Improving cane-supply to mills

Mills raise cane rates to ensure supplies

By Tahir Ali Khan 

THE supply of sugarcane to mills in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has picked up following fall in gur prices and improved rates being offered by sugar mills.

Gur prices plunged to Rs5,000-5,500 per 80 kg in local markets from Rs6,000-6,500 last month and Rs7,500-8,500 last October. This has prompted farmers to take their crop to millers who are offering better prices these days.

The price offered by mills is Rs338 per 50 kg of cane. But farmers Farmani Gul Khan argue that on the basis of recent gur prices this season, it should be around Rs450 for 50kg.

Since 2007, gur has been costlier than sugar.But it has lost its place of being the first priority of farmers in the province. For example with a crop of 300 maunds, a farmer will earn around Rs83,000 if he opts for gur, and over Rs100,000 if he takes it to mills, says mill owners.

Cane manager at the Premier sugar mills in Mardan Masood Khan says increase price offer has augmented supplies to the mills. “The cane supply situation improved in February and we are crushing around 3,000 tons of cane daily, approaching fast to our peak crushing of 4,000 tons achieved some years ago. We are running the mills non-stop. Gur is our main competitor. If its prices come down, farmers will come to us and vice versa. But for the moment, we are satisfied. Cane supply to mills in Dera Ismail Khan and Charsadda has also improved a lot,” he said.

Why do growers often prefer gur making? “The gur agents make advance agreements to farmers, and payments are made for standing crops. They provide seasonal/crop-based loans to growers which are used for buying inputs and meeting their domestic needs. How could farmers sell their cane crop to mills in this situation?” asks Jehangir Khan, a farmer.

“The millers, conversely, wait for farmers to bring their crop to the mills which they have already pledged to gur agents against return of advance payments or easy loans. Cane crop is also bought by cane-juice-sellers on advance payments. The millers should make agreements with cane farmers as is done in case of tobacco crop. They should purchase cane crop at fixed and better rates. Why can’t they make advance payments or provide loans to farmers like their competitors at the start of the season?” he asks.

Jehangir said farmers at present had to go to mills to get indents for their cane and suggested that it should be the other way round. “They need to reach farmers like their gur competitors. The millers in the past had opened local cane purchase/dumping centres. The farmers would bring their produce to these centres and the millers would pick it from there. This needs to be revived,” he suggests.

“Besides a fixed price for certain fixed sugar-content, farmers should get enhanced payment for produce with better sugar-content. This will be an incentive for them,” he maintains.

“In Punjab a large quantity of gur, named duplicate is being produced by mixing gur with glucose and other ingredients. It has not only a good look but also tastes better and is cheaper.

Around 100kg of duplicate is prepared in an hour. Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are also planning to start producing this variety.

This means that more and more cane will be used for making gur in future. Millers will have to be more responsive and competitive to avoid this scenario,” Yousaf Shah, another farmer, adds.

“Farmers opt for gur making for two other reasons as well. One: they have to feed their livestock with cane-grass which necessitates intermittent cutting of crop as allowed by gur manufacturers and not simultaneous harvesting of the entire crop as needed by mills. Two: they use gur in their homes which they make even if they take bulk of their crop to mills. This can be avoided by providing fodder seeds and supplying farmers with sugar on deferred payment,” says Shah.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces about 1.3 million tons of sugarcane. It can produce up to 0.1 million tons of sugar if cane supply to mills is improved.

But the problem is that the area under cane cannot be increased because of its competition with wheat or maize and water shortage. “Investment in research for high-yielding cane varieties and increasing per acre yield with better sugar content is the need of the hour. Millers should also help, ” Jehangir argues.

Rethinking agriculture policy

Rethinking agriculture policy

Availability of farm inputs has to be adequately increased to increase productivity

By Tahir Ali

In an effort to improve agriculture growth and increase income of farmers in the province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...

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intends to reconsider provincial agriculture policy that was enforced in 2005. The review and reshaping of agriculture policy is the need of the hour as it has failed to address major issues confronting the farmers and farming in the province.

The main goal of the agriculture sector, as per the 2005 agriculture policy, is to ensure food security and alleviation of poverty, but the low per acre yield, land erosion, negligence of livestock, especially milk/meat-farming, failure to prepare and disseminate better animal fodder, outdated farming and lack of water/soil conservation practices and poor agricultural marketing and lack of a crash programme for the uplift of agriculture have made it impossible.

The sector has been ignored and allocated insufficient funds — ranging from one to two percent — in the provincial Annual Development Programmes (ADPs) by successive provincial governments despite the fact that it accounts for over 20 percent of provincial gross domestic product, accounts for 45 percent of the total labour force and it is the main source of income for about 80 percent of its population.

Gul Nawaz Khatak, chief planning officer in KP’s agriculture ministry, says they now would assess the performance and identify the achievements, shortcomings and bottlenecks in the policy’s implementation and requirements for the future, “The re-examination will help us reshape the agriculture policy, bring in improvements in it as per requirements and take remedial measures to develop agriculture, livestock and other sub sectors in the province.”

Khatak agrees that the main problem confronting the agriculture sector in the province was poverty and inability of small farmers to buy quality inputs. “They have been neglected in the 2005 policy. They will now be listened to and empowered,” he adds.

To a question, Khatak says prices of inputs were beyond the jurisdiction of agriculture ministry as these were determined by the market forces and inflation. “We will ensure timely and easy availability of the commodities to farmers. For this purpose, farm services centres have been established and more such bodies would be formed in the hitherto uncovered areas,” he informs.

To enable them buy inputs at their hour of need, Khatak says, the banks are already providing agriculture credit to small farmers at 8 percent mark up in the province to buy inputs and services.

“And the provincial cooperative bank and its cooperative societies have also been revived this year. The government would provide Rs1 billion seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their incomes. The Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme (BKPAP) has also been started in some districts which would provide farm inputs and financial, technical and educational support to thousands of farmers,” he explains.

Farmers’ income can be increased by ensuring improved marketing of their products, “We intend to establish more regulator markets province-wide. At present, these markets function only in two districts. These markets will have market committees comprising 6-10 farmers plus one official. They will weigh, assess and sell farmers’ produce. Farmers will get good price for their produce and hard work,” Khatak hopes.

Niamat Shah, Vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, says cost and unavailability of farm inputs is one of the major problems, “Though the seed research farms have developed quality seeds for different crops but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem. About 80 percent farmers have no access to quality seeds and modern agriculture technology,” he claims.

“The government has so far failed to streamline input distribution. Mass availability of under-weight and fake fertiliser/seeds varieties will have to be checked as these are adding to problems of farmers,” he points out.

The department seems to be focussing on the Farm Services Centres (FSCs) for improving input availability. But unless these bodies are expanded to each union council or village and their number and membership is increased — there are only 60 FSCs province-wide at present which have only around 45000 members while millions of farmers are out of its ambit — and their weaker financial position of the bodies is improved by giving them financial support as they have to buy and sell inputs through their revolving funds, the idea may not work.

The BKPAP can solve some of the basic problems of farmers but more funds will have to be allocated to increase its area of application. Shah argues that the agriculture sector should be allocated five percent of ADP for the time being, which should be gradually increased later as without funds and robust attempts nothing can be achieved.

“Sufficient money should be earmarked to do research on, and development of, seeds. High-yielding seed varieties must be imported as was done during Ayub’s era. Also, easy and timely availability of seeds and other inputs should also be arranged for through improved distribution network,” he suggests.

“To cope with decreasing agriculture land for its unprecedented consumption by real-estate sector, the government will focus on bringing vast cultivable wasteland under cultivation by leveling and developing it through bulldozers and tractors,” Khatak explains.

Increasing the acreage demands more irrigation water which is already scarce. “This problem will be tackled by efficient management of available water for which schemes have been suggested and through extension of irrigation infrastructure in the province by building new dams which is what the irrigation department is doing,” he adds.

“The department is also working out on how to cope with new and bigger responsibilities following the devolution of the some departments to the provinces,” Khatak says.

Lack of coordination between farmers and the government and non-governmental organisations has also affected the farmers, “First, we will be identifying and removing problems in inter/intra departmental coordination and then it will be worked at with farmers and their associations,” he says, adding, “Rs240 million have been earmarked for the purpose which would be paid to farmers soon through district coordination committees as nominations have been made.”

If expert advice, machinery and marketing support are provided to farmers, it will shift their farming from subsistence to commercial/modernised one. Household farming should be developed. The role and impact of the middle-men in agri-businesses must be minimised to increase farmers’ incomes.

Livestock accounts for 50 percent of provincial gross domestic product but it continues to be neglected. It still has no separate secretary and is being supervised by agriculture secretary. There should be special plan for livestock farmers in rural areas.

Promotion of agriculture is the most effective tool for eradicating poverty and, therefore, terrorism and extremism. But traditional methods, paltry allocations and weak commitment cannot develop the sector. The government will have to opt for out-of the-box solutions to develop the sector.

Improving veterinary drugs’ sales

Veterinary Hospital
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Regulating veterinary drugs sale.

Regulating veterinary drugs sale

By Tahir Ali

Dawn, Monday, 7-02-11

THE responsibility entrusted to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department to authorise, monitor, control and check the sales of veterinary drugs and services in the market is creating problems in ensuring quality drugs and managing livestock healthcare.

The livestock and dairy development department is well equipped, trained and capable of performing such duties better than the health sector, says an expert.

The provincial Director General (DG) Livestock and Dairy Development, Dr Sher Muhammad, confirmed that there was no separate animal drugs registration and regulation authority and that the sector was being supervised by the health department officials at both federal and provincial levels.

“We intend to legislate and request the government to hand over the responsibility of checking and monitoring veterinary drugs and services to the livestock department. Devolution of departments to the provinces is under way. When this process completes, we will come to know which components of the department are assigned to the provinces. Then we will seek government support to prepare and get a legislature passed by the provincial assembly.

“The health official may be a competent person vis-à-vis human drugs but only a veterinary expert can know well as to whether a particular animal-specific drug, equipment and service are standard and permissible or otherwise,” argues Dr Ghulam Muhammad, a former livestock department officer and veterinary expert.

“A separate veterinary drug inspectorate under the livestock department is, therefore, urgently needed and the government should legislate for the purpose. The posts of veterinary assistants could be upgraded and they could be authorised to ensure availability of quality animal drugs and services to farmers,” he stresses.

According to Muhammad Arshad, president of All Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council, the health department registers, monitors and checks veterinary cases and issues licenses to animal druggists which is not right.

“These responsibilities should be handed over to the livestock or food and agriculture department. Everyone does his own business best. There are highly qualified specialists with the department who know the anatomy of drugs and the nature and requirements of veterinary ailments and they can ensure effective monitoring and checking of the sector,” he added.

There is a need to shift the onus of legislation and regulation of the sector to its parent and concerned livestock department.

But unfortunately, the health department has taken advantage of its clout and outreach to first take and later maintain the sector under its ambit,” he added.

According to him, there are over 100 lawful veterinary manufacturers and about 200 veterinary drug importers in the country. And the illegal ones are in thousands and are manufacturing and supplying animal drugs under the garb of herbal drugs throughout the country. There are laws to stop the practices but as their implementation has been left to officials from an irrelevant (health) department, how can the situation be improved,” Arshad argued.

“Unfortunately, the manufacturing and selling of substandard veterinary drugs and unauthorised services to farmers continue openly and the health department has failed to stem the process,” said Haji Naimat Shah, a farmer leader from Mardan.

“There is the problem of weak coordination between the two livestock and health departments and communication between the two that causes delay in decision-making and actions against the culprits, selling fake veterinary drugs and working as animal quakes unlawfully. Conversely, the livestock department would be taking action quickly benefiting the farmers,” he added.

The health department cannot carry out its responsibility efficiently for being engaged also in human drugs and for lack of expertise.

To add to farmers` woes, there are countless livestock quakes providing unauthorised diagnosis, therapy and prescription services to farmers with the result that livestock suffer from low productivity of milk and meat and ailments for wrong prescription,(overdose and low doze) he argued.

The veterinary medicines are supporting a vital segment of the economy even though these cover just about 10 per cent of the total livestock industry potential in the country. With a very large livestock population and progressing poultry industry, the demand for veterinary medicines is very much there. In fact the total veterinary drugs sales in the country exceed billions of rupees per year.

The livestock and dairy sector accounts for 53 per cent of agriculture, 11 per cent of GDP, around nine per cent of exports, and feeds around 50 to 60 million people in rural areas. It counts for 51 per cent of provincial gross domestic product.

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