Agri Forum Pakistan (AFP) Chairman Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal has urged the government to make efforts to get rid of 25 billion dollar trade deficit for ensuring permanent liberation from the clutches of International Monetary Fund (IMF). Talking to media persons on Wednesday, Mughal said that the government should also take immediate steps for reducing its non-developmental expenditures by 50 per cent so as to lead the country towards destination of economic independence.
He said Pakistan has to make efforts for increasing its exports from present level of $26 billion to $45 billion and imports have to be brought down from $42 billions. In his opinion Pakistan should make efforts to export cotton worth $20 billion, rice and its products worth $7 billion and fruits including strawberry $3 billion besides exporting vegetables and leather products worth $5 billion.
‘To achieve these targets we have to produce 20 million bales of cotton, 10 million tons of rice, 4MTs mangoes and kinnow each, 1.2MTs strawberry and 5MTs of potatoes. We have to produce wheat 30MTs more than our requirements,’ he said and added all this can be achieved with better management, timely planning and by devising a permanent agricultural policy.
AFP Chairman said that government should, instead of relying on loans, make efforts to strengthen the country economically. He said that the government should immediately start mega projects with the co-operation of China as it would not only create new job opportunities in Pakistan but also eradicate poverty and help the country to stand on its own feet.
He also urged the government to enhance the credit line for agricultural loans from Rs 260 billion to Rs 750 billion besides bringing down the mark up to help the growers to get maximum per acre yield leading to food security for the nation. He stated that the government should reduce the interest rate on agricultural loans from existing 13 per cent to 8 per cent only. He pointed out that ratio of interest on agricultural loans is only 6-7 per cent in our neighbouring country India. He claimed that the agricultural sector needs credit line of Rs 750 to 1,000 billion to ensure growth and development but national banks were fixing this target at only Rs 260 billion for the last many years.
He said that the State Bank of Pakistan should look in to it and enhance this target as prices of agricultural inputs had registered increase up to 150 per cent during last five years. ‘Growers usually need loans to meet the expenses on agricultural inputs,’ Mughal added. Forum Chairman said that farming community also obtain loan of around Rs 500 billion from middlemen, Arhtis and other such sources besides the banking channel. These people taking advantage of the situation charge 35 per cent profit on these loans. This is leading the growers in to more poverty and deficit. It is the high time to save farmers from injustices of middlemen and Arhtis and credit line should be enhanced in line with the requirement with appropriate rate of interest to make agriculture a profitable business instead of deficit.