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Boosting farm productivity

There were three pieces of good news for Pakistani farmers recently. First, on May 20, the World Bank approved $ 61 million worth of interest-free, long-term credit for the On-Farm Water Management Project in Sindh to support the Pakistan government in helping farmers to increase agricultural productivity through improvement in the management of water resources and irrigation, including the lining of 4,000 watercourses to reduce the wastage of water.

Boosting farm productivitySecond, on May 21, at a meeting in Beijing between Minister of State for Food, Agriculture and Livestock Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan and Chinese Minister for Agriculture Du Qinglin, China agreed to provide Pakistan with technical assistance to improve crop yields and develop high-yield hybrid varieties of rice and cotton.

Third, at the same meeting, the Chinese minister noted that his government had already issued a quarantine certificate allowing the import of Pakistani mangoes and said that China was also interested in importing other food products from Pakistan, including kinoos, dates and rice.

It has been estimated that as much as 50 per cent of irrigation water is lost through seepage in unlined watercourses by the time it reaches the tail end farmers in many parts of Sindh. Lining the watercourses will help to significantly reduce the loss, though some losses will still occur due to evaporation, especially during Sindh’s hot summers.

The Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA), a provincial government agency under the control of the Sindh Agriculture Department, which manages some of the watercourses, now needs to get cracking with the lining of the watercourses on a priority basis. In order to meet the full cost of the $ 91 million On-Farm Water Management Project, however, the Sindh government will have to find another $ 30 million from somewhere.

The money could come from the federal government, as part of its contribution to Sindh’s development budget in fiscal 2004-05 and 2005-06. Alternatively, SIDA could be authorised to make up the $ 31 million shortfall through the sale of bonds, like other government organisations, including WAPDA and PIA, have been permitted to do in the past.

Improving crop yields is another key issue facing Pakistan’s agricultural sector.

An international survey of sugarcane growing countries carried out a few years ago found that while Pakistan was ranked 6th in the world in terms of the acreage under sugarcane plantation, it was only18th in the world in terms of the total tonnage of sugarcane produced.

Boosting farm productivity

The reason for this was the low per-acre yield of the sugarcane varieties grown in Pakistan. The survey showed that Hawaii, for instance, had an average sugarcane yield equivalent to 1,800 maunds per acre, Cuba had an average yield of 900 maunds per acre, but Pakistan had an average yield of only 350 maunds per acre. The need to improve this country’s sugarcane yields is therefore self-evident.

Citrus yields in Pakistan are also low, a problem compounded by the fact that the peak citrus-harvest season here last only about 90 days. By contrast, in Florida it lasts about 180 days - twice as long as in Pakistan. Florida has been able to achieve a longer peak-harvest season by developing early- and late-ripening varieties of citrus.

This longer season also helps citrus juice factories in Florida to achieve a higher output per juice-extraction machine, because their extractors are able to work for twice as long as those in Pakistani factories.

The Florida factories are also able to earn higher profits per extractor than factories in Pakistan, because the Florida factories are able to spread out their per-extractor fixed costs (such as interest payments on machinery loans and working capital loans) over twice the output of equivalent extractors in Pakistani factories.
 

Courtesy : The News

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