The federal government with the coordination of all provinces will spend Rs290 billion on the National Agriculture Emergency Programme in the next five years, aimed at boosting crops yield, fishery and livestock development as well as water conservation of a little less than combined live water capacities of Tarbela and Mangla dams.
It is worth mentioning that Federal Cabinet on Tuesday (March 19) had given approval to this programme, as the government had promised that it would declare an agriculture emergency to boost this sector and support the farmers.
Secretary Ministry of National Food Security & Research Dr Muhammad Hashim Popalzai on Thursday told The News that this plan will have 13 projects in various sectors of agriculture.
Work on these projects was initiated in August 2018, after the government decided to focus more on this sector for boosting economic growth, exports and industrial sector. He said, “With the aim to steer the provinces on the agriculture sector, the federal government formulated the plan to increase investment in the sector for boosting crops yields, making it export-oriented and reduce imports of agriculture produce, especially oil seed and pulses. We also want to conserve water, through various interventions, as every year much of the water is being wasted.” The secretary said that every year, Pakistan is spending around four to $4.25 billion a year on edible oil and pulses import. Besides, we want to increase meat production, livestock and fisheries.
Before devolution of agriculture sector to provinces, the budget of this sector (provinces and center both) was around Rs40 billion, but after devolution it reduced to Rs20 to Rs25 billion a year. Currently, it is only 25 billion rupees. He said that after devolution, the provinces did not give proper heed to this important sector of the economy.
He said, “95 percent water is being used for agriculture sector, but our water efficiency is only 40 pc and the reaming is wasted. On farm, water wastage is around 20 to 25 million acres feet (MAF).”
He said, “We are also working with the Punjab government for development of new and revamping of existing agriculture markets and making it as electronic market. We are going to launch this initiative first in Punjab and then in KP. These markets would have modern facilities including storages. Of this 290 billion plan, the share of the provinces would be 35 to 38 percent while the remaining share would be of the federal government.”
“We are also working on cotton crop and would ensure good quality of seed availability and strengthen research with international collaboration. We are also in talks with Argentina for mechanisation of cotton picking. For next year we are targeting to get 15 million bales of cotton.
Details of the projects
A senior official of the Ministry of Food Security and Research told the News that 13 projects would be executed from the next financial year [2019/20] for five year in all provinces. These projects were conceived after detail deliberations and meetings with the provinces, agriculture experts and other stakeholders.
Of these projects, Rs28 billion would be spent on four projects for four major crops including wheat, sugarcane, rice and oilseed crops. He said that since cost of production is increasing in Pakistan day by day, and we cannot reduce it sizably, so we would go for a ‘top up approach’ which would aim at increasing crops yield.
Under these projects, oilseed would be cultivated on 1.5 million hectares. New machinery would be provided to farmers on fifty-fifty shares (farmers and government) and other interventions would also be introduced including land agronomic methodologies, machinery, certified seeds, fertilizers and some others.
He said that media campaign is also part of it to educate farmers regarding these projects and new interventions in the sector.
He further said that provinces have been appraised on it and they are flexible to formulate small projects according to their needs. They would send their respective PC-Is duly approved from their agriculture departments which would be included in an umbrella PC-I of the federal government.
On water conservation which is a major challenge for Pakistan, the government would execute three projects. Of these projects, Rs180 billion would be spent on watercourse linings. This is the phase-II of the earlier project that was executed in 2004 to 2011. This phase would include repairing of old water courses and new construction.
There is 141MAF of water available to the country, of which downstream Kotri Barrage to sea, we need 30MAF to control erosion. While Indus basis losses are 6MAF. To canal gate 104MAF of water available, then from canals to water course the losses are 22MAF and then in water courses the loss is 25MAF, so we get net water of 57.5MAF.
“We are targeting this 25MAF to reduce it by 9MAF through improving water courses. If we save this 9MAF of water, it would be a little less than combined live capacities of Tarbela and Mangla dams.”
He said that on Diamer-Bhasha we would be spending more than Rs1500 billion, while with this intervention we could save almost the same amount of water. Under this project, laser land levelers would be also provided to farmers through provincial governments to save water.
Another Rs18 billion project of ‘increasing command areas under small & medium dams in barani areas’ would be executed in all provinces.
In Punjab, there are 58 small dams. These were required and targeted to have command area [irrigation area] of 66601 acres, but it is irrigating only 26000 acres. In Sindh, 81 such dams which were needed to have command area of 229000 acres, but it is currently irrigating only 27,000 acres. There are 619 small and medium dams in Balochistan, with the objective to irrigate 366000 acres of land, but it command area is only 32,000 acres. In KP, 14 such dams irrigating only 4000 acres, while originally these dams were meant for irrigating 17000 acres.
He said, earlier, the government had plans to build small and medium dams in arid areas, but after getting the information from provinces, it was decided to increase the command areas of these existing dams.
Another Rs10.6 billion project is for water conservation of barani areas in KP. Under it, the provincial government would build small check dams and water retaining facilities. They would collect rain waters and then use it for irrigation purposes.
Under the National Agriculture Emergency Programme, three projects would be executed in fisheries. One project of Rs4.4 billion would be implemented for shrimp farming, especially in coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.
Another project of Rs2.5 billion has been earmarked for cage fish culture. For trout fish farming in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), KP and AJ&K Rs1.7 billion would be spent.
While keeping in view the growing international halal market, the government is focusing on meat production. In this sector two projects are part of this national programme.
One project of Rs561 million named ‘Save The Calf’ would be executed in all provinces. He said that normally the farmers slaughter the calf, especially male calling it unproductive and milk consuming, but now the government would provide Rs4000/calf to farmer if he saves it.
Another project of Rs4.1 billion, ‘Calf Fattening’ is also in this plan. Under this project, if farmers achieve 200 kilogram of calf weight in certain days, he would be provided Rs6000/calf. Then they could sell them for their own, however the provincial agriculture departments would monitor it. It would not only help farmers earn money, but also help boost the sector.
There is another ‘Backyard Poultry’ project with Rs400 million. Under this project, half a million vaccinated 80-day old chicks would be distributed in poor people, especially widows. They would provide it in a set of five chicks [four hens and one cock] at Rs1200/set to poor people especially to widows in all provinces. These would be of special breeds laying more eggs.