Decline in agriculture growth rate: Senate body calls for special package in budget

May 23, 2014- BR Report

FAZAL SHER

Pakistan has witnessed a decline in agriculture growth rate from five to two percent as the government neglected the agriculture sector during the last budget, therefore its mandatory to announce special package in the upcoming budget for this sector to improve the growth rate.

Parliamentarians said this during the meeting of Senate Standing Committee National Food Security and Research on Thursday. The committee recommended to the federal government to increase development budgetary allocation of Ministry of National Food Security and Research as the present funding was totally insufficient in fulfilling its mandate.

Senator Syed Muzafar Hussan Shah presided over the meeting and Senator Syed Sughra Imam, Amar Jeet, Nuzhat Sadiq, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan, Secretary NFS&R Seerat Asghar and other senior officials of Zarai Taraqiati Bank (ZTBL) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) also attended the meeting.

Syed Sughra Imam said the agriculture growth rate declined from five to two percent, which was the lowest agriculture growth rate in the last 10 years. She said the government needed to review its food security policy and must announce special package for agriculture sector during the upcoming budget.

The Ministry, in compliance with senate committee’s recommendation, submitted the proposal of Rs 8848.864 million for the next PSDP 2014-15, but the finance division in consultation with P&D division has conveyed Indicative Budget Ceiling (IBC) of 750 million for PSDP 2014-15 at the level of CFY 2013-14. The committee also recommended the government to exclude agriculture sector while granting most favoured nation status to India and negotiate agriculture under special agreement. The committee further said there was no level playing field for making a deal with India.

Sughra Imam said the Ministry of Commerce prepared negative list taking the real stakeholder like former organisation on board. She presented proof before the committee that Ministry of Commerce prepared the negative list without consulting the real stakeholder during the next meeting. “The Ministry of Commerce does not study tariff line but only sees market condition”, she said. Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah asked Ministry of Commerce to submit a report before the committee in that regard before the next meeting.

Seerat Asghar told the committee that his ministry proposed to abolish custom duty on agriculture machinery including combine harvesters, rice transplanters etc and sale tax on tractor to equip agriculture sector with modern equipments. Due to increase in sale tax the production of tractor has recorded 30 percent decrease during the last nine months, he said, adding the Ministry also proposed to shift all tube wells in Sindh to solar energy.

He said the ministry had also proposed to abolish sale tax and duty on fertiliser. “Around 40 percent of fruit and vegetables go wasted and especially in Makran dates of over Rs 30 million are wasted every year due to lack of proper storage facility,” he added. He said European Union (EU) had banned import of mango from India and asked Pakistan to improve mango’s production otherwise the ban would also be imposed on Pakistan in that regard.

Dr Khalid Abdullah, Cotton Commissioner, said cotton sowing in the current season was not satisfactory due to heavy rains in key cotton growing areas. “The government has set the target of 2.4 million acres land for cotton sowing this year and so far sowing of cotton on only 1.4 million acres of land has been completed,” he said. Sikandar Hayat Bosan said the country was unlikely to achieve cotton production target that year due to rain and lower cotton price during last year, therefore farmers preferred to shift to other crops. Delay in cotton sowing would also affect wheat sowing during next year, he added.

The committee also expressed concerns for ignoring farmers while constituting zonal committee by the ZTBL. Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah said ZTBL had included heart surgeon and SE Wapda in the zonal committee as members despite clear direction of the committee for inclusion of only farmers in those committees. The committee asked ZTBL to review the members of zonal committees and submit a report before the committee during the next meeting in that regard.

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