Power struggle

By Tahir Ali

tns.thenews.com.pk/power-struggle-privatisation/
March 2, 2014

Will the privatisation of power distribution and generation companies solve the energy crisis?
while the federal government intends to gradually
privatise all the power
distribution companies
(Discos) and generation
companies (Gencos), their employees say they
would resist the move. The Council of Common
Interests (CCI), headed
by Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, decided in
principle earlier this
month to privatise all the state-owned Discos,
Gencos and other Power
Sector Entities (PSEs) in
line with the 2011
Policy. “In the past, unnecessary
recruitments and
corruption have resulted
in mismanagement in
these organisations, and
privatisation, therefore, is the only solution in
the national interest,”
said the prime minister. The Privatisation
Commission, according
to the officials who do
not want to be
identified, has approved
restructuring and privatisation of
Faisalabad Electric
Power Company (Fesco),
Lahore Electric Supply
Company (Lesco),
Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco),
Peshawar Electric Supply
Company (Pesco), and
others. Privatisation of
some thermal power
generation stations has also been approved. Earlier, the Cabinet
Committee on
Privatisation, besides
others, had decided that
Islamabad Electricity
Supply Company (Iesco) and Gujranwala
Electricity Supply
Company (Gesco) would
be offered for strategic
partnerships. It directed
the Privatisation Commission to ensure
that the interests of
employees are protected
at all costs. Minister for Water and
Power, Khwaja
Muhammad Asif, told the
National Assembly
recently that in order to
improve efficiency of the PSEs, some Discos and
Gencos are being
considered for
privatisation. Improvement in the
efficiency through
competition,
accountability,
managerial autonomy
and profit incentives; and the generation of
required resources are
the objectives of the
government for the
privatisation of power
sector. “As a matter of fact, all
Discos, including Pesco,
are eventually to be
privatised. Pesco’s turn
may come later, but it
will,” said a knowledgeable source
on the condition of
anonymity. Pesco recently planned
to privatise three
feeders — in Bannu and
Dera Ismael Khan — but
the proposal met stiff
resistance from Wapda employees. Employees fear
privatisation would
entail job insecurity and
costlier energy for the
masses and will be
tantamount to economic killing of so many
families. Gohar Taj, chairman of
All Pakistan Wapda
Hydro Electric Central
Workers Union (HECWU),
which is the elected
collective bodies’ agent (CBA) of Wapda, said
“the government had
decided to privatise
Pesco, Lesco and Fesco
on the pressure of IMF. It
has obtained approval from the CCI through
majority.” He warned that Wapda
workers won’t accept
any privatisation or
golden handshake offers.
“Due to our strong
opposition, Pesco feeders couldn’t be
privatised in Bannu. We
will hold countrywide
demonstrations on
March 5 and on March 11
in Islamabad. We will take along sympathetic
parties and take the
nation into confidence
on the hazards of
privatisation,” he said. Taj was of the view that
the government should
revive the loss-making
entities with the staff
and officers of Discos.
CBA will support it. It can take help from the law
enforcement agencies to
curb stealing, recover
dues from defaulters,
and check corruption
within the companies. Pesco employees, I am
told, have increased
recovery ratio by 10 per
cent and line losses have
been curtailed by one
per cent in the last three months.” According to him, “Funds
given to improve age-
old infrastructure are
utilised for extending
low-tension lines to
benefit politicians, which further increases
pressure on the national
grid.” Tila Muhammad,
provincial chairman of
the steering committee
of Wapda, Pegham
Union KP, said, “We
won’t accept offers like the ones made to PTCL
employees who opted
for retaining jobs but are
denied due rights since
then. We would oppose
the move tooth and nail. Privatisation will do no
good to consumers as
income-hungry private
owners of Discos would
sell electricity at
exorbitant prices,” he says, adding,
“Privatisation with
regard to feeders failed
earlier. IPPs and RPPs
scandals are fresh in
minds. National institutions need to be
improved and not
privatised. If there are
corrupt officials, the
government has all the
resources to try and punish them.” Donor agencies like the
World Bank and Asian
Development Bank have
identified poor
governance, political and
bureaucratic interference,
institutional weakness,
and lack of professional
management as key
shortcomings of
Pakistan’s PSEs urging their restructuring and
privatisation. For many years, the
power sector has been
virtually in private
hands. For example
Pepco, headed by an
independent MD, manages all the affairs of
corporatised nine Discos,
four Gencos and a
National Transmission
Dispatch Company.
These companies work under independent
board of directors
(chairman and some
directors are from
private sector). These are
administratively autonomous and all
entities have the
physical possessions of
all their operational
assets. But the sector’s
woes have risen in the meantime. Similarly, feeders in
Pesco and other Discos
have been privatised in
the past but contractors
soon backed out from
the contract. People ask if privatisation of KESC
has brought any
dividends. Have the
consumers of Karachi
benefitted? Has the
government got relieved of its subsidies? The
government has
allocated Rs55 billion out
of its total power sector
subsidy of Rs220 billion
this financial year to pick KESC tariff differential
this year even though it
has long been privatised. Without structural
reforms, stringent laws
to punish and deter
power stealers,
community
participation, ending of political intervention,
checking
mismanagement and a
sound policy of reward
and punishment for both
consumers and workers of Discos, even
privatisation will be
meaningless. “The government should
provide security to
raiding teams. Public
mindset should be
changed by educating
them against power theft through media,
ulema and teachers.
Community intervention
can be ensured by
assigning areas of
responsibility to local bodies’ members at
ward or transformer
level. Field/line staff
deficiency must be
removed. Workers
should be given commission on extra
collection beyond
benchmark target at
different rates,” said the
source. Accountability, power
generation, especially
from hydel and gas, and
renewal of power
infrastructure are also
vital for bringing demand and supply gap
and line-losses down. Pesco, according to an
estimate, is worth over
Rs300 billion with all its
assets and liabilities.
“Pesco is incurring a loss
of Rs one billion a month. Out of the total
Rs6.2 billion worth units
billed, around Rs5 billion
are recovered. Its total
transmission and
distribution losses are over Rs75 billion at
present. But all this is
not entirely caused by
incompetence and
corruption of employees.
They have security problems and are
attacked by powerful
stealing mafia. The
police are over-stretched
for the precarious
security situation to escort them. Laws
against power theft are
toothless. A power thief
is set free by fining him
Rs500-1000. Now this
emboldens others to follow suit,” the source
said. The Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa Assembly
has passed resolutions
against privatisation of
Pesco in 2003, 2005,
2006 and several other occasions. The assembly
was informed that the
province had already
paid the total
transmission and
distribution cost of Pesco system, therefore
the province has every
right to claim the
ownership of Pesco,
including its assets,
under Article 157(2) of the Constitution.

gur-making up in KP

Bitter realities of a sweet crop

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/bitter-realities-of-a-sweet-crop/#.Uq7hS6xsS1s

Sugarcane growers prefer making gur rather than selling the crop to mills owners

Bitter realities of a sweet crop

It is gur-making season in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera. The estimated sugarcane production in KP is around 1.3 million tonnes. Almost half of it is used for gur making. Gur produced in Charsadda and Mardan is very popular countrywide. Gur is the main sweetener for around 60 per cent people in KP and Federally and Provincially-administered tribal areas (Fata and Pata). It is exported to Afghanistan, Middle Eastern and Central Asian states where it is believed to be used as a sweetener and in winemaking.

Mardan and Peshawar are the hubs of gur trade. Around ten to twelve thousands of purs are traded in the Pipal Mandi gur market when the trade is in full swing. Gur commission agents are also very active these days.

Thousands of tonnes of gur is traded in the province or taken out of the country daily. Majority of the sugarcane growers prefer using their cane-produce for gur-making rather than taking it to mills for its comparative advantages. It fetches them good prices. They have to feed their animals with cane-grass which necessitates intermittent cutting of crop as allowed by gur-making and not simultaneous harvesting of the entire crop as demanded by the mills option. And they usually use gur in their homes. Gur is used in juices, sweets and eaten with bread as curry with bread by the poor.

In Punjab, a kind of gur, named Duplicate, is prepared by mixing gur, glucose and other ingredients. It is good-looking as well as cheaper and tasteful, according to some farmers.

While sugar-mills began crushing season in early November, gur-making is usually started in late September or early October. It lasts till April next year.

Gur prepared in the initial stage is of inferior quality but can fetch more. Late production increases yield and standard. The gur made in January, February and March is much better in quality and is liked the most. Similarly, gur without alteration is the best for human consumption while that mixed with artificial colour tastes bad, though people residing in remote areas prefer it for its bright colour. Again, the gur made from the roots of the last year’s crop is good in quality while that from fresh canes is not that good.

According to Murad Ali Khan, a farmers’ leader from Charsadda, gur is more competitive for the farmers at the current rate.

“A pur of gur (having 75-80 kilograms) fetches a price up to Rs5000 depending upon its colour, taste and quality in the local market. Sugarcane yield per acre is around 400 maunds which can produce 20 purs (a pur consumes 20-25 maunds of cane). These can earn a farmer Rs100,000 or more. It exceeds the price offered by sugar-mills these days,” he says.

According to another farmer, quality sugarcane can give as much as 40 purs per acre. But, he says, farmers in KP will only benefit from the crop when its per acre yield of 350-400 maunds is increased to that of 650-700 maunds in Punjab. At present, gur-making through rented gur-ganee (machines) is less beneficial for farmers while those who own ganees are the real beneficiaries,” he opines.

Muhammad Zahir Khan, another growers’ representative, says hitches in supply of gur to Fata, Pata and the ban on export of gur to Afghanistan and the central Asian states, however, have lowered gur prices of late to the detriment of gur farmers. “Gur can be a healthy addition to the countries’ depleting export earnings if its export is allowed after value addition.”

Masud Khan, the manager of the Premier Sugar Mills Mardan, says though the minimum sugarcane support price is Rs170 per 40 kilogrammes in other provinces, the local sugar mills offer Rs180. “We have to compete with gur-ganees. While our per kg cost of production has increased for higher prices and wages offered to farmers and employees, escalating fuel prices and various taxes, gur-ganees have no such taxes and responsibilities. How can we compete with them? Sugar industry will be on verge of closure if not supported,” he says. The industry has been campaigning for ban on gur export, taxes on gur industry and eventual moratorium on gur production.

Rizwanullah Khan, the president of the Kissan Board KP, however, says prices of all the things are on the rise while last year’s cane price has remained unchanged. “In 2010, mills had offered Rs240 per 40kg. Cane price be increased as per cost of production. We have planned agitation to press for good cane-prices.”

Gur was once the food of the poor. Though it has become costlier than sugar for few years now, the poor still prefer it for its taste and health benefits.

A farmer said gur agents and big farmers have installed generator-run modern gur-ganees with several furnaces which help prepare plenty of purs daily.

In 1996, average retail gur price was 14 rupees a kilo. Currently, it is sold at Rs66-75/kg. The sugarcane growers, unfortunately, haven’t been able to get advantage of this hike. Growers say the gur commission agents have devoured most of the surplus value in the shape of huge commission or deduction of 5-8kg gur/a pur.

Mardan and Peshawar are the hubs of gur trade. Around ten to twelve thousands of purs are traded in the Pipal Mandi gur market when the trade is in full swing. Gur commission agents work pretty much like the property dealers or motor vehicle bargainers who are only concerned with their commission.

“The gur agents enter advance agreements with farmers by making payments for standing crops. They provide farmers seasonal/crop-based loans which they use for buying inputs and fulfilling their domestic needs,” a farmer says.

An official of the Sugarcane Crops Research Institute said though KP’s cane has better quality and sucrose content, its average yield is between 16-24 metric tonnes, much less than that of Sindh and Punjab. He cited insufficient use of fertiliser and pesticides, non-attractive price given by mills, intercropping, use of less than recommended seed (4 ton/acre) and shortage of irrigation water as reasons for lesser acreage and production.

Damming conflicts

Damming conflicts
With prices of land rising up in South Waziristan Agency after Gomal Zam Dam’s construction, new tensions among tribesmen are flaring up
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Mar2013-weekly/nos-31-03-2013/pol1.htm#4

As Gomal Zam Dam being built in South Waziristan Agency nears completion and is expected to get operational by the end of the year, new opportunities and challenges have emerged that necessitate a comprehensive governance and execution model for conflict resolution, optimum utilisation of resources and smooth implementation of the project.

The GZD is a multi-purpose project consisting of three components — dam and spillway, power house and irrigation system. It is being completed by Wapda and Frontier Works Organisation with financial assistance from the USAID which had provided $80 million to help complete the work which was expected to hit snags for shortage of funds.

Secretary Planning and Development Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Asad Ali Khan, said that as per the contractors’ report, the dam component is 90 per cent complete. Main canal has been completed while tributaries and irrigation channels are being constructed. The hydro power component is almost complete and will shortly start electricity generation.

He said all stakeholders — the concerned government departments, community representatives and donors — should join hands to make it a success. “The P&D department KP has formed a review committee to supervise and support the advocacy project and to ensure transparency in the project,” he added.

The project has huge financial impacts. Vast tracts of land in the fertile command area in the South Waziristan agency and the districts of Tank and Dera Ismael Khan (DIK) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mostly rain-fed or irrigated by the traditional Rod Kohi system, would benefit from the scheme.

“It will benefit over 0.3mn farmers in 81 villages in Tank and DIK and would provide irrigation water for 191000 acres of land. It will help reduce flood damage of around $2.6mn and will also generate electricity. It would store 1.14 million acre feet of water for irrigation and drinking purposes, generate around 20 megawatts, sufficient for 25,000 households in the command area,” according to an official.

Earlier land prices were low and agriculture fetched little. Hence many lands had been abandoned by the absentee landlords. Life standard was low in the project area. The areas either witnessed severe drought or floods that inundated vast areas and flattened crops. But now with prices of land rising up after dam’s construction, new tensions are flaring up.

“As land prices and potential for agriculture incomes have increased, there is discomfort in the command area. Conflict of interest is expected to get deeper. Though I can’t say whether there would be tenants-owners wars that happened in the country in 1970s, as reported tenants-owner tensions are likely to rise in number and depth. This could be a potential threat to the area peace. The government should nip the evil in the bud,” said Ahmad Zeb, a community representative from DIK. Zeb said the problems of collective land ownership and absentee landlordism could be pestering problems in future if not checked.

“The absentee landlords, who had left their lands unattended or to tenants for decades, are returning to take possession of their lands, a move being resisted by the tenants. Resultantly, tenants-landowners tensions are on the rise. Before this becomes a menace for this volatile region bordering the militancy-hit tribal belt, the government needs to proactively check this menace. There is a need for new land resettlement and subsequent distribution amongst their virtual owners,” Zeb said.

As the work on the project began in 2001, the trend of buying or snatching lands from the ignorant farmers started. However, in October 2001, the provincial government banned the sale, purchase, registry, Hiba, settlement of property and transfers of land under the Gomal Zam Dam Speculation Ordinance, in the project area till completion of the dam.

Humyun Khan, a Tank community representative, also seconded Zeb’s thoughts and urged involvement of the administration to overcome this menace.

According to another farmer from the area, main canal has been established and irrigation channels are now being prepared but farmers are reluctant to allow irrigation channels on the paltry amount being offered. Worse, payment is being delayed under one pretext or another.

Again, farmers are unhappy over the division of irrigation water in the 393 morgahs on the basis of different cropping intensities in the command area. A farmer said that some areas have been allotted less water on the basis of low cropping intensity. Coupled with this is the expected huge gap between the water availability at the head and tail-end with the result that the farmers in the tail-end will suffer. This discrepancy needs to be removed.

Considering this, the Gomal Zam Command Area Advocacy Project (GZAP), launched recently, is of vital importance as it plans to ensure a hassle-free execution of the project to make it advantageous for the impoverished farming community in the command area of the Gomal Zam.

The Small Grants Ambassadors’ Funds Programme of the USAID has provided Rs20mn for the advocacy project. It is being implemented by the Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT), a local think tank.

“With civil work almost complete in most components of the GZ project, there is a need to build an institutional mechanism to ensure hassle-free execution of the project. We intend to set up a consultative institutional mechanism based on community and government stakeholders’ interaction for addressing agriculture/irrigation related challenges including conflict mitigation. It will also undertake research for identifying the agriculture/irrigation threats and opportunities in the project area. A project review committee composed of representatives of P&D, agriculture, irrigation, Wapda, SWD and the donors needs to be formed,” said Khalid Aziz, the chairman of RIPORT. “All these steps would help develop a governance model for smooth implementation of the irrigated agriculture in GZ command area.”

“Community awareness and participation is to be ensured. They need to be informed of the challenges and opportunities of shifting from Rod Kohi to canal irrigation system. Awareness sessions in 131 villages regarding canal distribution system and its challenges would be arranged. Village committees would be formed and training for each village committee on on-farm water management, sustainable cropping patterns etc would be provided. Learning visits will be arranged for farmers to the Chashma right bank canal,” he explained.

Aziz said, “The project activities include optimisation of agriculture incomes, land levelling, soil conservation, reclamation of lands, on-farm water management, utilisation of canal water for drinking purposes, awareness about water and land rights, optimisation of cropping patterns, preparation of manual of best agriculture and irrigation practices and identification of reforms and legislation.”

Officials from agriculture and livestock departments also want a role for the departments and warned against duplication of farmers’ organisations to be formed in the project areas. They advocated close coordination between the concerned departments.

Plantation of locally sustainable plants on the canal side and orchards and rangeland development should also be considered.

Gomal Zam Dam: potential and challenges

By Tahir Ali

As Gomal Zam Dam being built in South Waziristan Agency nears completion and is expected to get operational by the end of the year, new opportunities and challenges have emerged that necessitate a comprehensive governance and execution model for conflict resolution, optimum utilisation of resources and smooth implementation of the project.

The GZD is a multi-purpose project consisting of three components –dam and spillway, power house and irrigation system. It is being completed by Wapda and Frontier Works Organisation with financial assistance from the USAID which had provided $ 80mn to help complete the work which was expected to hit snags for shortage of funds.

Secretary Planning and Development Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Dr Asad Ali Khan said that as per the contractors’ report, the dam component is 90 per cent complete. Main canal has been completed while tributaries and irrigation channels are being constructed. The hydro power component is almost complete and will shortly start electricity generation.

He said all stakeholders –the concerned government departments, community representatives and donors – should join hands to make it a success. “The P&D department KP has formed a review committee to supervise and support the advocacy project and to ensure transparency in the project,” he added.

The project has huge financial impacts. Vast tracts of land in the fertile command area in the South Waziristan agency and the districts of Tank and Dera Ismael Khan (DIK) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mostly rain-fed or irrigated by the traditional Rod Kohi system, would benefit from the scheme.

“It will benefit over 0.3mn farmers in 81 villages in Tank and DIK and would provide irrigation water for 191000 acres of land. It will help reduce flood damage of around $2.6mn and will also generate electricity. It would store 1.14 million acre feet of water for irrigation and drinking purposes, generate around 20 megawatts, sufficient for 25,000 households in the command area,” according to an official. 

Earlier land prices were low and agriculture fetched little. Hence many lands had been abandoned by the absentee landlords. Life standard was low in the project area. The areas either witnessed severe drought or floods that inundated vast areas and flattened crops. But now with prices of land rising up after dam’s construction, new tensions are flaring up.

“As land prices and potential for agriculture incomes have increased, there is discomfort in the command area. Conflict of interest is expected to get deeper. Though I can’t say whether there would be tenants-owners wars that happened in the country in 1970s, as reported tenants-owner tensions are likely to rise in number and depth. This could be a potential threat to the area peace. The government should nip the evil in the bud,” said a community representative.

Ahmad Zeb, a community representative from DIK, the problems of collective land ownership and absentee landlordism could be pestering problems in future if not checked. “The absentee landlords, who had left their lands unattended or to tenants for decades, are returning to take possession of their lands, a move being resisted by the tenants. Resultantly, tenants-landowners tensions are on the rise. Before this becomes a menace for this volatile region bordering the militancy-hit tribal belt, the government needs to proactively check this menace. There is a need for new land resettlement and subsequent distribution amongst their virtual owners,” he said.

No sooner did work on the project begin in 2001, the trend of buying or snatching lands from the ignorant farmers started. However in October 2001, the provincial government banned the sale, purchase, registry, Hiba, settlement of property and transfers of land under the  Gomal Zam Dam Speculation Ordinance, in the project area till completion of the dam.   

Humyun Khan, a Tank community representative, also seconded his thoughts and urged involvement of the administration to overcome this menace.

According to another farmer from the area, main canal has been established and irrigation channels are now being prepared but farmers are reluctant to allow irrigation channels on the paltry amount being offered. Worse, payment is being delayed under one pretext or another.

Again, farmers are unhappy over the division of irrigation water in the 393 morgahs on the basis of different cropping intensities in the command area. A farmer said that some areas have been allotted less water on the basis of low cropping intensity. Coupled with this is the expected huge gap between the water availability at the head and tail-end with the result that the farmers in the tail-end will suffer. This discrepancy needs to be removed.

Considering this, the Gomal Zam Command Area Advocacy project (GZAP), launched recently, is of vital importance as it plans to ensure a hassle-free execution of the project to make it advantageous for the impoverished farming community in the command area of the Gomal Zam.

The Small Grants Ambassadors’ Funds Programme of the USAID has provided Rs20mn for the advocacy project. It is being implemented by the Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT), a local think tank.

“With civil work almost complete in most components of the GZ project, there is a need to build an institutional mechanism to ensure hassle-free execution of the project. We intend to set up a consultative institutional mechanism based on community and government stakeholders’ interaction for addressing agriculture/irrigation related challenges including conflict mitigation. It will also undertake research for identifying the agriculture/irrigation threats and opportunities in the project area. A project review committee composed of representatives of P&D, agriculture, irrigation, WAPDA, SWD and the donors needs to be formed. All these steps would help develop a governance model for smooth implementation of the irrigated agriculture in GZ command area,” said Khalid Aziz, the chairman of RIPORT.

“Community awareness and participation is to be ensured. They need to be made aware of the challenges and opportunities of shifting from Rod Kohi to canal irrigation system. Awareness sessions in 131 villages regarding canal distribution system and its challenges would be arranged. They will be informed about water user rights and best irrigation practices. They need to be guided on how to ensure optimum use of the available water for increasing their output, on water conservation practices and on the new water and crop patterns. Farmers’ organisations are to be formed in villages. Village committees would be formed and training for each village committee on on-farm water management, sustainable cropping patterns etc would be provided. Learning visits will be arranged for farmers to the Chashma right bank canal,” he explained.

 “The project activities include optimisation of agriculture incomes, land levelling, soil conservation, reclamation of lands, on farm water management, utilisation of canal water for drinking purposes, awareness about water and land rights, optimisation of cropping patterns, preparation of manual of best agriculture and irrigation practices, identification of reforms and legislation. We will also conduct research on introduction of locally viable new seeds, adopting better usage water practices, threat of water logging if water intensive crops such as sugarcane is sown. A project management unit is to be formed. The irrigation and revenue experts and department will be consulted and involved in monitoring and evaluation,” Aziz added.

Officials from agriculture and livestock departments urged main role for the departments and warned against duplication of farmers’ organisations to be formed in the project areas by different departments. They advocated close coordination between the concerned departments.

A local said not only the establishment of infrastructure but its sustainability also needs to be ensured in

Plantation of locally sustainable plants on the canal side and orchards and rangeland development should also be considered. For this purpose the research of the agriculture university Peshawar and that of the Gomal University could be obtained.

 

Model Achai cow farm

Model cow farming
Under the Achai Cow Conservation and Development Project, KP farmers will get free of cost insemination, vaccination, medicines and advisory services for conserving and developing their cattle
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/Jan2013-weekly/nos-13-01-2013/pol1.htm#5

A Model Achai Cow Conservation Farm has almost been built at Munda in Lower Dir Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The farm is being constructed under the Rs222 million Achai Cow Conservation and Development Project. Launched in July 2009, the farm was originally scheduled to be completed by June 2012, but it was delayed by a few months for law and order situation in the region.

A senior official said that after completion of the remaining only 2 per cent work, the site will be handed over to the Directorate of Livestock within a few days.

According to Dr Wahid Mir, the project director, 20 canals of land has been purchased for the farm while another 22-24 canals will be bought for fodder production for the animals to be kept there. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has around 6 million cows of different breeds but none of these have been utilised to produce genetically superior and high yielding species so far.

Though there are several indigenous cattle breeds like Lohani in Kohat and Gabrali in Swat that need conservation and development, the government selected the Achai cow for its characteristics, inter alia, of good weather adaptability, suitability for the area, docility, high fertility and good conception rate.

“The cow is suitable for the area terrain and weather; it can resist cold and warm climate (can withstand both icy and as high as 200 Celsius); it has a small body and thus needs little food but gives more milk as compared to its size and food; it is docile and can be milked by even children; it has double conception rate than other national breeds; it also has better fertility. While other breeds take two to three years after one reproduction, Achai cow usually reproduces after one and a half year and may give birth to three calves against the one or two on part of other breeds; and because it was endangered as according to the livestock census in 2006, only 5 lakh Achai cows were reported province wide,” Dr Mir said.

The best high milk/meat yielding Achai breeds are to be selected for reproductive purposes at the farm and then disseminated to farmers in the area. Even with the beginning of the Achai project, the price of Achai cow, which was until recently looked down upon by market players, has increased to Rs40,000/cow from Rs15,000/20,000 earlier.

Based on a survey of 400 Achai cattle, the average milk yield in 45 per cent Achai cows was recorded by the project officials at only 1 and 1.5 litres a day. Another 20 per cent yielded 2-4 litres. Some other cow groups produced 4-5, 6-7, 8 and 9 litres a day.

“The respective yields of these groups can be easily increased with concerted efforts for dissemination of best Achai breeds, provision of hygienic feed and efficient animal health services,” according to the official.

“There will be a small laboratory that will be used for diagnosing animal diseases. The best Achai cows will be ascertained and later used for reproductive purposes through the artificial insemination and the embryo transplantation technique wherein embryos from best female are collected and implanted in other female animals,” he added.

Asked whether any semen production unit (SPU) is being established at the farm for semen availability for artificial insemination, Dr Mir replied in the negative, but said that there was a big SPU in Harichand Charsadda cattle farm. A state of the art embryo transplant technology is also being established there. Its services will be used for the Dir farm as well.

Side by side, implementation of Achai project has already started in the districts of Charsadda, Swat, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, Malakand and Chitral. Achai-rich Kohistan, Shangla and Buner districts have been kept out from the project, apparently for fiscal and staff constraints though Dr Mir said Buner and Swabi will be included in it in the near future.

Through the project, Achai owners are being registered and Achai cow associations are being formed in every village where 25 households own Achai cattle. “Against our initial target of 48 bodies, 102 Achai associations have so far been enlisted in the project area and more are being formed. These organisations will later be combined into a district Achai cattle owners association. Another association at divisional level is also to be formed.”

Asked as to what benefits would accrue to the registered farmers, the project director said that the registered farmers would get free of cost insemination, vaccination, diagnosis, treatment, medicines and advisory services for conserving and developing their cattle.

“We have already provided training to some farmers at the Cattle Farm in Hari Chand, Charsadda. Farmers will also be taken to model public and private cattle farms in KP and Punjab where they will be acquainted with modern ways of livestock rearing, feeding, milking, feed making, preparation of by-products from milk etc,” Dr Mir added.

Another great benefit of these associations is the farmers-government linkages. “These associations have greatly facilitated the work of the veterinary assistants and benefited the farmers as cattle are being inspected, vaccinated and treated by the former at a pre-determined date with the help of the latter at village level,” he argued.

By raising milk and meat production of Achai cattle, the project is expected to boost the incomes of the area farmers. But staff deficiency may serve to minimise its coverage and impact. There are only 56 personnel at disposal of the project directorate province wide — 5 doctors, 12 veterinary assistants and other staff. Each district is to be looked after by a doctor and two veterinary assistants.

The difficult terrain of the Malakand division, scattered and distant villages, large population of Achai cows and staff deficiency will seriously impact the working and efficiency of the project and harder/farther areas will be left out. Dr Mir said more staff was needed at Tehsil level and locality levels for full coverage of the area.

“Veterinary Assistants will prepare an elaborate record of the conception, birth, calf-sex and its weight, milking duration and the growth and then the conception of the child-cow and its mother. This is a continuous process. They will also have to do other field duties like inspection, vaccination, treatment and counselling services for the farmers,” he added.

Though the livestock sector accounts for over 12 per cent of 25 per cent of provincial gross domestic product from agriculture, the sector has not received enough attention from both the federal and the provincial governments who have been handed over its ownership after 18th Amendment.

Insufficient funds and technology constraints have, inter alia, hampered its growth. Animals in the province are characterised by delayed puberty, low reproductive efficiency and low production of milk/meat and are, therefore, mostly non-profitable for the livestock owners, especially for small ones.

The share of livestock in the agriculture ADP has also decreased to Rs0.379 billion (26 per cent) this year from Rs0.60 billion (44 per cent) in the last fiscal year, reducing its share in total ADP from 0.70 per cent last fiscal to 0.38 per cent in the current ADP. Most of the districts still have no model dairy, beef and poultry farms there. Expansion of animal healthcare system and evolution and promotion of high yielding fodder varieties have also been neglected.

Though the livestock department is better equipped, trained and capable of supervising the veterinary drugs, the task has been left to the health department at both federal and provincial levels.

Achai-cow-conservation-project in Lower Dir

Achai cow conservation project

The government, impressed with the Achai cow breed’s ability to adapt to extreme weather conditions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and return on investment, is promoting setting up of dozens of Achai cow associations in selected districts in the province.

These associations are being formed in villages in Charsadda, Swat, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Malakand and Chitral, where at least 25 households own Achai cows.

“We initially planned to form 48 bodies. However, we have enlisted 102 Achai associations in the project area so far, and continue to enlist more of them. These organisations will later be combined into a district Achai Cattle Owners Association,” said the project’s director, Dr Wahid Mir. He added that cattle associations will also be formed at the divisional level.

Talking about the benefit of these bodies, Dr Mir said that registered farmers will get insemination services, as well as vaccination, diagnosis, treatment, medicines and advisory services for their animals for free.

Some farmers have also been trained at the cattle farm in Hari Chand in Charsadda, and will be taken to modern public and private cattle farms in KP and Punjab, where they will be acquainted with modern ways of rearing livestock animals, as well as proper method for feeding and milking the animals. They will also be taught about preparing by-products from milk.

However, Kohistan, Shangla and Buner districts, which are also home to a sizable Achai population, have been left out of the project. Dr Mir said that the programme will be launched in Buner and Swabi in the near future.

Apart from helping cattle farmers, these associations have trained veterinary assistants, who are supposed to regularly vaccinate the animals and treat them if they contract any disease.

Improving the quality of the livestock breed is yet another goal of the project. Dr Mir said that better animals will help farmers through increased milk and meat production. Achai breeds that give the best milk and meat production ratios will be selected for reproductive purposes, and then disseminated to local farmers.

“As the project started, the price of an Achai cow increased to Rs40,000 from around Rs20,000,” observed the project director.

A survey of 400 Achai cows found that 45 per cent of them yielded an average of one to 1.5 litres of milk a day. Another 20 per cent of the animals yielded 2-4 litres a day, while some groups managed to yield as high as nine litres of milk in a day.

The respective yields of these groups can be easily increased with concerted efforts for disseminating the best breeds, as well as provision of hygienic fodder and efficient healthcare services.

However, Achai is not the only cow breed that is present in the province. Several indigenous cattle breeds, like the Lohani in Kohat, and Gabrali in Swat, can also do with some help.

However, Dr Mir explained that the government selected the Achai breed for its ability to adapt to changes in the weather, as well as its docility, high fertility and overall suitability for the area

“The cow is suitable for area terrain and weather. It can resist cold as well as warm climate (it can reportedly withstand temperatures that range between the freezing point up to 200 Celsius). It has a small body and thus it needs little food.
However, it gives more milk for its size and food intake,” said Dr Mir.

The project director added that milking the Achai cow is a fairly easy job, as, “even children can do it. Its conception rate is double that of other national breeds. And while other breeds take up to three years to reproduce after giving birth, the Achai cow does it after one-and-a-shalf year. It may give birth to three calves, compared to one or two given by other breeds,” he said.

Only 500,000 Achai cows are present in the province, according to a livestock census conducted in 2006, added Dr Mir.

To help farmers realise full well what the cow can offer, a model Achai Cow Conservation Farm has been built in Munda in Lower Dir, at a cost of Rs222 million. Dr Mir said that 20 canals of land had been purchased for the farm, with another 22 to 24 canals will be bought for the production of fodder for the animals.

“Nearly 98 per cent of the construction of the Achai farm has been completed. The site will be handed over to the directorate of livestock within a fortnight, after the work is completed,” said a senior official.

“There will be a small laboratory that will be used for diagnosing animal diseases. The best Achai cows will be ascertained and later used for reproductive purposes, through artificial insemination and embryo transplantation.”

However, after having paid due attention to the livestock and animal rearing activities, authorities now need to turn their attention to the human capital they have available. The project directorate has only 56 personnel at its disposal. This includes five doctors, 12 veterinary assistants, and other staff members. Each district has been assigned a doctor and two veterinary assistants.

Mir conceded that more staff was needed at the Tehsil and locality levels so that the entire project area could be covered.
“Veterinary assistants are expected to keep records of conception, birth, sex of the calves, their weight, milking duration and growth. They also have to do field duties, like conducting inspections as well as vaccinating and treating animals. They are supposed to offer counselling services to the farmers as well,” said Dr Mir.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has around six million cows of different breeds, but none of them have been utilised to produce genetically superior and high yielding species. It is expected that this project will change the fate of at least one of these breeds.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The New breed: Pakistan olive plantation intiatives

Pakistan olive projects

By Tahir Ali

http://e.thenews.com.pk/10-7-2012/nos_page4.asp

With high global demand and rising prices in the international market and Pakistan’s annual edible oil import bill exceeding $2bn, the rationale of recent olive cultivation initiatives in the country cannot be overemphasized.

Olive demand globally is on the rise. Germans are using five times more and British ten times more olive than they did in 1990. In America, olive demand is growing by 6% annually for two decades now. Olive prices in world market have doubled to $3,400 a ton recently.

Pakistan has over 0.8mn hectares of wasteland suitable for olive cultivation. An official of the now defunct Pakistan Oil Seeds Development Board (PODB) had told this writer that by covering the area with olive plants, Pakistan can produce around 1.84mn tons of olive oil. This would fetch over $6bn at the current rate of olive in world market.

Olive is used in foods, pickles, medicines, food preservation, textile industry and cosmetic preparation etc. Special restaurants dealing in olive foods have also been opened in various cities of the country.

The Pakistan agricultural research council (PARC) has begun implementing the project “Promotion of olive cultivation for economic development and poverty alleviation” whereby olive plants will be cultivated on 300 hectares in Baluchistan, 100 hectares in KP, 300 hectares in federally administered tribal areas and 100 hectares in the Pothohar region of Punjab.

The Rs382mn project to be completed in three years is being under the Pakistan Italian debt-for-development swap agreement.

The Punjab government has declared the Pothowar region as Olive Valley. It recently distributed thousands of olive plants amongst olive growers and trained them.

The Punjab Agriculture and Meat Company also plans to develop 10 certified nurseries. These nurseries –being opened through private sector in Attock, Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jehlum and Khushab districts –would have a catchment area of 27000 acres and would have an impact of $78mn.

The potential area suitable for olive cultivation is around 8mn acres in Punjab of which 0.4mn is being targeted though this initiative. Total impact of this land, if covered, would be $1.16bn.

Similarly, in KP’s budget for 2012-13, a Rs100mn project –research and development on European olive and maintenance of model olive farm Sangbhatti Mardan –has been started and allocated Rs15mn this year.

As the PODB stands dissolved, Sangbhatti olive farm, one of its assets, has been handed over to the directorate of agriculture research in KP.

“The department will provide olive plantlets, grafts and buds produced in the Sangbhatti farm to farmers. Though the production of olive nursery is limited at present, it is nevertheless sufficient for the time being,” said an official of KP agriculture ministry wishing anonymity.

“Despite our efforts, mass resort to olive plantation is however unlikely in the immediate future,” the official added.

Pakistan has been unable to increase its olive acreage and yield for indifference by successive governments, lack of private sector’s interest, focus on other cash crops, security situation in KP and tribal belt, too few olive nurseries and marketing worries. It only has 1130 acres of land under productive olive trees and the crop is yet to be inserted into the cropping system.

The question arises: will the new initiatives succeed?

While olive farmers usually grow olive haphazardly, the problem is multiplied by non-availability of standard olive plants and restricted mobility of local and foreign experts in the olive-rich but militancy-hit tribal belt, KP and Baluchistan. This explains why there has been of late a shift of focus to other parts of the country.

Olive acreage and yield could be increased by providing quality seed, polythene rolls for wrapping round the buds/grafts to save them from cold and moisture, modern training and marketing support to olive farmers. Have similar interventions been planned?

Pakistan has over 0.8mn hectares suitable area for olive but as most farmers on fertile lands prefer other crops, the potential area may be around 0.264mh. Even if a third of this area is brought under olive cultivation, around 25mn olive seedlings would be needed (@250 trees per hectare) over the next few years. Has this been considered?

Pakistan need to shift to tissue culture technology, standardise its nursery production and open more germplasm units to provide enough olive seeds, buds and grafts.

Olive tree usually bears fruit after 4-5 years. However, Sultan Ali Khan, a farmer from Swat, said his community had grafted around 40000 wild olive trees but only 5000 of them have been successful and have started bearing fruit after 7-8 years.

Shafeeq Ahmad from Swari Buner said an olive plant could bear over 40-45kg of fruit if sufficient care, protection, pesticides and fertilisers are provided to the plants.

“We planted 600 olive plants on a mountain ridge around ten years ago but it is yet to bear plentiful fruit. Bearing of fruit was late and paltry because the orchards could not be looked after well nor were provided sufficient and timely doses of fertiliser and pesticides as the farmers were not given guidance and help,” he told the TNS.

Another problem is that very ambitious projects are launched but are later forgotten. For example, there is no mention of the projects of establishment of olive orchards in KP and that of research, development and promotion of olive in KP which were allocated funds in the last two budgets but not in this fiscal and have been left out incomplete.

A report on the Malakand olive development prepared by ISCOS, an international organisation, had urged induction of more olive technicians, modern training for them and increase in their salaries, introduction of a system of reward for successful olive farmers, subsidized provision of olive plants, sensitizing farmers against cutting and grazing of animals in olive orchards and an in-depth dialogue and interaction between all the stakeholders in the olive production chain.

The PODB had converted quite a few wild olive plants into fruit bearing trees. That process needs to be continued.

The planners also need to ensure olive production is developed on commercial lines and its enterprises facilitated.

Where and how to plant?

Olives are grown by the methods of budding and grafting of wild olive trees or planting of new trees. However farmers have found the method of grafting the most successful. A research showed that around 80-90% olive trees grown through T-Grafting technique from August to September were successful.

The areas with an altitude between 400 and 1,700 meters, slope of 20°, rainfall between 250 mm and 1,000 mm and having a warm, semi arid, winter rain climate are mostly suitable for olive plants.

Olive production varies on the basis of temperature and rainfall. Rain falls abundantly in March (olive flowering season) and in summer in Pakistan. This rain pattern could pose threats for the olive cultivation –the first may heavily reduce the production and the second –rainfall in summer –could make it prone to various plant diseases. It requires extra care and more use of pesticides.

Olive trees can endure low temperature of even -9° C but these can hardly tolerate it at vegetative stage. It however needs a bit low temperatures in winter to be able to produce good amount of inflorescences and flowers in spring.

Olives require well drained soils for adequate growth. Heavily clayish or sandy soils or one prone to water logging should be avoided.

The common diseases in olive plants are trunk decay, sooty mould and peacock spot, which decay and dry up the tree.

The olive trees need more nitrogenous fertilizer than phosphorous and potash. The latter two fertilizers should be mixed in the soil before planting of trees at the rate of 200 kg and 300 kg per hectare respectively. Best time of nitrogen fertilizer is pre-flowering and stone-hardening stage.

Tobacco pricing process initiated in KP

Tobacco pricing process initiated

THE Pakistan Tobacco Board has started the process for determining cost of production and the price of tobacco for the year 2013.

“The representatives of tobacco growers, dealers and companies had a meeting with the PTB officials last week to discuss issues in pricing for the next tobacco season. Hopefully, the cost of production (CoP) would be acceptable to all stakeholders this year,” an official of the PTB said.

“Tobacco CoP and subsequently its weighted average price — for targeted purchase by companies, and minimum price for surplus tobacco above the target— are determined by a CoP committee with input from representatives of tobacco companies, PTB, Agriculture Policy Institute, and tobacco growers and dealers. After clearance by the PTB members, it is submitted to ministry of commerce, and the federal crop commissioner notifies the new prices,” he added.

Tobacco prices are increased every year as per the law governing the crop. The minimum price was fixed at Rs117/kg last year but growers rejected it. Later a committee headed by the director general of the National Agriculture Research Council Dr Sharif recommended a price of Rs183/kg. The PTB initially resisted this recommendation but finally revised the minimum price to Rs121/kg. Tobacco companies, however, paid up to Rs150, according to the official, and Rs137, according to growers. Private tobacco dealers and middlemen offered a price of Rs150-170/kg.

But growers in Swabi, which accounts for around 38 per cent of Virginia production, and also other areas say recommendations of Dr Sharif committee must be implemented or else they would boycott the crop.

Liaqat Yousafzai, general secretary of Kashtkar Coordination Council (KCD), said the KCD will wait till end of November when wheat sowing starts or seedbeds of tobacco are prepared for subsequent plantation in fields.

“In case the PTB persists with its opposition to implement the Dr Sharif report, we will go for complete boycott of tobacco like we did in 2007. We are distributing affidavits amongst the growers and they are being signed. As an alternative, as cereal crops aren’t economically feasible, growers will either go for opium or for vegetable cultivation,” he added.

Azam Khan, KCD president said the KCD had asked that the interviews must be arranged in government offices, farm services centres or hujrahs of the farmers.“When the CoP interviews are organised at the depots of tobacco companies, the farmers, who are mostly illiterate, get exploited at the hands of companies with the officials conniving with them. They easily get their approval by crowding out growers.

Unfortunately, the process continues in the same way,” he adds.

“When tobacco companies are not ready to allow any role to growers for determining the CoP of cigarette which they produce and farmers buy as customers, why do they participate in the process of tobacco CoP determination?,” he asked.

The role of middlemen has increased considerably in tobacco deals. Legally, tobacco companies cannot purchase tobacco from growers without purchase agreements and the purchase by middlemen, according to Mr Khan, is ‘illegal.’

“Around 10-20 per cent of tobacco purchases is made through middlemen. The private buyers are usually agents of small tobacco companies. The ‘illegal’ purchase deals benefit both farmers and companies. The grower gets good price. This year they sold their tobacco even at Rs180/kg. The companies, through the undocumented deals, evade taxes worth billions of rupees. We have time and again brought this informal trade to the notice of PTB but to no avail. Vis-à-vis private dealers, farmers only benefit when there is surplus production or companies stop purchase,” he added.

Yousafzai lamented that while the companies paid up to Rs180/kg to middlemen in the underhand deals, they were not prepared to increase the price in direct legal deals with growers.

“Middlemen and companies are making huge profits but cause huge tax loss to national exchequer. Obviously when a small company that has authorised quota of, say, 0.35mn kg but buys much more tobacco, it will benefit enormously,” he says.

To a question, he said in 1990 multinationals squeezed the small local companies. “Since then the latter have become the brokers of the MNCs. They are working separately but act as a cartel. They meet regularly every week during the tobacco season and decide together their line of action,” he said.

When asked why farmers don’t prefer to sell tobacco to middlemen when they offer good prices, he said farmers avoided middlemen because of trust deficit.

“If middlemen offer cash payment, farmers will never go to companies but it’s not the case quite often. Vouchers given by middlemen in many cases have bounced back. Hence, farmers prefer for purchase agreements with companies whose voucher is deemed as cash,” he said.

The PTB official said that the federal government, the PTB and the excise department conduct surprise raids on tobacco purchase centres to check ‘illegal’ sale of tobacco and fine the culprits.

“The government has also levied Rs10/kg cess on tobacco dealers to discourage this trend. But this tax cannot be charged from growers,” he added.

The official said after new prices are announced next month, farmers should enter into contracts with tobacco companies before cultivation of tobacco as companies will buy tobacco only from contractual farmers.

No to agri-engineering

technology
No to agri-engineering?
Investment in latest technologies used in the 
agriculture sector can substantially increase the produce in KP
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/sep2012-weekly/nos-02-09-2012/pol1.htm#4

The engineering sub-sector of agriculture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is faced with various snags which are hindering farm mechanisation in the province.

A senior official of the Agriculture Engineering Department (AED) said that meagre funds allocations, fragmentation of land holding by division, higher rates of agricultural machinery in the market, lack of awareness in farmers, policy blues and poor control on inflation and machinery prices have checked farmers from adopting farm mechanisation.

Farmers, however, also say that government’s indifference, low annual funds utilisation ratio, lack of coordination between the public and private sector and illiteracy and poverty of farmers and shortage of machinery pools, staff and offices at the grassroot level are rendering farm mechanisation a distant dream.

Though AED’s share in the budget has been increased to 0.38 percent of total provincial ADP this year from 0.19 percent in last year with its allocation jumping to Rs0.37bn this year from Rs0.16bn in last fiscal, it’s still way short of the requirements of the sector.

With present meagre allocations, agriculture mechanisation is impossible. While the government is either disinclined or incapable to give the required resources to the department, the private sector too has neglected the vital sector in its investment priorities.

Low priorities of investment in agriculture sector both on part of the government and farmers have led to a perpetual state of subsistence farming.

The AED needs plenty of bulldozers to prepare more soil for cultivation as the already scarce under cultivation land in KP is fast decreasing for urbanisation and soil erosion.

For this sufficient funds are required. But the provincial government continues to allocate meagre funds to the vital sector. Donor agencies, therefore, should come forward and help provide the machinery.

The AED was disbanded in the province in the Musharraf regime and its bulldozers, etc, were handed over to the department of Agriculture Extension. “The AED was reinstated a few years ago. It got back its bulldozers but in pathetic condition”, said an official who didn’t want to be named.

“The department is utilising over 22 years’ old outlived machinery that needs immediate replacement. We have only 30 bulldozers in workable condition while another 15 are non-functional, though repairable. There are 7 machinery stores in KP, one each at divisional level and most districts of the province have no such facility.

And the machinery there is outdated, not replaced since 1992. The federal government had in 2009 promised to provide 100 bulldozers to the province under a project but the promise wasn’t met,” he added. 

Even today, only 9 off the 25 districts in KP have seeds grading plants and the rest still remain deprived of these facilities.

According to the official, the government will procure 25 bulldozers this year for reclamation of land in KP. “Its tender was floated last year but no responsive parties turned up. Tenders are now being issued again and bulldozers will be in our hands at the end of this fiscal year hopefully. These will help reclaim 10000 hectares of land annually.”

Only about 20 per cent farmers use modern agriculture technology. This is because either most have no money to buy and, if they have, no knowledge or inclination to use the modern farming techniques and services.

But the official said the current year ADP has several good schemes for the sector. “The government will also install 3 power winches which will be utilised for installation of tube wells. Besides, the construction of agriculture engineering workshop in Mardan will also be completed. Work on the installation of 500 dug wells (2009-12) in water scarce areas of KP will hopefully complete by the end of this fiscal year. Another project for small farmers land development worth Rs100mn also continues,” he added.

According to the ADP document, only Rs15mn could be spent by June last on the land development scheme and the throw forward amount will be Rs69mn beyond this fiscal year.

Low funds utilisation and delay in completion of the projects is another problem. In all, Rs1.19bn of total agriculture ADP of Rs1.35bn could be utilized last fiscal. Most of the schemes of the AED from last fiscal were throw-forwarded to this year.

For example the installation of dug wells began in 2009 but still continues. Similarly, the land development scheme was launched in 2010 but is far from completion as yet. The delay increases the cost of the projects besides depriving the farmers of the benefits of the projects.

Insufficient staff is yet another problem. The number of officials of the department, according to the official, was 1500 a decade ago which has decreased since then as different offices and posts were given up in downsising initiative.

AED has great significance as it provides machinery to farmers for reclamation of cultivable wasteland and addition of cultivable land that enhances agricultural produce. It also helps exploit the surface and sub-surface water resources for irrigation by use of machinery. It also provides free of cost counselling services on the farm mechanisation related problems. And it intermittently helps the government in calamities like earth-quake and floods, etc, by offering the heavy machinery lying in its machinery pool.

According to an estimate, each year 0.1mh of irrigated and 0.28mh sof rain-fed lands is feared lost to soil erosion in KP, FATA and PATA. Another 3.9mh of non-arable land is also threatened by it.

Lands in rain-fed areas in southern parts of the province, Charsadda, Mardan and most of those in the hilly areas of Dir, Swat and Chitral are threatened by erosion, especially where there are little vegetations, forests or crop cover.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone great changes and various technologies are used for ploughing the fields and sowing, harvesting and packing crops but farmers in many parts of KP are still seen ploughing their fields with bullocks and hand-harvesting is widespread, resulting in delays and losses.

Mechanised farming can increase per acre yield but small landholding in the province is the hurdle. The government could solve this problem by importing or evolving miniature and using laser technology for the purpose.

Zahir Khan, a farmer from Peshawar, said that the provincial government should procure agricultural machinery and provide it to the farming community on subsidised rates across the province. It must purchase bulldozers in large numbers and open machinery pools in the district and tehsil level with a transparent monitoring mechanism in place to ensure merit-based provision to the needy farmers.”

“These machinery pools could be opened on the basis of public private partnership and could be extended to the grassroot levels. These machinery pools have long been promised in several agriculture policies promulgated by the government. The government also should streamline the laser technology for land levelling in the province,” he added.

little agriculture tax or uneven tax ratio

Uneven tax ratio
Computerisation of land record in Peshawar and other districts is the need of the hour

By Tahir Ali

Though agriculture accounts for nearly a quarter of Pakistan’s and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s gross domestic product, the collection of taxes from the sector has been negligible — just 0.11 per cent of KP provincial revenue receipts (PORs) last year.

Revenue is collected from agriculture in KP through some direct taxes -Land Revenue (water tax or Abiana), agriculture income tax (AIT) and Land tax (LT) –and non tax heads (user charges).

KP achieved the AIT/LT target of Rs21mn last fiscal and target for this year is Rs22mn. With a collection of Rs915mn in 2011, Land Revenue (LR) or water tax, one of the major direct taxes in KP, is the second biggest single contributor to provincial kitty after motor vehicle tax.

Last fiscal, agriculture and its related sectors also accounted for 2.6 per cent of the total Rs6.34bn non-tax provincial revenues.

Taxes from AIT were Rs19.7mn in 2007 which came down to Rs17.3mn in 2008 and to Rs15.7mn in 2009 but rose to Rs17.5mn in 2010.

The budget whitepaper informs that AIT’s share was just 0.11 per cent in PORs of Rs18.91bn and 1.5 per cent in the direct taxes of Rs1.4bn in last fiscal year. AIT’s share in PORs has been on the decline as it was 1.2 per cent in 2004-05 which came down to 0.41 per cent in 2005 and 2006 and to 0.37, 0.31, 0.24 and 0.19 per cent in the next four years.

AIT/LT are collected by the Revenue and Estates department through the patwaris while Land Revenue (LR) is collected by the irrigation department from the farmers in return for the irrigation water provided to them from canals, public tube-wells or other sources.

Under the 2001 ordinance, AIT is collected from the owner, mortgagee or lessee or the tenants and levied on income from ‘cultivated land — the net area sown, actually matured and harvested during a tax year, regardless of the number of crops raised, including area under matured orchards.

There is no exemption for the AIT and LR. However, 5 acres or less of agriculture land under crops or orchards was earlier exempted from LT in 2005. This limit has recently been increased to 12.5 acres.

Under the law, AIT would be 5 per cent if taxable income is less than Rs0.1mn. And if the income exceeds          Rs0.1mn but not Rs0.2mn, AIT would be Rs5000 plus 7.5 per cent of the amount exceeding Rs0.1mn. If the income is over Rs0.2mn but less than Rs0.3mn AIT would be Rs12500 plus10 per cent of the amount exceeding Rs0.2mn. And if taxable income exceeds Rs0.3mn, Rs22500 plus 15 per cent of the amount exceeding Rs0.3mn would be taken as AIT, provided that no tax shall be payable on the first 80,000 rupees of the aforementioned income in all the cases.

LT is collected at a fixed rate of Rs72 per acre over and above the exempted 12/5 acres of land under crops and Rs300/acre for orchards.

LR is Rs200/acre for cereal crops and around Rs250 for other crops this year as compared to Rs250/acre and over Rs300/acre for these crops respectively last year.

The province should have collected huge sums in AIT/LT if one goes by the slabs prescribed by the agriculture income tax/land tax ordinance of 2001 but for snags like malpractices in the tax collection machinery and tax evasion by the powerful landed aristocracy.

According to a report, there were around 28000 landlords holding over five acres of land, but only 100 were registered as AIT payers.

Several farmers admitted the net annual income from one acre of irrigated land and arid land is estimated at around Rs0.1mn and Rs0.05mn. With around 4.5mn acres of cultivated land in KP, income from the AIT/LT should have been dozens of billions even if we take the first slab as benchmark. 

While Rs46.93mn were collected as AIT/LT in 2004, these came down to Rs18mn next year. An official said the income from land tax/AIT came down from 2004 onward as the government exempted 5 acres or less land from land tax as tax payers decreased.

But even if the number of taxpayers came down, AIT should have gone up in wake of rising farm incomes for increased support prices and rising cereal and fruit/vegetable prices.

On the contrary, though per acre rate of LR or water tax has been decreased, its collection has been on the rise making it the second biggest single contributor to provincial economy after motor vehicle tax.

Land revenue receipts were Rs573mn and Rs572mn in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, it rose to Rs771mn and was recorded at Rs915mn in 2011. It has been fixed at Rs920mn for FY2012-13.

The targets for the AIT have always been fixed unrealistically ignoring several factors — the issue of terrorism and resultant exemptions given to farmers, the lack of enthusiasm on the part of taxpayers, lack of political will on the part of government to tax the sector, capacity constraints and corruption of the tax collection machinery and political pressure on tax-collectors and so on.

The AIT/LT targets, resultantly, are missed. For example Rs90mn was set the target for AIT in 2008 and 2009 but actually recovery was only Rs18mn and Rs17.4mn respectively. Farmers say big landlords hardly contribute any taxes while the poor small farmers are subjected to unjust AIT/LT.

“For the absence of any reliable computerised system for the assessment and determination of expected agriculture income each year and the lack of a sound computerised database of all landowners in the province, the AIT is left at the discretion of patwari. He can claim any amount from a landowner/farmer and the later in turn has to pay it or bribe him. Patwari after all can hardly be displeased as he has great nuisance value; he can damage property record, lodge complaint against you in revenue court etc,” said a farmer, wishing anonymity.

During an assembly session last month, members from treasury and opposition also severely criticised the patwaris.

According to farmer leader Niamat Shah Roghani, “Patwaris lack the power to make the powerful landlords pay the taxes.

“The problem will be there unless the land in the province is reassessed, land record is computerised, an unquestionable database of landholders, their normal incomes and AIT payers is prepared and the patwari discretionary role is minimised in the system,” he argued.

Farmers also complained there was no formula as to how the difference in the production, seeds, water, and hard-work employed thereon and the weather effects are to be taken into consideration for fixing land tax.

The provincial board of revenue needs to provide basic training to revenue officials on computing farm incomes on the basis of returns filed by growers.

KP revenue minister Mohammad Shuja Khan last month informed KP assembly that computerisation of land settlement record in Peshawar district was at hand and would be followed in seven other districts. Under the new policy, powers of patwaris were also being curtailed, he assured.

 

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