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July 3, 2019

Tareen says Centre wants Sindh to join Rs309 bn agri plan

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July 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A close confidant of Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday asked the Sindh government to set aside political rivalry and join the National Agriculture Emergency Programme for the sake of the country and its people, as the Centre along with the provinces is going to spend Rs309 billion for the uplift of the sector in next five years.

The federal government has kept an allocation of close to Rs18 billion for the development of agriculture in Sindh. The provincial government should join the programme while setting aside politics, Jahangir Tareen said while addressing a press conference together with Minister for National Food Security and Research, Mahboob Sultan and provincial agriculture ministers from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

National Agriculture Emergency Programme which the federal government has envisaged with the provinces to boost agriculture sector by increasing crops yield, fishery and livestock development as well as watercourse lining to stop wastage of water. The federal cabinet in March 2019 had given approval to this programme and the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) will approve the projects this month.

Agriculture sector that provides livelihood for almost two out of every five Pakistanis grew by only 0.85 percent in fiscal year 2018/19. This sector contributed 18.5 per cent to the country’s GDP and provides 38.5 percent jobs. The government wants to boost its growth with various interventions meant for increasing crops yield, livestock and fishery and other farm production.

Interestingly, Tareen avoided replying to a question that in what capacity he was addressing the press conference since he has been disqualified by the Supreme Court. However, Minister for National Food Security and Research, Mahboob Sultan and the provincial agriculture ministers of Punjab and KP praised Tareen for guiding to formulate the national agriculture emergency programme of the prime minister.

Tareen said that the entire programme consisting of 16 projects across five areas willcost Rs309.7 billion, and the ECNEC will approve the projects this month. “This is one of the largest consolidated effort on agriculture by any government in Pakistan’s history and is a flagship programme of the PTI government, the size of which will grow beyond the Rs309 billion mark in the coming years,” the presentation documents of the office of National Agriculture Emergency Programme in the PM office said.

Tareen explained that Rs44.8 billion (with the federal government share of Rs7.4 billion) will be spent to dramatically increase yields of major crops and boost adoption of oilseeds. “At present, the yield gap per acre between progressive and ordinary farmers is nearly double. This exists due to a lack of ‘capital for mechanisation’, ‘knowledge of modern techniques’, ‘timely formal credit’ and ‘assured marketability at harvest time,” he said.

For Wheat, Rs19.3 billion (including federal share of Rs2.47 billion) has been earmarked to help boost average yield from 33 to 40 maunds per acre to produce excess wheat to export without compromising on food security. After getting higher yields, the government will free 1.5 to 2 million acres of land for more productive crops, he said. With the same area and water availability, the country has huge potential to drastically increase production of major crops by increasing productivity, he said.

He said that work is underway on revitalising agriculture research, cotton crop management and research, seed sector reforms, revamp extension services, revitalise dairy sector and tackle milk adulteration, warehouse receipt financing, agriculture financing products, and adoption and productivity of enhancement of pulses.

He said that sugarcane project will cost Rs3.9 billion (including federal share of Rs0.7 billion) aimed at increasing yield by 150 maunds per acre from current 650 maunds to 800 maunds. The objective is to increase productivity to export sugar without subsidy.

Interestingly, the presentation of the agriculture emergency programme admits that from 2004 to 2011, the government successfully lined 72,787 water courses, inclusive of 6,776 water storage tanks at the cost of Rs38 billion. As per a third party evaluation, the water saved per watercourse was 123 acre feet and across 72,787 watercourses, this accumulates to 6.82 MAF of savings per annum. “We will replicate and improve the project in the second phase, and the government will line up to 50 percent of total length of 73,078 watercourses inclusive of 13,875 water storage tanks. In addition, the government will subsidise an additional 12,110 laser levelers.” He also mentioned command area development of Gomal Zam Dam in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Kachi Canal in Balochistan.

Punjab agriculture minister said that the provincial government will establish four new private markets by 2022 in Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan, Hafizabad and Rawalpindi.

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