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December 30, 2018

2018: A year of loss for agriculture sector

Business

December 30, 2018

KARACHI: Agriculture sector witnessed some of the worst times in the outgoing year 2018, as input prices increased, while the country failed to meet production targets of kharif crops, including cotton, sugarcane and paddy.

This makes the lives of the majority of growers miserable, as they faced innumerable problems in dealing with the situation.

They said owing to rise in input prices and decline in production, they remained unable to feed their families and, in some cases, they fear bankruptcy.

According to State Bank of Pakistan’s annual report for FY18, credit outreach in the agriculture sector decreased by 5.1 percent, which shows banks were not opening their doors of credit to newcomers, which also affected the farmers.

Mehmood Nawaz Shah, senior vice president of Sindh Abadgar Board, told The News that it was a bad year for the growers, “overall, this is a loss year for the agriculturists,” he said.

During the last 25 years, it was the first time when water was released in the month of July and August, Shah said, adding that this not only affected the crop production, but also environment, as ‘katcha’ areas and lakes get recharged in kharif.

Flowering of mangoes was also affected in lower Sindh because the plants could not get water on time. “In some areas, paddy was sown late, while water supply was stopped in November, which affected the crop,” he said.

Last year was not good for cotton production, and this year too, it is likely to go further down by nearly 20 percent. Sugarcane is likely to go down around 30 percent. Minor crops, including orchards of mangoes and banana have also been affected, he said.

“This happened because of acute water shortage and less rainfall.”

Shah said that the lack of governance in managing sugarcane prices and crushing season also had a bad impact on the growers. Besides, input prices, including fertiliser, diesel and pesticides have increased up to 20 percent, which increased the cost of production.

Meanwhile, paddy and phutti (seedcotton) growers get some relief due to the devaluation of the rupee during the period under review, as they got better price for non-basmati paddy at Rs1,100/maund and Rs2,800 to Rs3,000/maund for ‘phutti’ (seedcotton).

Kabool Muhammad Khatian, chairman of Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, said that the growers received negligible rates for vegetables, including onions and tomato. Tomatoes were sold at wholesale rate of around Rs30 to Rs40/10kg. “Whatever is purchased from the former at Rs40, it is being sold in the market at Rs100. Retailers are having profit of around Rs150 percent. The benefit is neither reaching to farmer nor the consumer. This trend needs to be changed,” he said.

“Federal government does not seem interested in the growth of agriculture sector,” he said, adding: “Farmers are unable to feed their families. They are going to be bankrupt, as devaluation of the rupee has hurt them with higher cost of inputs.” “Around 80 percent people are related to agriculture sector, while government policies are against the sector,” he said.

Khatian said that agriculture inputs, including fertiliser (DAP), diesel and pesticides were imported items and their prices increased nearly 30 percent in a year with currency devaluation.

“Quality pesticides are imported from Switzerland, Germany and Italy, while China is supplying substandard pesticides at lower rates,” he added. “Diesel is not only used in the tractors for cultivation of the land, but all goods transport vehicles also use it. Thus, farm-to-market cost has also increased.”

He demanded the government to improve its agriculture-related policies and remove inefficient ministers, including the finance minister, who failed to give any incentives to the farmers.