Representatives of landless farmers (sharecroppers), academia, civil society and human rights organisations on Tuesday expressed concerns over neglect of farmers in the Prime Minister’s agriculture package, saying it would benefit only landlords, traders, exporters, Fertilizer dealers and middlemen.
They were speaking at a meeting organised by Sindh Land Reforms Movement (Network) at the office of Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) here.
Professor Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar of Sindh Agriculture University said, “This package cannot benefit the Sindh’s landless farmers. It will only benefit to rice and cotton exporters and traders.”
“There is no support for indigenous seeds to be given to farmers. This package should have promoted indigenous seeds,” Kumbhar observed.
Earlier the Sindh provincial government announced support prices for cotton, sugarcane and wheat, but it was not implemented, he said, adding that in this situation, only small growers and landless farmers would be exploited.
He suggested that consultation meetings with landless farmers be organised at district level to formulate an “alternate package”.
Kumbhar said crops insurance should have been included in this package because the farmers were most vulnerable due to climate change and weather pattern, which always hit them hard.
Professor Kumbhar said farmers were not involved in business and this package will benefit to businessmen only.
Senior journalist Ishaq Mangrio said the recent rains and wind storms had destroyed recently cultivated crops in Mirpurkhas, Badin and other districts, where poor farmers suffered. He urged crop insurance to protect poor farmers.
Waheed Jamali, Executive Director of SEARCH said the financial package announced by Prime Minister had already been mentioned in the 2015-16 budget. There was no mention about agrarian reforms for farmers, he added.
Shujauddin Qureshi of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) highlighted the objectives of the event, saying in Punjab peasants’ movement was strongly launched and this announcement was also a result of their protests. But this package would not benefit Sindh farmers, especially for landless peasants, he added.
Punhal Sario of Hari Porhiat Council quoted the statement of former president Asif Ali Zardari, who termed this package as political to win the LB polls. He said promoting tube wells in this package might destroy underground water and turn lands infertile.