About 1000 farmers on Tuesday organised a big rally against the low prices of their produce and the high power tariff for the agricultural sector under the auspices of the Pakistan Farmers Alliance. The rally began from Chungi No.9 to PCGA house where Secretary Textile Shahid Rashid and Cotton Commissioner Dr Khalid Abdullah were addressing the ginners.
They burnt their “Phutti” and a farmer received burns when he was trying to set the cotton on fire. The farmer identified as Zia-ul-Qadar was hospitalised in a critical condition. The rally was led by Central President of Pakistan Kisan Ittehad Chaudhry Anwar Ali, Provincial President Khalid Khokhar and Mian Sajid Bodla. The farmers rejected the support price of Rs 170/maund for sugarcane and said that it should be fixed at Rs 300.
They also demanded a support price of Rs 4000/- per maund for raw-cotton (Phutti) to compensate them. Otherwise they would prefer to burn their produce on sell it against a meager price. Kisan Ittehad leaders have alleged that cotton growers this year would suffer a collective loss of Rs 187 billion as they are getting on average Rs 2000 to 2200 per maund for their produce instead of Rs 3200 per maund suggested by the Punjab government as support price for cotton in March this year. Chaudhry Anwar Ali said that cotton was sown on 5.8 million acres in Punjab and 7.2 million acres through out the country.
He stated that the provincial government has set a target of 15 million bales but feared that production might remain around 12.6 million bales due to reduction in area under cotton. He said that during the month of March this year the Punjab Agriculture Department proposed fixing the cotton support price at Rs 3200 per maund, which was yet not announced.
He said according to information collected by them from 13 core cotton growing districts, growers are fetching an average price of Rs 2000 to 2200 per maund. Anwar said that if a cotton grower gets Rs 2200 per maund against the proposed support price of Rs 3000 per maund then it would suffer a loss of Rs 800 to 900 per maund and collectively farmers of 28 cotton growing districts of Pakistan would suffer a loss of Rs 150 billion.
He said that the basic reason for this loss is the hike in the prices of fertiliser, diesel, electricity, seed and pesticides. He said that in such a situation and after facing huge losses farmers would not be able to sow the next crops including wheat, canola, grams, sunflower and maize. He said that such faulty policies of the government would result in destroying our agricultural economy, ruining our fields and increasing imports from India.
Chaudhry Anwar Ali stated that if the area under cotton continued to decrease as it has decreased this year ie, only 7.2 million acres were brought under cotton cultivation instead of 8 million acres, then it would hurt our cotton and textile industry and enhance unemployment.
He also questioned how we could maintain our share of textiles at 60 percent of our exports if this trend continued? It would enhance the gap between imports and exports.
It would make importing lobbies happier, satisfy the commission mafia in Islamabad and increase poverty in rural areas. They also rejected the support price of sugarcane for Punjab describing it too meager to meet the production cost.