Seed, fertilizers and pesticides are agricultural inputs which increase crop production and water-use efficiency. High cost, mishandling, adulteration and often non-availability of these input son time , and other major constraints, are seriously affecting the agricultural productivity and the agro-based economy. Mismanagement of inputs is discussed below:
CERTIFIED SEED: Certified seed is relatively low-cost input, with the potential to increase the yield by 20 per cent. But it suffers from three deficiencies; availability, accessibility and quality. Currently its availability is much below the requirement as is evident from the table.
The above table reflects that the supply of certified high quality seed is considerably less than the actual requirements of major crops inspite of the claims of four public sector and over 160 private sector organizations related with the distribution.
Consequently, 55 per cent to over 92 per cent of the uncertified seed of major crops travels from farmer to farmer and in the process different varieties get mixed up which adversely affects the yield.
Besides adulteration of seed of different crops by local dealers, the mafia of cotton breeders is directly selling the seed of their prematurely released varieties under the pretext that these are high yielding and disease resistant.
Inspite of these claims the curl-leaf-vires, heliothus and other major pests are still predominant and the yield has become stagnant at around 10 million bales forcing the country to import the commodity. Recently, seed of the Bt cotton and sugarcane was smuggled from India and is mostly sown in Sindh.
FERTILIZER: Fertilizer application can enhance yield by 25-75 per cent depending upon the crop and soil. Prior to the Green Revolution in 60s the use of chemical fertilizer was 2kg/ha which increased to 138kg/ha in 2001.
Inspite of that the yield of major crops of Pakistan are lower than those of India. Although, the fertilizer off-take has increased from 3,100 nutrient tons (NT) in 1960-61 to 3,020,000 NT in 2002-03, but our crop yields still are far below their actual potential.
The best approach is to apply balanced nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and micro-nutrient where needed based on soil analysis. As our soils are poor in organic matter, therefore, fertilizer application needs to be supplemented.
Other major constraints are adulteration of fertilizer, unavailability, withdrawal of subsidy, and continuous rise in prices. For instance, the price of urea had increased from Rs25 per 50kg bag in 1966 to Rs411 in 2003.
During the same period the price of ammonium nitrate/calcium ammonium nitrate increased from Rs11 to Rs282 per bag, ammonium sulphate from Rs11 to Rs344 per bag, nitro-phosphate from Rs40 to Rs539 per bag, single superphosphate from Rs10 to Rs289 per bag, diammonium phosphate from Rs28 to Rs765 per bag and sulphate of potash from Rs19 to Rs780 per bag.
As a result, the small, subsistent and below-subsistent level farmers holding 63 per cent of the total farms could not apply the recommended dose resulting in low yields. The situation is further compounded by cumbersome procedures for obtaining agriculture credit by the farmers.
PESTICIDE USE: Insects, diseases, weeds and pests during pre-and post-harvest phases cause losses of up to 20 per cent or more depending upon the crop and season. Consumption of pesticides increased from 665 tons in 1980 to 78,133 tons in 2003 with an increase in value from Rs39 million to Rs8,138 million.
The use of pesticides and chemicals have become a compulsion for farmers due to high value crops but no effective control of pest and diseases has been obtained. Cotton is a glaring example where despite sprays, there had been no control of pests and disease on 85 per cent of the area.
As a result the yield has stagnated and have changed the status of Pakistan from an exporter to an importer. Major constraints in the use of pesticides are the lack of quality control, high cost, adulteration, timely unavailability, resistant pesticides, lack of education, and the use of faulty spray-equipment by untrained persons.
Though, the use of pesticides has become essential, but the indiscriminate use has created health hazards and degradation of the environment. A study by a national institute has already shown that nearly 10,000 farmers are poisoned annually by the pesticides.
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT: Modern agriculture requires increased use of inputs for improvement in productivity. Timely availability of credit to farmers is a pre-requisite. Excessive documentation and corruption in giving loans act as a deterrent in providing credit to genuine farmers.
A lesson should be taken from the Indian Punjab where they calculate input and credit requirements of farmers of the villages within a radius of five miles called a focal point.
The credit is provided to farmers well before sowing. Recovery is made in cash or kind according to the convenience of the farmer. This has resulted in significant increase in crop yields. India had also refused to withdraw the subsidy on inputs on the ground that this not only increased the production but has also surged its agricultural exports.
Courtesy: The DAWN