Growers fear Wheat seeds

KP growers fear severe wheat seed shortage
By Tahir Ali
Monday, 20 Sep, 2010

WITH the wheat sowing season to commence next month, farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa anticipate an acute shortage of seeds. They fear that if the issue is not tackled soon, it will severely damage the crop prospects.

They want the federal and provincial governments and the international community to come to the rescue of the badly hit growers for whom the coming Rabi crop constitutes a first step towards their ultimate rehabilitation.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also warned that farmers in KP may not be able to plant wheat because of non-availability of quality seed and other needed inputs. Failure to provide time-critical inputs could reduce wheat yields, it fears.

Realising the potential seed shortage, the government has asked district agriculture officials to buy even the wheat meant for food.

“Normally wheat food grain is not utilised for sowing. But as seed shortage is feared, the director-general agricultural extension, KP, has asked all districts to buy as much of the commodity as possible,” says an official.

Though officials are confident there would be no shortage of seed, farmers fear its scarcity in coming weeks.

“Enough quantity and a robust system of distribution must be arranged in emergency,” said Niamat Shah Sawal Dher, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shah feared that millions of acres of irrigated land may be left barren if seed was not arranged in time. “With the Pirsabaq’s seeds research farm, public seeds industry and private seed stocks having been mostly destroyed by floods, KP is almost certain to face wheat seed shortage. The government should quickly import standard certified seeds to fill the gap,” he said.

“There are also reports that the government wants to utilise food standard wheat as seeds in wake of shortage. This is not a right choice,” Shah added.

Murad Ali Khan, the president of the Kissan Board Pakistan, said “We will like the government to provide seed free of cost to flood-hit farmers.”

Muhammad Zahir Khan, a farmers’ leader, said Charsadda farmers have lost wheat seed stored in their homes. “The government and farmers organisations should sit together to chalk out a strategy as to what should be done to ensure a bumper wheat crop. Wheat sowing is at hand, but there is neither any compensation nor free seed or other inputs for the growers despite promises. I am worried how will farmers pay their agricultural debts, buy inputs and feed their families when they won’t be able to sow wheat,” she said.

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of Kissan Board, Swat, also asked for relief . “While we know Swat is not the only place to have been hit by flood but we do deserve more attention as we have been devastated first by militancy and then by floods. Swat farmers are mostly poor who own an acre of land and have no money to buy inputs. We deserve to be compensated for our losses and must be given free seed and money to buy farm inputs and reclaim our fields,” he said.

A senior official said: “We will shortly take up the issue with the federal government. The provincial food department has also enough wheat stock that can be used as seed. Private seed companies will also be procuring the commodity. We also intend to buy seed from Punjab and have already bought 2,000 tons of it. Though at present we have only a small quantity of the required seed, it is hoped that by the start of the wheat sowing season, the problem will be solved,” he added. But this, others fear, may not be the case.

The KP uses about 1.9 million acres for wheat cultivation. The provincial seeds industry provides 10 per cent of the total wheat seeds requirement of 80,000 metric tons to farmers.

This year the demand for wheat seed has increased. In the past, 70 per cent of the KP farmers used their own stock while the rest bought seeds. Now as floods have destroyed wheat stocks in Charasadda, Nowshera and the DIK and Lakki Marwat, the government will have to provide seeds to more farmers.

Recent flash floods have dealt severe blows to agriculture in Peshawar valley, Malakand division and southern parts of the province.

The FAO, provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority and some local and international non-governmental organisations are planning to provide farm inputs to farmers on a limited scale. It means a large number of affected farmers will not benefit from the plan and will be left out.

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

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