Call to focus on agriculture sector in budget

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LAHORE: There is a need to focus on agriculture sector in the forthcoming budget and the government should enhance the GDP growth rate target through the agriculture sector by increasing crops production, thus making the country an agriculture products-exporting country.

 

These views were expressed by the discussant in Jang Economic Session held on ‘Budget 2012-13: Expectations of Agriculture Sector’, here on Friday. The guests at the session included: Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) chairman Javed Kiyani, Farmers Associate of Punjab (FAP) vice-chairman Hussain Jahanian Gardazi, economist Rana Ehtesham Rabbani, Agri-forum chairman Ibrahim Mughal, Pakistan Flour Mills Association ex-chairman Khalique Arshad and Kissan Board Pakistan leader Akther Farooq. The discussion was hosted by Sikindar Hameed Lodhi and Intikhab Tariq.

 

Javed Kiyani said that framers were facing difficulties due to the government policies while surplus agriculture produces had become a problem for farmers due to inadequate storage facilities. In such a scenario, the government should focus on cold storages facilities in budget, he said. The US, he added, had purchased surplus wheat from its farmers to encourage them to cultivate and enhance production.

 

He said farmers were unable to operate tube wells on electricity due to 18-hour load shedding while per acre yield was also low. Therefore, the government should focus on both sectors in the budget, he said and added that Iran had shown its intention to purchase 400,000 tons surplus sugar. Pakistan could export it to Iran and import urea from there, in return.

 

Hussain Jahnaian Gardazi said industrial and trade sectors could not perform without agriculture sector while the government had focused only on major crops, the growth of which was still less than the ignored minor crops. He said the World Bank had forecasted food crisis in future and Pakistan could earn good foreign exchange by focusing it.

 

He said Australia exported 80 per cent of mangoes production while Pakistan exported only 2.5 per cent. He underlined the need to focus on seed development which was not costly after WTO regime. He suggested research and development in agriculture sector and utilization of modern framing techniques for production enhancement.

 

Rana Ehtesham Rabbani said that framers ran from pillar to post to get the payments of their agriculture produce which was discouraging attitude of the government. He said India had improved farmers’ payments mechanism by involving the private sector.

 

He demanded increase in budgetary allocations to check the quality and standards of agriculture produce and research on nutrition value of it. He suggested solar energy tube wells project and new projects for milk and meat production enhancement.

 

Ibrahim Mughal said that, for the last one decade, agriculture growth was 12.7 per cent and population growth 27 per cent, and the difference between the two created problems.

 

He called for the need to allow the farmers and private sector to deal with each other, adding that upto 6 per cent agriculture growth could be possible only in Punjab by ending regulator role.

 

He suggested that wheat production target should be fixed at 27 million metric tons, 8.5 million metric tons of rice, six million metric tons of sugar and 18 million tons of cotton to increase foreign exchange earnings. He said Pakistan had imported Rs 453 billion edibles items this year which should be restricted to Rs 200 billion. He suggested eight per cent growth rate for next fiscal year with revenue target of Rs 3,800 billion.

 

Khalique Arshad said that the GDP share of agriculture was 53 per cent before the partition which was reduced to 22 per cent so the government should focus it in next budget.

 

He said South Asia was declared a dangerous zone in terms of food security by 2030 so the government should take it seriously and make necessary measures.

 

Akther Farooq called for allocation of subsidies to the real farmers and agriculture researchers as present subsidies given to this sector was eaten up by irrelevant people. He observed that better allocation of resources for agriculture marketing, cold storage development and small dams in the budget in order to reduce the production cost of the farmers.

 

Courtesy:  The News


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