Paddy growers’ worries
Mohammad Hussain Khan
June 27, 2011: PREPARATIONS for rice cultivation in Sindh
are underway amidst fears that flood-ravaged canal network —
recently repaired by the irrigation authorities — will not
be able to carry water to their farms.
Growers on the right bank of Indus River were dealt a severe
blow by the floods last year which washed away their Kharif
paddy crop. Thy were not able to have a normal Rabi crop as
Now, they fear drought-like conditions in their areas that
may hit paddy crop this Kharif. Farmers are ready to grow
paddy despite imposition of 16 per cent GST on all
agriculture inputs including seeds, urea, fertiliser, and
pesticides, making it a costly ride.
It was August 7 Tori dyke breach that had ravaged the
irrigation network of the province; more breaches followed
in upper Sindh on Indus right bank which is known for paddy
cultivation. Similarly, August 26 breach on left bank of
Indus in Thatta – a paddy growing area destroyed a large
swath of the district.
Breaches were plugged in and canals network was repaired by
the irrigation authorities. But growers are concerned about
the quality of dykes’ repair work and the recently repaired
flood-ravaged canal system. Besides, they also hint at
non-availability of quality paddy seeds for cultivation.
Sindh Abadgar Board’s Vice-President Gada Hussain Mahesar,
who is also a paddy producer, says that seed availability
seems to be a serious issue because the government had
initially announced provision of free paddy seeds, but later
on said the seeds would be provided at subsidised rates.
According to him, the government has been trying to procure
Around 69,000 tons of seeds are required for paddy
cultivation in the province.
“I am really sceptical about quality of canals’ work and I
am not sure whether these water channels will be carrying
water safely to our lands”, Mahesar says. Water is available
in River Indus and there is no shortage at all but if
branches and minors don’t carry water or develop breaches,
the growers will suffer. He specifically mentions Begari
canal where repair work remained questionable.
This makes total requirement
of 5,000 officers. Even if another 1,000 is added for
supervisory role in different layers, the total requirement
comes around 6,000 officers.
The Extension Directorate performs the same functions that
the Crop Reporting and the Information Directorates do. The
Water Directorate is surviving on foreign funded projects
and has nothing to do locally. Once these projects complete
their lives, and some of them already have, the directorate
would be left with nothing.
To make the matter worse, farmers are now buying almost
everything – fertiliser, pesticides, seeds, machinery – from
the private sector, which has developed huge paraphernalia
of extension services. What the government employees are
Just overlapping the effort at best, and working as private
sector agents at worst.
Currently, these 35,000 employees are being used as a
workforce for the provincial chief executive and are
involved in almost everything non-agriculture – from packing
of subsidised sugar to administering polio campaign.
In the last few months, the Urea price had hit an unbearable
Rs1,600 per bag. Though the company price is still Rs1,250
per bag, the receding writ of government enables everyone to
make money at the cost of others. Despite this sheer black
marketing of Urea, not even one dealer has been proceeded
against by the Punjab government.
Another example illustrates how non-serious the department
and the government are dealing with the sector. A new wheat
variety was introduced in the province in 2007. This
particular variety now covers around 40 per cent of wheat
area in the province. But within three years of its
operation, the variety has become susceptible to all kinds
of bacterial attack.
Most of the discoloured wheat that the province produced
this year was result of rust attack on this wheat variety.
The farmers allege that the variety was not properly tested
before offering it for the sale; it was released
The Punjab government is tight lipped on the issue and has
still not moved to study the varietal character, find
loopholes, fix responsibility and punish the guilty. The
farmers blame that it is departmental employees who promoted
the seed. The government has not moved so far. It is also
because these 35,000 employees have created huge overlapping
in the system and devised a system where buck does not stop.
Given the acreage (around seven million acres) that this
variety has gained in the last three years, the farmers and
the government would be in real trouble to replace the seed
on these fields next year. Where would the government
arrange fresh seed for it? If it does not and farmers use
the same variety as seed, crop on this area would be in a
The Punjab government needs to get its act together.
Agriculture is now assumed added significance because that
even planning part is now being devolved to provinces after
the 18th Amendment. The Punjab has to replace federal
planning and truly play the role of national food basket. If
it continues flounder on basics, it would be increasingly
hard for it to help the country achieve food security.
Courtesy: The DAWN