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Agricultural sector lacks policy direction
By  Ahmad Fraz Khan

Agricultural sector lacks policy direction:-Pakissan.comFOR farmers, the first federal budget of the PML-N government came as a ‘disappointment’.

It neither prioritises the agricultural sector, nor sets any direction for it, in areas of common concern to all the four provinces where national policies are needed.

If the budget speech and the document are something to go by, the federal government seems to have simply washed its hands off the sector and expects the provinces to take total charge of it.

The logic behind this complete neglect of the sector is how the federation conceives its role after devolution.

However, according to farmers, there are certain areas which only the federation can, and should, handle. But with its attention focused on power crisis, it has simply lost sight of agricultural sector, despite the fact that the sector can contribute a great deal in bringing the country out of its current economic mess.

It can ensure production (critical for growth, incomes and food security, reducing poverty and industrialisation) and close the ever-widening trade deficit by increasing exports. All of these are federal subjects, and yet the federation has ignored them — jettisoning the agriculture sector.

The sector’s contribution to the GDP, till very recently, was 21.9 per cent, which has dropped to 21 per cent.This drop of 0.9 per cent means trillions of rupees in national financial terms. Instead of focusing on reasons leading to the drop and trying to find solutions, the government chooses to ignore it.

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Besides the long-term policy measures that farmers had hoped for, the immediate context of the budget was compelling enough to induce policy preferences. As documented by National Economic Survey, the sector grew only by 3.3 per cent last year against a target of 4.1 per cent.

What made last year’s growth even more disappointing is the fact that it had grown by 3.5 per cent in 2011-12. Last year, wheat production missed its target by 5.1 per cent as it yielded 24.2 million tonnes against a target of 25.5 million tonnes.

In 2011-12, it grew positively by 3.2 per cent. Rice did not perform well either, yielding 5.54 million tonnes against a target of 6.9 million tonnes — a decline of 19.7 per cent.

Cotton production target was also missed, as only 13 million bales were produced against a target of 14.5 million, a loss of 10.3 per cent.

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The livestock sector, which has a 55.4 per cent share in the agriculture, grew by 3.7 per cent last year.

The fishing sector grew by 0.7 per cent as against previous year’s positive growth of 3.8 per cent. Forestry sector posted a nominal growth of 0.1 per cent as compared to 1.7 per cent in 2011-12.

According to the Annual Plan 2013-14, agriculture sector would grow by 3.8 per cent in 2013-14.

This growth is expected on the basis of contributions of important crops (3.1 per cent), other crops (4.5 per cent), cotton ginning (6.1 per cent), livestock (3.9 per cent), fishing (two per cent) and forestry (two per cent).

What the federation has done in the budget to achieve these raised targets, no one knows — at least so far.

There are areas of common concern among the provinces which need to addresses at federal level. Farmers are questioning if the federation is not ready to help the sector, as proven by its budgetary document, why is it setting these targets?

What makes this target setting doubly confusing for farmers is that on the one hand federation is refusing to own the sector, but it still wants farmers to perform as per the standards set by it.

There seems to be huge disconnect in the federal behaviour that needs immediate correction, advises Tariq Bucha of the Farmers Associates of Pakistan.

The federal cabinet includes only one practicing farmer i.e., Sikandar Bosan — minister for food security — with the rest of the crowd coming from the urban centres, notes Hamid Malhi of the Basmati Growers Association.

With such low representation and input from farming community, the major input would inevitably come from bureaucracy.

Thus, politicians have to make up their mind about the sector, create a vision about it (its place in national economy) and implement it with active political will..

June, 2013

Source: The Dawn;


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