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Sindh leads in farm productivity   
 
DEFYING public perception of widespread inefficiencies, Sindh is ahead of all other provinces including Punjab in farm productivity. The average cotton yield has been recorded at 1320 kg per hectare in Sindh against 590 kg in Punjab, the current data of last Kharif crop revealed.

The implications of the data were discussed at the meeting of the federal committee on agriculture in Islamabad in January, the federal secretary, ministry of food, agriculture and livestock confirmed to Dawn.

The difference in wheat yield is not as stark though it was reported to be higher in Sindh as compared to those in other provinces. The returns on most other major and minor crops grown in Sindh were also on the upper side. This has happened in spite of comparatively weaker social indicators and the quality of governance in the province. The public service delivery is both inefficient and insufficient as compared to that of Punjab.
 

 


Some years back, while evaluating the Structural Adjustment Programme’s (SAP) performance in the country, a donor’s survey found per unit utilisation of public funds and donor’s spending in Sindh much below the nation’s average. Punjab was projected to be the best governed province assessed on the basis of its resource utilisation.

Besides, the asset base in rural economy of Sindh is believed to be more skewed with big landholdings controlled by a few feudal families. A lot has been written by agro economists about marginalisation/exploitation of landless farm labour in the province living in sub-human conditions. The data on public healthcare system and education endorses the perception.

Another informal survey by this newspaper in 2006 confirmed ‘exclusion’ of the province from the high growth between 2003 and 2007. All cities excluding Karachi in Sindh slipped in ranking conceding their position to towns of Punjab. If rural Sindh is faring better it certainly demonstrates enterprising skills of its farming community.

The question arises why Sindh farmers, who are poorer, less educated and without proper healthcare facilities, are more efficient than their counterparts in a province that is assumed to be more resourceful and treading a natural path to development?
 

 

“The higher agriculture productivity of Sindh is both interesting and intriguing. It is hard for me to comment without timeline of comparative province-wise data. From experience in the field, I can tell that the trend has become more pronounced in recent years as people became aware of dividends of investment in technology and better quality inputs. This is despite the fact that Punjab provides more facilities to their farmers,” Mehmud Nawaz Shah, President of Sindh Abadgar Board, told this writer over telephone.

Junaid Iqbal, federal secretary ministry of food, agriculture and livestock, attributed higher farm productivity to limited area under cultivation in Sindh as compared to Punjab that made the sector more manageable for stakeholders.

“Sindh has a natural advantage in cotton as its environment is less susceptible to cotton leaf curl virus rampant in Punjab. The milder night temperature in Sindh also suits the crop as warm nights affect cotton balls adversely as in the case of Punjab. Besides the use of BT cotton seed by a large number of farm owners has improved cotton yields in the province,” he explained.

“The ministry is focused on raising farm productivity all over the country and we will announce a set of measures in this regard in the near future,” he told this scribe from Islamabad.

“Sindh is capitalising on technology and seed research carried out in Punjab. You carry out a survey of agriculture support institutions in Sindh and Punjab. I do not have an iota of doubt that agriculture research outfits of Punjab are far more efficient and effective than those in Sindh,” a senior agriculture ministry official from Faisalabad said. He wished not to be identified.

“Yes, yields are higher in Sindh but they are outcome of many intricately related factors. The bottom line is that milder climate of the province because of closer proximity to the sea, works in favour of farming community while it uses the same seeds and technology used by Punjab farmers,” he said.

“In Punjab harsher climate, particularly during Kharif, necessitates availability of more water to protect cotton plants against extreme heat, and ensure growth of fruit. For example a cotton variety FH942 developed in Punjab produces a ball that weighs about three grammes but when it was sown in South India its ball weight was as high as 6-8 grammes. The climate is the deciding factor in agriculture,” he added.

Commenting on efforts of the agriculture establishment, the officer said agricultural researchers are trying their best in many prestigious institutes in Punjab to deal with the productivity challenge.

“I know of no other country investing so much on agriculture support services as Pakistan, but physical constraints are too complex. We understand that wheat is crucial for food security and cotton for economic security and they are treated as such by the ministry of food and agriculture and related departments”.

Dr Qadir Bux Baloch, who retired last year as agriculture development commissioner from the federal ministry of food, agriculture and livestock, hoped that inflow of resources into rural economy because of better crop prices would boost productivity by allowing growers to apply more suitable inputs.

“The cost of agriculture input has gone up steeply. There is a need to ensure steady supply of resources to the farming community to let them apply best inputs to reap a good crop,” he added.

Dr Shakeel Khan, federal wheat commissioner, told this scribe from Islamabad that lower yield in Punjab as compared to that in Sindh pose a challenge that the ministry is alive to and working tirelessly to address it.

“A lot is happening but we have a long way to go to attain better productivity by managing our physical, financial and human resources more efficiently,” he said.

The land fragmentation in Punjab that has reduced farm size to sub-economical level might also have played a role in less efficient management of farms.

The Pakistan Economic Survey reports surge in fertiliser off-take in the country by 23 per cent over the last fiscal year. The better agriculture performance reduced the food import bill that shrunk to 2005 level despite surge in global commodity prices.
 

Courtesy: The DAWN
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