at par with India. Business Recorder