Farmers believe budget missed chance to address agriculture issues

By Our Correspondent
June 10, 2023

LAHORE: Representatives of farmers have asked the federal government to take practical steps for the betterment of the agriculture sector, putting emphasis on implementation of key steps announced in federal budget 2023-23. Spokesman of Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP) called the several steps announced for providing relief to the farming community a positive step, but these interventions would be merely cosmetic if concerted efforts were not made for implementation.


Budget announcement for incentivising agriculture-based processing units is also good step, but it does not directly benefit the farmers. Greater attention should be drawn to protect farming from adverse impacts of climate change, which have become one of the biggest nuisances for the agriculture sector, he observed.

Unfortunately, he claimed that the government did not introduce any interventions for strengthening the resilience of local farmers to produce high yield of crops, while fighting various types of abiotic stresses in this era of global warming. Farooq Bajwa, a progressive farmer and President of the Punjab Water Council also echoed similar concerns about what he called imminent challenges affecting livelihood of the farming community. Commenting on allocation of Rs30 billion for the conversion of 50,000 tube wells to solar power, he said this project only provides some subsidy on installing small-sized tube wells. This subsidy was not very productive.

On duty free hybrid seeds import, he said it would help farmers get rid of spurious seed problems. Commenting on the subsidy on fertiliser, Bajwa said benefits of such interventions never reached farmers, and only benefitted fertiliser companies. He also criticised the government for not announcing any practical steps for mitigating the water shortage. Ayub Mayo, a representative of farmers also stressed for tackling the water crisis. “Funds for construction of Mohmand Dam would not help address the issue of water shortage in the vast Indus Basin.” Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed also criticised the federal budget proposal for not addressing fundamental issues plaguing the agricultural sector, particularly climate change.

He said the government did not announce any research and development initiatives to enhance production and develop new varieties that are resilient to the changing climate. “Allocating sufficient funds for research and development in the agricultural sector is crucial to address the challenges posed by climate change,” he added. Ahmed also lamented the absence of realistic solutions in the budget for critical issues such as the availability of raw materials to boost exports, opening of letters of credit (LCs), and high freight rates. He stressed the importance of cost reduction and ensuring the availability of agricultural inputs at affordable prices to achieve surplus production in the sector.

The PFVA chief’s reaction underscores the concerns of stakeholders, who believe that the budget missed an opportunity to provide much-needed support and solutions for industry. It should be noted that Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in his budget speech said that the agriculture sector is the backbone of the country’s economy. He proposed increasing the agricultural credit limit from Rs1,800 billion to Rs2,250 billion. To convert 50,000 agricultural tube wells a year to solar energy 30 billion rupees have been allocated. Quality seeds are the basis of a good harvest. In order to promote the use of quality seeds in the country, all taxes and duties on their import are being abolished. Likewise, customs duty on the import of saplings is being abolished. To promote the use of combined harvesters, it was proposed to exempt them from all duties and taxes.