Gujar Garhi Farm Tool cluster

Upgrading farm tool cluster
By Tahir Ali

Monday, 10 May, 2010 | 01:06 AM

THE farm tool producers at Gujar Garhi in Mardan say that they need technical and financial support to upgrade the existing cluster.

The site is not on the list of clusters selected by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (Smeda) for development initiatives.

Various equipment from the smallest to the biggest agriculture tools are manufactured in this cluster and have province-wide demand because of their cheaper rates.

“Our agriculture tools such as rotary hoe, shovel, spade, sickle, pickaxe, gur-ganees, plough, wheat-threshers and tractor trolleys are popular in and around the province. Though the wheat-threshers made here are of standard quality they are a bit costlier as against those made in Faisalabad because they are made in bulk quantity,” said Gulzaruddin, a manufacturer of farm tools and micro-power plants.

“The iron sheet cutter we manufacture has a price of around Rs1.2 million while the imported one costs around Rs25-30 million. The micro-power sheet binding and rolling machines produced by us are cheaper than those made in other clusters. We also make standard but cheaper micro-hydro-power plants that are accepted both nationally,” said another manufacturer at the site.

But load-shedding is playing havoc with production in the cluster. “We avoid taking bulk work-orders as only three to four hours of daily power supply has left us with no option. If we use generators, our cost of production increases and our goods become uncompetitive in the market,” he said.

“Militancy and terrorism have also taken their toll. Our sales have dropped by 50 per cent in the last few years and we are also exposed to kidnapping for ransom,” he added.

“In the wake of growing energy crisis and law and order, the cluster needs relief in taxes and electricity and gas tariff,” he urged.

The cluster is situated on the main Mardan-Swat highway and must be shifted to an industrial estate. “The industrial estate should be built nearby in close collaboration with and direct supervision of the local manufacturers. Plots should be provided to us on monthly installments,” he added.

Iftikhar Ali, a dealer in agriculture implements, said in the past training, equipment and financial support were provide to local entrepreneurs, but there was nothing of the sort at present.

There are around 120 small, medium and big manufacturing factories in the cluster. Many of these, however, are still working with outdated tools. “This warrants spacious factories, more investment and technical support of the government and capacity building of the workers,” said Ali.

“The cluster should have common facility centres and machine pool from which small artisans unable to buy machines could get them on rent,” said another wholesaler.

Free flow of electricity, easy loans, preferably interest-free ones, tax-relief and a separate industrial estate for the cluster are the steps urgently needed, he added.

Interviews with several manufacturers and industrialists revealed that most of them would like to have Sharia-compliant interest-free loans. A few others said loans on low mark up and easy conditions could be acceptable.

Smeda can help develop networking among manufacturers, upgrade technology, improve human resource skills and market products internationally.

Javed Khatak, chief of Smeda NWFP, said cluster had enormous significance in terms of manufacturing of agricultural tools. “The agriculture tools manufactured here are even exported to other countries. The government and my organisation would do whatever possible to promote this cluster,” he said.

“We would open common facility centre at the cluster soon. Modern machineries would be provided to industrialists on rent basis. We would also facilitate group based raw-material procurement to diminish the cost of transportation. We would arrange a skill development component for the cluster workers. The government would also provide them support for their capacity enhancement and standardisation of their products which will help them meet bulk-demands in future and increase their market attraction,” Khatak added.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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