Agriculture, food security: growers bodies term allocation in budget peanuts

June 05, 2014 – BR Report

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Growers organisations have termed the allocations for the agriculture and national food security under proposed federal budget for 2014-15 has mere peanuts compared to the contribution of 22 per cent of the sector in the national GDP.

Farmers Associate Pakistan (FAP) Director Hamid Malhi while talking to Business Recorder said that there were some welcoming steps but allocations made against them were not at par with the share of agriculture sector which was contributing 22 per cent in the GDP and providing livelihood to 45 per cent of the labour force of the country.

He said that the finance minister did not mention anything about longstanding demand of growers of withdrawing sales tax on all agricultural inputs. No doubt, it has been announced to bring back sales tax rate on tractors to 10 per cent but it is because the tractor manufacturing lobby was very powerful, Malhi claimed and added that same tax had not been reduced on other agricultural machinery.

FAP representative said that only Rs 42 billion had been allocated to the water sector while long list of projects had been disclosed by the finance minister in the parliament. He observed that this small allocation perhaps would not be sufficient to even buy land for the projects announced by the government. He said it seemed that nothing would be achieved on water sector in next year. He said that the government had allocated Rs 114 billion to roads and Rs 77 billion to railways but did not allocate sufficient amount for most critical subject of water.

He said announcement of the National Food Security Council, credit guarantee scheme for small and marginalized growers, crop loan insurance premium scheme and livestock insurance scheme are welcoming steps but again allocations proposed against these schemes were very low. He said that if land holding limit under crop insurance scheme had been increased to 25 acre then it should also be the same under the small growers’ scheme. Similarly, he said that the allocation for agricultural credit should have been Rs 1000 billion instead of proposed Rs 500 billion.

Agri Forum Pakistan (AFP) Chairman Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal also termed the budget just mere a game of words offering nothing in practical to the most important sector which was the backbone of the national economy. He said this budget would also not increase production at macro level while it would enhance the inflation too during next financial year.

He also said that allocation of Rs 500 billion under agricultural credit scheme was not sufficient and should be Rs 1000 billion. He also said that the federal finance minister lied about the production capacity of different power projects. Regarding loan for small farmers, he said that there were 90 per cent small growers in Pakistan and the allocation should be Rs 300 billion under these schemes. He said that the government should take steps to boost the agricultural production by 7 per cent per annum as 2.1 per cent growth was not sufficient keeping in view the population growth of 3.5 per cent per annum, Mughal added. Different growers also hailed the incentives given on fruit and flower processing but demanded that this scheme should be extended to whole of the country instead of limiting it to a specific area.

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