There is a significant increase in the number of food insecure people in Pakistan, which now stands at 51 per cent of the total population as compare to about 22 per cent five years back; this is largely due decline in agricultural production, especially in the Punjab, caused by ill-conceived policies.
Pakistan Agriculture Scientists Association (PASA) Chairman Jamshed Iqbal Cheema made these observations while addressing a discussion organised by the Agriculture Journalists Association.
He said agriculture productivity has declined between 2007 and 2011 in the Punjab province, whereas in Sindh agriculture productivity has increased, despite the fact that its area under cultivation has decreased.
Cheema said he was not quoting his own numbers but the figures from the Economic Survey of Pakistan. He said Punjab, which once used to lead rest of the country in agriculture productivity registered downwards trend due to neglecting policies of the provincial government. However, Sindh province which was always far behind from Punjab in agriculture productivity has registered improvement. However, he stressed that there was no role of Sindh government in this increase rather whole credit goes to Sindh farmers.
Quoting figures, he said that area under wheat crop cultivation in Punjab has increased by 0.20 per cent during the last four years while productivity was declined by 9.7 per cent and per acre yield by 9.90 per cent as compared to Sindh where area increased by 4.75 per cent, production increased by 13 per cent and per acre yield by 8.25 per cent.
In maize crop, area under cultivation in Punjab was declined by 0.94 per cent but productivity increased by 2.48 per cent and per acre yield by 2.48 per cent while Sindh again lead in this crop with reduction in area under cultivation by 6.66 per cent but productivity was increased by 11.11 per cent and per acre yield by 17.77 per cent.
In rice crop, Cheema mentioned that area under cultivation in Punjab was grow by 4.07 per cent with enhancement in production by 2.31 per cent but per acre yield has declined by 1.76 per cent as compared to Sindh where area under cultivation was gained by 9.96 per cent, production increased by 12.84 per cent and per acre yield by 2.88 per cent.
Cotton, which is another major area, Cheema said that under cultivation in Punjab has reduced by 2.34 per cent with decline in production of 11.81 per cent and 9.47 per cent per acre productivity while Sindh again leaded with increased in area under cultivation by 1.53 per cent, 28.57 per cent increase in production and 27.04 per cent increase in per acre yield.
Similar declining trend was registered in Sugarcane another raw material for agro based industry in which area under cultivation was reduced by 0.94 per cent but production was increased by 2.48 per cent and per acre productivity by 3.42 per cent mainly due to use of better and certified seeds while in Sindh area under cultivation was increased by 14.49 per cent with production enhancement of 12.98 per cent and per acre productivity decline of 1.50 per cent.
In Punjab area under cultivation of Gram, lentil, Mung, Mash, Canola and Sunflower crops was declined by 0.85, 55.60, 17.12, 29.46, 45.79 and 16.67 per cent, respectively. On the other hand in Sindh province area under cultivation of Gram lentil, Mash, onion and Canola crops was reduced by 46.13, 31.42, 30.76, 9.67 and 25.30 per cent, respectively.
PASA Chairman believed that undernourished Pakistani population were reduced to two meals a days from three meals. Due to increase in input cost, the per head person cost of Pakistani has increased to Rs 3,000 per month, Cheema said and added that due to increase in this cost people were compromising their meals to manage the other day to day affairs.
He said average family size in Pakistan was 5.5 persons which mean a family have to spend Rs 16,500 per month to ensure three meals a day. If two persons of a family are working then they earn Rs 18,000 per month as per minimum wage benchmark fixed by the federal government, thus out of Rs 18,000 per month earning if they spent Rs 16,500 on food then how they can manage other expenses, which includes utilities and transportation expenses, Cheema argued.
He was of the view that the government should have reduce the input cost by waiving taxes on the inputs and bringing down diesel and electricity prices. He was of the view that it would enhance usage of quality seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs which would result in better production thus ensuring more grain for ever increasing population of Pakistan.