Sindh is currently passing through a sever wheat shortage, while Punjab has sealed its stock of around 6 million tons of wheat. Consequently Sindh is left with no option other than importing around 1.5 million tons of wheat.
Since Punjab has been main source of agricultural production in the country, there fore it has remained the focus of major agricultural planning and development efforts. But since last few years Punjab’s dominance in wheat production has greatly reduced due to stagnation in production of wheat in the province.
Official records state that around 75 per cent agri loans, water and fine seeds have been utilized in Punjab province. Currently 15 million acres of land is used for wheat production in the Punjab, and according to rough estimates 40 MAF underground water is consumed through tube wells in the province. Punjab produces 16 million tons of wheat annually where as the Pakistan’s current wheat requirement stands at close to 23 million tons. By year 2010 Pakistan would need around 30 million tons of wheat for its domestic consumption, while lands in Punjab do not have that capacity to produce that much food grain of wheat in years to come as A-Class cultivable land in Punjab is not available any more.
Wheat production position and potential of Sindh
The average wheat production per acre in Sindh is close to 26 Mann while in Punjab it is around 23 Mann per acre.
There is plenty of A-Class cultivatable lands available in Sindh, currently only 14 million acres of land is under cultivation in Sindh, while two crops in a year are being cultivated only on 1.8 million acres of land, over 12 million acres of land in Sindh is not being used for two crops in a year due to water shortage, lack of agri inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and availability of investment.
There is roughly 3.2 million acres of land in Sindh, which can be brought under cultivation through some improvements and planning. Unfortunately provincial agricultural dept does not have good leadership and bureaucracy to utilize this immense agricultural potential.
It is amazing to see the wheat production per acre in the coastal areas of Sindh whose average production par acre is higher than Punjab and other parts of Sindh.
Currently 2.5 million acres of land is used for wheat cultivation in the province, this area under-cultivation can be enhanced in short term up to 3.5 million acres of land and long term up to 5 million acres of land.
Agri land in Sindh has capacity to produce average 30 to 35 Mann per acre wheat production that is above 10 Mann per acre yield in Punjab. This could enable Sindh in longer run to produce up to 7 million tons what by year 2025 and Sindh could become self-sufficient in wheat production and consumption.
In order to achieve above goals following urgent reforms are needed to be implemented.
· Sindh should receive free flow of water at least according to 1991 Water accord, which gives sufficient water during the Rabi season when wheat crop is cultivated.
· The small growers in the tale areas should get due water during the crop cultivation season, as big landowners have tended to prefer fruit cultivation in their lands rather than wheat.
· The Nara Canal and Left Bank area should be handed over to growers’ organization for the management of canals and watercourses, especially in Thatta district.
· There has been lack of finest wheat seed, which severally affects wheat production. Though Sindh has some fines wheat seeds, due to the corruption in the federal Seed Corporation, unhealthy and costly seed is sold to the growers of Sindh. There is urgent need to re-activate the defunct Sindh Seed Corporation and it should function on commercial basis.
· Incompetent and corrupt officials should not be appointed again the corporation
· The Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan has been practicing discriminatory policies against the growers of Sindh in provision of agri loans. On the basis of ratio of agricultural land Sindh should get 33 per cent of agri loans but merely 15 per cent of agri loan is distributed annually among the growers in the province.
Prof. Dr. Rajab Ali Memon
Former Vice Chancellor
Sindh Agricultural University Tando Jam, Hyderabad.
(Translation Mushtaque Rajpar, Karachi