Agriculture and the budget
MOHAMMAD HUSSAIN KHAN
don’t feel comfortable with the new budget.
While it is understandable
that agriculture sector is a devolved subject but point out
that when government has come up with allocations for health
and education sectors.
Which, too are devolved
ministries, agriculture should have been given considerable
allocations in some sectors.
According to them, the
Rs405-million allocation for bio-technology, hybrid seed
production for enhanced crop production, agriculture
research, among others is nominal.
In water resource
development, an allocation of Rs38.2 billion is earmarked
for irrigation projects including small and medium dams,
check and delay action dams, canals and improvement of
existing irrigation system will for living of irrigation
channels in saline zones in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa Rs3 billion is allocated. Again, they say, it
will not be helpful.
The levy of 16 per cent GST
on goods remain unchanged – something that is in sharp
contrast to the demand of farmers’ bodies that it must go or
at least drastically reduced - given the fact that it has a
direct impact on their per-acre cost of production.
Agriculturalists see no
relief in terms of cost of diesel, whose frequent hikes are
dealing a blow to the sector.
Successive massive floods in
2010 and 2011 hit the irrigation infrastructure in Sindh,
rendering colossal damages to irrigation channels,
distributaries and canals.
Irrigation system has a
direct linkage with agriculture sector if enhanced
productive is to be achieved.
Huge silt deposits in canals
and subsequent delay in de-silting of canals has always be a
matter of concern for growers because their farmland
especially those at tail-end of canal system don’t get
regular supply of water even when there is adequate flows in
The situation gets
complicated when there is severe water shortage.
Therefore the farmers want the government to pay serious
attention to rehabilitation of damaged irrigation channels
in the wake of 2010 super floods and 2011 heavy rains.
In 2010, the super floods
mainly hit areas located on right bank of River Indus and
2011 heavy rains damaged water channels and saline water
drains in areas located on left bank of the river.
“The top priority of Sindh government in 2012-13 fiscal
year’s budget should be rehabilitation of drains and canals
infrastructure and we expect the government to handle the
situation cautiously”, says Dr. Nadeem Qamar, president
Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA). He says the allocations
for health and education are higher than agriculture sector.
Agriculture is one of the
sectors devolved to provinces following the implementation
of the18th amendment in April 2010. Provincial government is
now supposed to come up with concrete measures to deal with
They realised that government
did execute repair works for dykes at the cost of Rs5
billion after 2010 super floods and another Rs1.5 billion
were released to repair damages to water channels following
last year’s rains.
Sindh’s two main farmers bodies have submitted their
proposals to the provincial finance minister, hoping to
acquire due space in the Sindh budget, likely to be revealed
A great emphasis is attached
to transparent utilisation of funds allocated for irrigation
“We badly need an efficient irrigation system which plays an
important role in agriculture sector therefore it should top
government’s list of priorities in forthcoming budget”,
points out Mehmood Nawaz Shah, general secretary of Sindh
Abadgar board, a vibrant farmers’ body.
Qamar points out that 16 per GST and 2.5 per cent
withholding tax don’t go down well with farmers.
“Two-and-a-half per cent withholding tax is paid by ginners
and rice factories owners to government. In fact we pay it
for them, practically.
They [rice or cotton factory
owners] will not pay 2.5 per cent withholding tax…they will
add it in the cost of cotton and paddy to be paid to us so
we will be at the receiving end”, he adds.
He simultaneously underscores
need for quality seed production. This can be done by
federal government run Pakistan Agriculture Research Council
“But unfortunately I don’t see anything being allocated for
PARC in [federal] budget”, he says.
Rising cost of inputs, according to him, has made
agriculture less profitable sector. Since prices of inputs
keep increasing situation puts them in an uncomfortable
Levy of GST has an adverse
impact on them. Farmers say that number of subsidised
tractors needs to be increased in Sindh in order to promote
“The government provided tractors at subsidised rates but
most of them were of inferior quality”, says Gada Hussain
Mahesar, a veteran paddy grower in upper Sindh region. When
unscrupulous people in government claim commission in
procurement of tractors they compromise its quality, he
“Since the commission is paid by the concerned company, it
will fit substandard spare parts to avoid losses and we
witnessed that tractors were fitted become dysfunctional
within a matter of few days”, Mahesar explains.
He feels that now yearly
budget doesn’t matter. “There is budget every day or every
For Mehmood Shah, agriculture implements have a dominant
role for crop maximisation. Therefore, he says, government
should increase its allocation for tractor from Rs100
million to Rs200 million in subsidy in 2012-13 budget.
Lining of watercourses under
on-farm water management programme is another important
area, he adds. He says that with lined watercourse, seepage
and water losses are controlled.
Sindh government plans to increase provision of subsidised
tractors’ provision in the 2012-13 budget. A proposal to
this effect is reported to have been floated by agriculture
department to Sindh government for water conservation
measures. Lining of water courses will continue.
Mahesar remarks that growers should be allowed to import
tractors from any country they like to get a quality
product. “If subsidy is given by government on tractors
fitted with inferior quality spare parts it will not serve
the purpose so it is advisable that growers should be
permitted to import tractors from country of their choice”,
Mehmood Shah believes government should seriously ponder
over credit financing for farmers. Sindh needs credit in
line with its contribution to national agriculture economy.
“Sindh’s contribution in
agrarian economy is around 23 per cent but we get only 10
per cent credit. Punjab alone gets 80 per cent of loan from
Zarai Tarqiyati Bank Limited while rest 20 per cent is to be
diverted to remaining three provinces.
Despite having two disasters in last two years, Sindh gave
surplus production of wheat yet prices of crop remain low,
for flawed procurement policy.
Sindh had surplus after 2010
super floods and a bumper cotton crop was expected in 2011
when rains hit badly left bank region that is known for
Standing rice crop was washed away in super floods of 2010
in right bank areas of upper Sindh causing colossal monetary
losses to farmers.
In 2011 kharif crops of cotton, sugarcane, chillies,
vegetables, rice and mango orchard on around 2.2 million
acres are badly hit in areas located on left bank of River
Indus. Left Bank area of lower Sindh region is considered
the breadbasket of Sindh province.