Import of heavily subsidised agriculture products from India will destroy Pakistan’s agriculture sector and ruin rural economy, Choudhry Hamid Malhi President, Basmati Growers Association and CEO, Livestock Farmers and Breeders Association said here on Sunday.
Farmers demand a justified level playing field, that is, if the country is unable to subsidise its agriculture similar to India, it should adopt measures to protect its vulnerable agriculture sector by clamping import duty similar to the subsidy on the product by India, he added.
Talking to Business Recorder Malhi said farmers are angry over the attitude of the decision makers towards agriculture which happens to be the country’s largest sector. The heavily subsidised agri products from India will ruin all agriculture in the country. The Ministries of Commerce and Foreign Affairs should reconsider in detail in consultation with farmer organisations before entering into any such faulty arrangement which will not be economically sustainable and will also be suicidal for the farmer, he emphasised
He warned that hotchpotch conclusions will not suffice; farmers vow to resist any such move which is planned to ruin their livelihoods and badly affect the economy as well. The haste being shown by the Ministry bigwigs is beyond imagination, he wondered.
He called upon the politicians to realise that somebody is pulling the rug from under their feet. The elections are nearing and farmers’ resentment can put a real dent in their vote bank. Farmers of the country demand no subsidy and neither would they advocate withdrawal of subsidy to farmers elsewhere.
The policy makers should know that more than 90% of the farmers in the country are small farmers. A similar number of landless farmers own 90% of the country’s livestock. How will they even survive the imports of cheap subsidised agri products from India? It can’t even be imagined!
Malhi said the farmers are unable to understand the behaviour of the Federal Government, which on the one hand assures farmers that their interests will be taken care of before granting MFN to India and on the other hand is hastily bent upon granting MFN without taking the necessary precautions.
“If the Doha talks can fail due to agriculture why can’t MFN with India be delayed until a mechanism to level the import of subsidised agri products is in place? India itself had opposed the idea of referring agriculture trade to the Tarriff Commission or the Countervailing Duties Act way back in 2001, in its response to allowing import of subsidised agri goods from the developed world. Why can’t we use the same argument in our case,” he questioned.
India has the second most protective regime for its agriculture, which is the reason why our exports to India in the last 17 years remained negligible. The negotiators who negotiated with India were ill prepared and are today more eager in defending their mistakes rather than taking corrective measures? The Ministries should strive to protect the agriculture sector rather being adamant to go for MFN with India, Malhi added.
Clubbing farmers with Right Wing activists is another garb under which the free trade mongers are trying to politicise an economic issue. Free trade with China has its demerits but we intend to push it under the carpet. Agriculture has not been affected because it is not as close as Amritsar is to Wagah. The business community is free to go ahead with trade of its manufactured goods but agri trade will have to wait, Malhi suggested.
He wondered: What is the hurry when the trade is already lopsided in favour of India @ 85:15. Deadlines which are not favourable to the backbone are meaningless. Who is pushing the free agri trade agenda with India and what are the motives. All Pakistanis need to know that agriculture cannot be sacrificed at the altar of personal gains even if there are assurances to a Minister for the highest slot in the coming set up.