Import of Indian vegetables is having a marked impact on tunnel farming business across the country. According to stakeholders, tunnel farming which had made appreciable progress and gained some popularity in the last few years, appears to have not only lost its earlier momentum but is on the decline due to import of vegetables from India.
Almost round the year imports of cheaper Indian vegetables have hurt local farmers and as a result investment in tunnel structures has started slowing down. CEO Harvest Trading, Ahmad Jawad toldBusiness Recorder that in the past tunnel acreage had touched 55,000 acres and out of this over 40,000 acres was in Punjab alone. But now the figure has dropped to 30,000 acres in the last two years.
Out of the total Indian exports to Pakistan, around 38 per cent are fresh vegetables worth 39 billion Indian Rupees in 2011-12. These imports from India have started hitting local farmers in three phases, ie cost of production factor, archaic seed industry that add to the cost of doing vegetable business and timing of imports, he said. Input costs in Pakistan as compared to Indian side make local vegetables expensive by almost 100 per cent. In India, all inputs (fertiliser, hybrid seed, diesel, electricity, etc) are massively subsidised. All these Indian advantages of cheap inputs and hybrid seeds come into play and local farmers lose heavily.
Tunnel farming increases the produce from 10 to 15 times, but produce only matters if our farmers get proper returns and proper subsidy from the government. Agriculture is the life line of Pakistan and it is one of the sectors which could contribute in worst circumstances as well. Stakeholders urge that the Ministry of National Food and Security chalk out a plan for the stability of this emerging industry and asked the federal government to impose Rs 400 per 40 kg import duty on Indian produce to ensure level playing field before awarding MFN status to India.