Farmers reject FCA production estimates, saying they do not depict true picture
KARACHI:While reacting to the Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA)’s production estimates for different crops, grower bodies and progressive farmers have expressed concerns over the “exaggerated” targets, rejecting claims and calling for payment of prices set by the government.
In a recent meeting held in Islamabad, the FCA projected that wheat production could hit 32.12 million tons over an area of 8.9 million hectares and it also fixed targets of minor crops including gram, potato, onion and tomato at 410, 6,330, 2,494 and 666 thousand tons respectively.
The committee said that cotton production could reach 11.5 million bales from cultivation over an area of 2.4 million hectares by the end of current season.
“We reject these figures, targets and claims being exaggerated by the government, which is just like building a castle in the air. This is a mind-numbing report. It does not depict a true picture after the mammoth floods damaged crops-cum-land while peasants were devoid of seeds and inputs including fertiliser and the likes,” said Sindh Agriculture Research Council President Ali Palh Advocate, who represents small growers.
“On top of that, 15% shortage of water is being witnessed, while small growers at tail-ends are experiencing 40% water scarcity.”
Sindh Chamber of Agriculture Senior Vice President Nabi Bux Sathio remarked that actually it was easy to devise strategies or policies without considering ground realities.
“Wheat consumption of the country touches 30 million tons and we have harvested around 28 million tons last year, registering a shortfall of 2 million tons and pushing up prices of wheat flour in the market,” he said.
“How can we get 32.12 million tons for want of three main factors – ample and timely water, best quality seeds and inputs as well as exorbitant fertiliser prices, and high fuel cost for tractors during the Rabi season, which will run from October 16 to March 15?”
Sathio pointed out that cotton output was around 4.8 million bales last year and this year, the target of 11.5 million bales seemed “appallingly onerous under the present situation”.
“The federal government sets targets of both seasonal crops of Rabi and Kharif without taking main stakeholders of the agrarian economy on board as we are progressive farmers who undergo poor experiences almost every year on account of a host of reasons including global warming and non-payment of government-fixed prices of food and other commodities,” said Farmers Organisation Council President Jawaid Junejo.
He said that last year, he inadvertently purchased substandard wheat seed bags supplied by Punjab to Sindh markets and got poor output. When he complained to the Sindh Agricultural Research Department, the officials revealed that the seeds were not registered.
Junejo asked that when the seeds lacked the required quality and registration, how they were being supplied and sold in markets of the province. The officials concerned had no answer to that malpractice.
Growers are more eager to grow sunflower and other crops for better returns instead of wheat.
Achieving targets of crops are really grueling during the current climate change and unprecedented inflation. This is a tall order but wheat target may be achieved as the rainy season has existed for a brief period, however, financial factors could discourage peasants from reaching the goal.
Junejo said that the government fixed the price of cottonseed at Rs8,500 per maund but it was still selling between Rs6,000 and Rs7,500 in the market, terming it utter injustice being faced by growers.