Farmers on Thursday sharply reacted to the recent hike in the price of petroleum products, saying that growers’ input costs had increased by 2.5 to 3 times over the past four years. Chief of Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Association (PASA) Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said that the fresh increase in fuel prices would put an additional burden on the rural economy, besides weakening growers, tenants, commodity markets and allied industry.
He said that farmers were forced to use diesel-fired tube-wells or other such arrangements to irrigate their fields because of prolonged power cuts in rural areas. He said that a medium-sized tube-well run by a petrol engine takes four to five hours to irrigate an acre of land. He said that it used up three litres of fuel every hour thus enhancing the cost of one-time irrigation to Rs 1,200-1,300. He said that every crop need five to six irrigations till maturity, thus increasing cost for growers.
Highlighting the energy intensive nature of crop growing, Cheema said that fuel was needed to run tractors or harvesters and threshers. “Any increase in POL prices means an increase in the cost of production, thus putting additional burden on growers.”
Expressing concern over the hike in fuel prices, he said that it might also result in increasing the number of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the agricultural sector. He said that the main burden of these NPLs would be on middle-men in major commodity markets providing loans and financing to growers.
Cheema reminded that when farmers faced losses, they used to sell livestock to cover their losses and day-to-day expenses. Such a situation would also halt the fast-developing livestock sector, he concluded. Meanwhile, Kissan Board Pakistan’s (KBP) Secretary Information Haji Muhammad Ramzan said that the hike in fuel prices would ruin the agricultural economy. He claimed that growers were already facing a shortage of water because of less than average rains and closure of tube-wells because of prolonged power outages and high rates of diesel.
He said that the government talks about promoting mechanisation in agriculture but such steps would result in decreasing this trend, as growers could not afford high cost of running tractors and other agricultural implements or even tub-wells, he said.