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May 11, 2021

Emergency response fund needed to ease climate change impact

KARACHI: Federal and provincial governments should create an emergency response fund to provide cash grants and interest free credit to help farmers cope up with climate change, a growers’ body said on Monday.

In a budget proposal, Sindh Abadgar Board said insurance scheme should be launched to support farmers in distress.

“Climate change is resulting in increased cycles of extreme events of weather like flooding, storms, extremely hot temperatures. These weather patterns are impacting agriculture and ruins small and medium sized farmers,” it said.

Sindh Abadgar Board said agriculture research budget should be increased to 1.5 percent of GDP.

Located on the Southern-most part, the province is affected by polluted water coming from Balochistan and the Punjab. River Indus is considered as one of the polluted rivers in the world.

“As a first step under construction for more than 10 years and delayed Right Bank Outfall Drainage needs to be completed at earliest,” said the growers’ body.

In 2020 rains, seven districts were declared calamity hit, with losses of Rs250 billion to the rural economy. Several areas could not see winter cultivation. “The main reason was the failure and absence of effective drainage system. It is important to augment current drainage system, and more districts needs to be added to the drainage system, like Tando Allahyar, which does not have drainage at all. Natural water ways need to be cleared so that they can drain water in times of heavy rains, and flooding.”

It is important to leverage technology to develop an efficient irrigation system with support from federal government. “The lining of water courses should be increased, and the target should be to line at least 75 percent of 57,500 water courses in terms of total length. New best practice systems like mechanically operated gates should be installed, and the damaged structures should be repaired.”

The board said Pakistan's milk yield is approximately 8 litres a day and international yield is 44 litres per day. This has resulted in import of cows. “Therefore, through a transparent mechanism free provision of medicines, animal health services and technical help in making silage/fodder etc. should be provided to livestock farmers.”

The agricultural economy of Pakistan is $60 billion and the formal credit availability is of $9 billion. The agriculture credit therefore needs to increase to $25 billion

The 20-year old project of computerisation of land record should be completed on priority basis. The computerisation and linking of this system to Kissan card will help in targeting small and medium sized farmers for subsidies and incentives of the government.

Pakistan produces 13 million tons of fruits and vegetables but the cold storage capacity is available to only 990,000 metric tons, leading to wastage and constraints in storage; one of the causes for 40 percent post-harvest losses.

The cost of doing business is high for the horticulture industry, therefore long-term loans for 10 years should be granted with grace period of three years.

“There should develop an aggressive agro value addition plan to take advantage of horticultural production and international market of US $89 billion. Moreover, there is a great demand for horticultural products in China, and Central Asian countries. Pakistan can only be in a position to take advantage when the value-added industry in raw material areas is encouraged.”

Prices of inputs in Pakistan are deregulated while the output prices are regulated through different measures like export ban, and duty-free imports of agricultural commodities. “This policy has resulted in surge in import bill of agricultural goods, including cotton, onions, tomatoes, pulses and oil seeds. Sindh with the coordination of federal government should aggressively pursue import substitution policy, that will only happen when local production is made viable. Cotton, tomatoes, oil seed, pulses can be grown in Pakistan if output prices are rationalised that correspond to high input price.”