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June 25, 2019

Govt ignores parliamentarians’ budget input on agriculture


June 25, 2019

LAHORE: Several parliamentarians, including treasury members and other stakeholders have protested against federal budget 2019-20 for ignoring most of the recommendations given by the high-powered parliamentary committee on agriculture.

They were participating in the 4th meeting of the Special Committee on Agricultural Products on Monday to review follow up of pre-budget recommendations of the Special Committee on Agricultural Products.

Riaz Fatyana, PTI’s member of the National Assembly from Punjab said he would boycott the proceeding of the meeting, as the federal government had ignored the recommendations put forth by this august forum for the agriculture development budget 2019-20.

Several other members and stakeholders also vehemently expressed resentments and threatened to walk out of the event over what they called indifferent attitude of the federal government about the plight of farmers.

However, speaker National Assembly, who chaired the meeting, and other members have pacified agitating PTI members and other stakeholders and asked them to continue participating in the moot.

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industry, Abdul Razaq Dawood once again opposed regulatory duty on import of cotton and minimum support price of crops including cotton.

This demand – imposition of regulatory duty and support price - was unanimously raised by parliamentarians with a view to provide some relief to cotton growers.

Several demands of the parliamentary committee would be included in the federal budget, including no general sales tax (GST) or any other import duty on the import or manufacture of agriculture machinery. Another accepted proposal was that the regulatory duty on cotton import might be restored to prevent massive import and dumping of cotton, and to enable the farmers to receive international parity price.

It was accepted that Minimum Support Price (MSP) should be set for major crops particularly for cotton, rice, maize, canola, and sunflower, and the MSP mechanism should be enforced in letter and spirit. The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) should be bound to procure 500,000 bales, and in this regard allocations be made in the budget. It was also agreed on that the tariff on electricity supplied for agricultural purposes should be reduced from Rs5.35 to Rs4.00, and the FPA (Fuel Price Adjustment) surcharge should be abolished.

The rate of Produce Index Unit (PIU) should be enhanced from Rs6,000 to Rs10,000 for loan basis by Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) and all other banks to facilitate farmers to obtain maximum credit from banks.

Regulatory duties should be imposed on import of competing agricultural products of Pakistan. No tax should be imposed on the import of pesticides and fertilisers. On farm water management was partially financing solar tube wells at 70/30 ration, the ratio of government share in financing solar tube wells should be enhanced and be fixed at 80/20 ratio, it was decided.

The agriculture research budget should be enhanced from 0.1 percent of GDP to 0.5 percent of GDP. Interest free loans should be extended for laser land levellers. Crop insurance schemes by ZTBL should be implemented in letter and spirit.

The mark up rate on agricultural loans should be reduced to single digits. Quality testing labs for export certification should be established. Khalid Khokhar, president, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad said there had been no step for putting in place minimum support price for important crops.

He recalled that the committee have unanimously demanded levy of duty on import of cotton besides announcement of cotton support price. Both these important demands have not been met, he lamented.

He said that parliamentarians have asked the federal government in one voice to allocate amount for ensuring support price for farmers produce in the federal budget, but to no avail. Almost all major cotton producing countries including neighbouring India ensure minimum support price to cotton growers, he maintained.

He added that government also continues to impose GST on locally produced fertiliser, while its import has also been taxed. The five percent duty on import of agriculture machinery has also not been withdrawn, he observed.

Government has not taken any step for reducing electricity tariff for agriculture uses as recommended by the parliamentary committee, he observed.