Strengthening agriculture sector
SUSTAINABLE growth of the agriculture sector is vital for ensuring food security and rural development in the country.
It is a major contributor to employment and foreign exchange earnings. Additionally, it also provides industrial raw material, hence growth in this sector obviously has multiple linkages with the overall economy.
It contributes 22.7 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides employment to around 37.4 per cent of the country’s labour force, manager of rural landscape and environmental shield in protecting and upgrading the climate resilient production and ecosystem.
The improvement in the agricultural production systems will certainly and surely go a long way to increase farm income, reduce consumer prices and enhance diverse food supplies besides generating an exportable surplus.
During the post COVID-19 period, the steep rise in the price of various commodities has obviously further enhanced the importance of this sector, especially for the countries who are net importers of food items.
The recent unprecedented flash floods caused by historically the heaviest rains had not only massively damaged and destroyed roads, infrastructure, bridges and affected more than 33 million people but also completely washed away standing crops over forty lakhs acres in different parts of the country.
In view of this massive devastation and realising the fact that the country’s progress, development and prosperity was directly proportionally linked to the agricultural sector of Pakistan, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has only the other day announced a massive package of incentives and initiatives amounting to as much as Rs 1800 billion during the ongoing financial year which was quite appreciable four times more than the farming community was getting during the preceding year.
Highlighting the salient features of the much needed package for the farmers, the Premier was reported to have said that the commercial banks avoid giving loans to the small farmers and entrepreneurs and instead look for safe investment, the mark-up on the loans by the farmers belonging to the flood affected areas has been waived, the centre and the provinces will also be providing more than Rs 8 billion to the small farmers in the flood-hit areas, furthermore the government will also provide loans worth Rs 50 billion to the youngsters living in the rural areas on mark-up less than the market rate and Rs 6.5 billion have been earmarked for this purpose, following tough negotiations between the federal government and the fertilizer plants price of DAP per bag has been slashed down by more than 2500 and it will now be available at Rs 11250 instead of Rs 14000.
Additionally, it is also worth appreciation that the centre in collaboration with the provinces will be providing as many as 1.2 million bags of certified wheat seeds to the farmers in the flood-ravaged ares free of cost and an amount of Rs 13.20 stands allocated for this purpose,the federal government is lso importing 500000 tons of urea out of which 200000 tons have already arrived in the country, in order to strengthen the important agriculture sector of the country, subsidy amounting to hefty Rs 30 billion will be provided on urea so that the small farmers can get the fertilizer as per their requirements at comparatively cheaper rates, to facilitate the farmers who cannot afford rather heavy prices of locally manufactured tractors the government has also decided to import five years old second hand tractors .
There is a lot more in the farmers package announced by the Prime Minister in pursuance of the demands being made by the farming community from time to time.
These incentives, it is worth mentioning here include provision of electricity at fixed rate of Rs 13 per unit, provision of gas at cheaper rate to the fertilizer factories, interest-free loans for transferring 3 lakh tubewells to solar energy, duty on tractor parts reduced to 15 per cent and interest loans of Rs 5 billion to landless haris also figure prominently in the kissan package of Rs 1800 billion agricultural loans.
The federal government has in most cases of provision of facilities and incentives, as also mentioned above, has ensured that the farmers in the flood-affected areas of the country are targeted to ensure their early rehabilitation and normalization of agricultural production activities at the earliest possible as the farmers’ prosperity means progress and development of Pakistan which is dire need of the hour.
The Prime Minister has announced the package of initiatives and incentives for the farming community fully appreciating the bitter fact that farmers in flood and rain hit areas of the country have been very badly hit financially and if they are not assisted and helped at the earliest then they may not be able to cultivate fresh crops and this may cause food insecurity in the country in the coming months.
If the massive kissan package so announced is implemented in letter and spirit sincerely, dedicatedly and determinedly by all those concerned down the line and the facilities so provided are availing by the farmers mainly in the flood-hit areas then one can easily say that this package is going to prove the best possible and great in all respects as indicted by none else but the Premier himself.
It is also worth mentioning here that the farming community representatives have welcomed and appreciated the packages of incentives and initiatives announced by the Prime Minister saying that all their demands have been fully met.
The farmers from over the country had quite recently staged sit-in in Islamabad in support of their demands, their demands and grievances were conveyed by the federal ministers concerned to the Prime Minister who had assured them that all their demands would be given due consideration sympathetically and appropriate measures announced in due course as the farming community role in boosting the national economy and ensuring food security cannot be undermined at all.
The package for the farming community indeed augurs well for strengthening and boosting the important agriculture sector of the country.
The federal government through the Premier had done its duty in this regard. Now it is for all those down the line to ensure proper implementation and for the farmers to fully avail the facilities and incentives so offered and set the cropping pattern in order at the earliest.
—The writer is a retired Deputy Controller (News), Radio Pakistan, based in Lahore.