IWCCI hails govt agri sector recovery efforts

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ISLAMABAD The Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IWCCI) on Saturday lauded the initiatives of the government to revive the ailing agriculture sector which is the backbone of the economy. Supporting rural population will settle food security issue. It also hailed the decision of the Prime Minister Imran Khan to provide relief of Rs40 billion to farmers by abolishing GIDC for fertilizer industry which will reduce the price of urea bag by Rs400. The government’s move to avoid a further hike in the price of natural gas is good for masses and the economy under the current set of circumstances, said Farida Rashid, President IWCCI. She said that the revival of the distressed agriculture sector will require a new agriculture policy designed according to the ground realities, necessary amendment in the Seed Act to depress sale of substandard seed, reducing the role of middlemen and loan sharks in the rural economy, and discouraging profiteers and hoarders. Farida Rashid said that the largest employment providing sector of agriculture is facing serious problems and it has become a threat to the economy and exports mandating an urgent bailout. She noted that the last year the growth rate of the agriculture sector remained below one percent while a collective decline in cropoutput was five percent. The situation will remain the same for the current year if a proper intervention by the government was delayed. The major cotton exporter country of Pakistan has become a net importer while four billion dollars will be needed to bridge the shortfall and keep the textile sector running that is the largest export earner and the second-largest job provider in the country. She said that the twenty percent decline in cotton output will reduce GDP by 0.5 percent which must be taken seriously. Sugarcane production is also not satisfactory while other crops are facing problems, she said, adding that amendment in Seed Act to end the sale of substandard seed will increase production, reduce the price of agricultural products and income of the farmers. She noted that the prices of agricultural products have increased beyond the capacity of the poor but it has not benefitted farmers as profits are finding their way in the pockets of hoarders. The farming community can only be bailed out of the clutches of loan sharks when banks start providing them affordable loans. She noted that the volume of the agricultural loans is increasing but its benefitting the owners of large holdings. The banks are focusing on only one province for loan disbursements while others are ignored which is hindering uniform development of this critical sector, she said.—INP