Farming community is keeping its fingers crossed in the hope that the election year would bring relief for the neglected tillers of the soil. Although an estimated 70 percent of the population is directly or indirectly related to agriculture but for the last few years this sector has been facing a crisis like situation.
The price of fertiliser, pesticide, diesel and labour cost has increased manifold but the prices paid to the farmers have not increased proportionately. Commenting on the situation, Chief Executive Officer, Harvest Tradings, Ahmad Jawad said: “We have to determine how this year goes for our agriculture sector, as it’s an election year which has its own political and social dynamics.”
He said once the election process got completed, it would already be mid-year and with a new government just taking over by the end of June, the budget-making exercise would be a hurried business, leaving little time for the new set-up to thrash out priorities and allocate financial resources accordingly.
Here again, powerful lobbies have a better chance to get greater pound of flesh. Farmers and farming, in no way, fell in the category of such lobbies, and would suffer, he said, adding that once resources were committed in the budget, farmers would not be able to do anything till next budget in 2014. Both these factors are source of worry for farmers.
In case the government finds itself helpless to enhance the rates of home-grown produce then it should give subsidy on fertilisers and pesticides. Price of diesel is not at par with international market rates. In fact, the government is earning a huge profit from the high prices charged to the consumer. The increase in diesel price severely hits the agri-sector. The input cost of grower is more than output.
Currently, he said small farmers were abandoning their land uncultivated as they had no purchasing power to buy fertilisers and pesticides. This predicament is very alarming. Concerned authorities should pay attention and do something because “if we lose this major contributor to our economy, we will see escalation in prices of raw material and vegetables and other items.”
In the recent report of Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) notice was taken as regards fertiliser manufacturers. This matter was only castigated because it was investigated; otherwise the situation is the same for implements, seed and pesticides sectors. Had they been investigated, like the fertiliser, they could have also been held accountable for unfair profits, he said.
Similarly, Jawad said one of the tractor manufacturers unilaterally increased the price of its tractors by Rs 40,000 to Rs 80,000 without assigning any reason. This only adds to the woes of farmers. He urged “it is high time that we should focus on our real asset and make a workable strategy once for all on the lines of Indian agriculture sector.”