July 13, 2011 Leave a comment
When it comes down to food
The budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not hold much for the agriculture sector
By Tahir Ali
Agriculture sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has once again failed to elicit enough funds and attention from the provincial government in the budget.
Contrary to official claims that the new budget would be innovative in its outlook, an analysis of the annual strategy shows that it is yet another exercise characterised by meagre funding, phased allocation of funds that delays completion of projects for years and with overstretched plan of action that has no or negligible results.
Agriculture sector, which accounts to 25 percent of provincial gross domestic product and on which the livelihood of around 70 percent of its population depends directly or indirectly, requires an out of box solution, sufficient funds and their en-bloc release, and most of all commitment of provincial authorities whose indifference could be devastating for the sector after the 18th amendment.
The Chief Planning Officer of ministry of agriculture, Ahmad Said, informs agriculture Annual Development Programme (ADP) for 2011-12 has been prepared in the light of provincial agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, and reconstruction priorities.
The total outlay of ADP has been increased by 15 percent from Rs69bn to Rs85bn. Allocation to agriculture and its related sectors has been increased from Rs1.175bn in the outgoing fiscal to Rs1.355bn for new fiscal but its share has decreased from 1.70 percent to 1.59 percent as percentage to the ADP. The ADP has 71 projects, including Rs0.849bn for 47 on-going and Rs0.505bn for 24 new schemes.
The whitepaper 2011-12, issued by the provincial finance department recently, says this year’s provincial ADP reflects higher priority to income generating sectors of economy, including agriculture. “Agriculture can easily attain the status of big industry in the province if proper care and patronage is given to it,” it argues.
For example, for five old and new schemes of agriculture mechanisation requiring Rs855mn, only Rs164mn are allocated. And for 37 old and new schemes in agriculture research that required Rs1040mn, only Rs243 have been earmarked for the coming year. Similarly, agriculture planning schemes have been provided only Rs21mn out of the total required Rs640mn.
For project distribution of cultivable land amongst landless farmers and agriculture graduates, which has a total outlay of Rs200mn, only Rs10mn have been allotted to the year, which means it will take years for the project to complete and benefit the farmers.
Again, only Rs1mn have been set aside for rehabilitation of germ-plasma units in Hazara division that involves Rs10mn in all. And for the establishment of the olive orchards in wasteland, another good intervention, only Rs10mn out of the total Rs60mn have been approved for the year.
Similarly, for a 2008 project of strengthening of planning and monitoring capacity of the agriculture department involving Rs15, only Rs3mn have been allotted while Rs5mn had been spent on the project. Can there be any better proof for half-hearted measures on the part of the government?
According to an official document, in the outgoing year, out of the total core ADP estimates of Rs69 billion, Rs45bn were released but actual expenditure stood at only Rs26bn. For the agriculture sector, over Rs1.22bn were released against the budget estimates of Rs1.175bn but only Rs0.67bn of these could be spent till 20th May, 2011.
Viewed in this backdrop, the amount to be spent on agriculture may be much less than allocated in the ADP. In the new ADP, there are 39 foreign-funded projects worth over Rs16bn but the agriculture sector has no projects in it like the outgoing fiscal. The government should have arranged research and development projects with the help of foreign donors to give a fillip to the under-performing sector.
Last year, the KP government had announced revival of cooperative bank and promised to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women from the bank but actually onlyRs200mn were released. This year too, Rs400mn will be released. How can credit ratio be improved in this situation?
“The main problem confronting farmers is their poverty and costliness of agricultural inputs but there is no scheme to address the problem. The government should have announced an agriculture subsidy regime on its own or with the help of foreign donors,” says Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer. Despite these shortcomings, the annual agriculture roadmap of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is comprehensive and has something for each sub-sector.
According to Ahmad Said, lands that were washed away by floods would be rehabilitated and orchards would be established anew through free plants provision. “Another project for improving quality and increasing production of fruit plants through tissue culture technology has also been proposed. A public-private joint scheme for olive cultivation in areas where ordinary crops cannot be grown is being launched,” he adds. Subsidized inputs availability, weak coordination between farmers and government and wastage of on farm produce have gone unaddressed.