Ministers unhappy with government agricultural policies

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ISLAMABAD:

Several ruling PTI federal ministers have criticized their own governments for failing to bring relief to the agricultural sector.

At a meeting of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Agriculture, Federal Ministers Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Fehmida Mirza highlighted the high prices of agricultural inputs and the low rate of production.

Expressing his dissatisfaction with the government’s policy, Khan, the aviation minister said that over the past two and a half years “we have not been able to do anything for the agricultural sector. Mirza, the minister for interprovincial coordination said no relief was given to producers.

However, Finance Minister Hammad Azhar and Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam defended the government’s policies. Azhar said the price of DAP fertilizer had been increased due to the rise in international prices, adding that the increase in the support price of wheat would affect the price of flour.

The meeting was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, which was also attended by Usman Dar, Shandana Gulzar and others. Gulzar informed the committee that the government will launch the “Kamyab Kisan” program.

“The Kamyab Kisan program will be implemented in 15-20 districts as a pilot program under which loans will be given at an interest rate of 5%,” she said. Producers will also receive training in new technologies, ”she added.

Dar explained that Rs2 billion had been disbursed in the agricultural sector under the Kamyab Jawan program. “The Kamyab Jawan program has two components, including training in the agricultural sector,” he added.

Dr Fehmida Mirza said the government was doing a good job in the agricultural sector but “nothing is visible on the ground”, adding: “We all know where 90% of agricultural development loans go”.

Committee member Sanaullah Khan Mastikhel stressed the need to make the farmers of Zarai Taraqiati bank friendly. Farooq Azam Malik, another committee member, criticized the attitude of Agriculture Department officials towards lawmakers.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan launched a scathing criticism from the ministers concerned over the decline in wheat production in the country. “I am helpless in the cabinet. In two and a half to three years, we haven’t been able to do anything for the agricultural sector, ”he said.

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“We could not give any relief to the agricultural sector. The government has given aid to industry and services, but not to agriculture. The voice of the people for sectors other than agriculture is more powerful, ”he lamented.

“We import wheat but the government is not prepared to give anything to its own producers. Imported wheat costs 2,400 rupees [pre 40 kilogrammes] but we give Rs1,800 to producers [in the shape of support price]The minister told the committee.

Referring to a wheat support price set by the Sindh government, sarwar said Sindh’s decision was practical. “Last year, the DAP [fertiliser] was sold at Rs2,800 [per bag] but this year the rate is 5,000 rupees, ”the minister added. He called on the government to release the funds announced for this sector.

Food Security Minister Fakhr Imam told the committee that the price of wheat was increased on December 16, 2019, but at that time Sindh had not procured the product. He added that hoarding was also a big deal.

However, he added that wheat production this year would be one million tonnes higher than last year. “We had offered a summary for the cotton support price but that was not taken into account. We had proposed the purchase of 400,000 bales of cotton but this was not considered either.

Finance Minister Azhar said the prime minister attaches great importance to agriculture. He assured the full support of his ministry to the Committee on Agriculture. “When we took office, the support price for wheat was increased. The sale of urea also increased after about 10 years, he added.

Explaining the price increase of DAP, the minister said that 70-80% of fertilizers are imported into the country, therefore, the price increase was linked to its international rate. Defending the support price of wheat, he said, the price increase would impact the price of flour.

Regarding the import of wheat, the Minister explained that the price of imported wheat includes shipping, loading and other expenses. Regarding the Sindh government’s rate, the minister said that the provincial government set the support price at 2,000 rupees but only had to procure 1 million tonnes.

President Asad Qaiser said the difficulties faced by farmers regarding Zarai Taraqiati Bank should be addressed. He also requested that the wheat issue be discussed at a subcommittee meeting.

Speaking to media representatives after the meeting, Qaiser said problems arise because of climate change. Responding to a question, Qaiser said Ghulam Sarwar’s position at the meeting was his personal point of view.

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