ensuring fair price for farm produce

Improving the support price system

By Tahir Ali Khan

DAWN April 25, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/25/ensuring-fair-price-for-farm-produce.html

“RATHER than bringing my tomatoes to this far away market to sell it at a price which even cannot cover the transportation expenses, I better destroy the crop in the field,” said a farmer who had brought the commodity from Sindh to the vegetable market in Mardan.

A truck-load of tomato could fetch him barely Rs35,000 while his expenses on its transportation were Rs65,000.

This is often witnessed in case of most crops in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially those which are not covered by support price mechanism.

To get the badly needed money or sell perishable items, small farmers try to dispose of their produce quickly. The agro-based mills/factories and commission agents, who usually work as cartels, reduce demand to depress prices. Farmers are forced to sell their crop below the cost of production in times of prices crash.

Without minimum guaranteed support price for some crops, farmers suffer in years of good crop as well.

The scope of price support system should be enlarged to cover more crops like maize, horticulture. The support price should be determined after consulting all stake holders and taking into account multiple factors—-the cost of production, domestic and world prices, parity prices, domestic and international demand and supply situation, comparative economics of competing crops, real market prices, profitability of input use, impact of support price on other sectors of the economy and the incidence of poverty in a particular region etc.

An agricultural costs and prices commission is needed to be set up in all provinces to provide data and the basis for fixing support and procurement prices of agricultural commodities.

The support/procurement price system is needed to promote equity, productivity, price stability, and agricultural development and to ensure a fair return for the produce.

Initially eight crops – wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, some oilseeds, gram, onion and potato – were covered by the support price system. However, under the pressure of international lending agencies, it was restricted to four crops – wheat, cotton, rice and sugarcane in 2001. The procurement prices for wheat and rice are implemented through Passco, for cotton through Trading Corporation of Pakistan, and for sugarcane through sugar mills.

Support price is the minimum guaranteed price which the growers are offered when the market price tends to fall following a bumper crop. And if the market price is better, they could sell their produce elsewhere. This policy usually encourages farmers to grow price-supported crops.

Support price in the country was determined by the Agriculture Prices Commission from 1980 to 2000. The commission was initially an autonomous body. Then, under goading from the lending agencies, it was made an attached ministry of agriculture ministry and later converted to Agriculture Policy Institute (API). The Agricultural Development Commissioner has the additional charge of API Chairman. The reports prepared by API, however, are hardly considered by the government.

After the Cotton Export Corporation and Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan, responsible for cotton and rice respectively, were closed, the task of implementing the support price of cotton was left to the Trading Corporation of Pakistan and that of rice to Pakistan Agricultural Services and Storage Corporation (Passco). After the disbandment of Agricultural Marketing and Services Limited, there is no agency to procure potato and onion. Same is the case with oilseed crops after the closure of Ghee Corporation of Pakistan.

Despite trends of liberalisation and deregulation, the system of guaranteed minimum price is used in many countries to stabilise prices of farm produce. India too has the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission, set up in 1968, to ensure a minimum guaranteed price to growers for their output.

The support price system needs to be revamped. While big farmers benefit disproportionately and consumers are often badly hit, the poor farmers do not benefit much from it.

Tobacco is an important cash crop. But its weighted average price (Wap) is dismally low. According to Haji Niamat Shah Roghani, a farmer, calculated the cost of production of tobacco in 2010 at Rs165 per kg while its Wap notified by the Pakistan Tobacco Board was Rs98.

“The price should have been over Rs200 per kg on the back of escalating prices of inputs. Tobacco growers should be meaningfully involved in price determination. While the cost of production of per hectare tobacco was fixed on the basis of 3000kg per hectare yield, companies made purchase agreements with farmers on the basis of 2100kg PHY which goes against the interest of the growers,” he argued.

Maize is another staple food crop which doesn’t have a support price and public procurement mechanism. The government should announce a minimum support price, and procure maize from farmers.

Again, though the official minimum support price for sugarcane was Rs125 per 40 kg, local millers offered up to Rs338 per 50 kg to farmers.

“It speaks volumes of the government’s indifference and lack of information on the ground realities. Look at the price fixed by it and the one offered by mills,” said a farmer.

Globally, five types of prices – monopoly, procurement, support, free-market, and administrative prices – are being used for agriculture produces.

Monopoly prices are fixed by the government below the market prices and the producer is compelled to sell his produce to government or its designated/authorised agencies. This policy is rigid and harms the farmers but is pro-consumers.

From 1950 onwards, Pakistan opted for the procurement price system in which the farmers were free to sell their produce in the open market but the government reserved the right to purchase the produce anytime at a fixed price. The price thus fixed is generally lower than the market price.

Free market prices are beyond government control and are fixed by the dynamics of supply and demand. In this system, the farmers benefit in a poor crop year when supply decreases and demand increases, but invariably suffer in a bumper crop year when the supply and demand position is reversed.

Administered prices: These are the prices which the government administers for the benefit of producers as well as consumers.

Strategy for revival of tourism in Swat

PTDC Motel at Swat, NWFP, Pakistan. Image by M...

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Formulating a viable strategy to revive tourism
The middle class will have to participate in tourism promotion campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people to not visit tourist resorts of late

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2011-weekly/busrev-25-04-2011/p7.htm

With summer at hand and peace established in Swat, the provincial and federal governments, Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC), Sarhad Tourism Corporation, local hotel/tourism industry and private tour operators should make joint concerted efforts to revive tourism in the region. To regain its erstwhile glory, tourism however needs some drastic measures and initiatives on part of all the stakeholders.

In collaboration with the private sector, the government should immediately conduct a need assessment survey to ascertain the different steps and facilities needed for attracting tourists in potential areas. But, obviously, the government cannot do all the things on its own. Therefore, public-private ventures are also the call of the hour to boost the tourism industry.

Revival of tourism is a prerequisite for eliminating extremism in the country as millions of people are jobless and thus indulge in such activities. A large chunk of the population is directly or indirectly dependent upon the sector. It, unfortunately, has suffered from the indifference of government and lack of sufficient involvement by the private sector.

The Ski Gala event which took place this winter and last year’s peace festival organised by the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) in Swat had attracted many tourists to the picturesque valley and rekindled hopes for reviving the tourism sector. But it requires a strong commitment and increased funding on part of the government to build the tourism infrastructure and public and private sectors’ coordination to achieve the milestone.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should hold such festivals each year and arrange other amusing programmes in Swat. And the festivals should be given sufficient coverage in print and electronic media to attract tourists from both in and out of the country.

The middle class will have to participate in these campaigns, but the slump in businesses and decline in incomes coupled with security fears have been responsible for the people’s decreased desire to visit tourist resorts of late. This necessitates introducing certain incentives for tourists belonging to the middle and lower-middle classes.

Pakistanis are great lovers of cricket. There is a beautiful ground near Kalam where a small-scale national cricket tournament can be organised. Hotels are there in plenty. The appetising local fruit and vegetable as well as the famous mouth-watering Swat trout-fish would add to their pleasure. This would also send positive signals to the world about the people in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The government should repair and widen the roads damaged by floods in the area, construct new roads, construct walking treks at various locations and hotels. An international wildlife park at the world’s biggest plain Deodar forest at Kalam should be established.

Gabinajabba near Kabal, which is covered by snow even in peak summer, still has no road to go there. Hotel and the chairlift facilities in Malam Jabba Ski resort and other potential areas would have to be ensured. The government can develop a ski resort at Bishay Kalam where there is a natural miles long track. It should arrange a chairlift facility to go there from bazaar.

Communication facilities should be improved. Early restoration of Swat airport and helicopter facility to travel to/from Swat and between different areas of Swat will be welcome. Special transport facilities with discount in transport fares to the area could also be arranged by making a special request to the private transport companies.

There are 14 beautiful lakes in the valley such as Kondol Lake in Uthror Kalam. Several of them are unfortunately unknown and unattractive for tourists due to lack of roads and hotels.

The government should not only rejuvenate the PTDC motels and announce relief for tourists in its transport, lodging and cuisine services but also ask the private hotel industry to support the initiative with subsidised services to visitors. But is the latter in a position to do so in the wake of huge losses caused by floods and militancy?

“Apart from conducting several programmes for promotion of tourism like the peace tourism festival last year and Swat Peace Ski gala this year, we have also provided both in-kind and in-cash grants to 265 hotels amounting to millions of dollars with the help of USAID the FIRMS Project in Malakand to make them competitive and profitable,” Shakil Qadir Khan, the Director General of PaRRSA informed.

But more such steps need to be taken which will enable the badly-affected local hoteliers to provide better and cheaper services.

In a special package, the government, with the help of international donors and community, should immediately offer incentives to hotels, motels, restaurants and allied businesses. Besides, tourists’ information centres at several places must be established. Publication of literature in foreign languages, simple visa facilities like desks/counters for foreign tourists at airports will also greatly help revive tourism.

Swat has over 400 Buddhist sites. The government can prepare a special package/programme for the people of Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka to visit these places.

Swat, known as the Switzerland of Pakistan, is an ideal place for summer and winter tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, sports tourism and commercial tourism. Lots of TV dramas are being shot in foreign countries. Why cannot these be filmed in local areas which can go a long way to make the world familiar with the beautiful landscape of the area?

The government and private tour operators would do well to establish links between communities and enabling institutions, such as banks, line departments, foreign embassies and donor agencies to revive tourism in the region.

Malik said there would be no restrictions on the tourists to visit any place in Swat. Security situation has indeed improved in the area but the tourists’ apprehensions regarding fool-proof security need to be removed and more facilities should be provided to them. To restore tourists’ confidence, the government should arrange army-supported tours to Swat. The ministries of foreign affairs, interior and Pakistani embassies abroad should jointly work for promotion of tourism with regional and friendly countries.

The sector that fetched billions to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Swat alone has ceased to be a source of income anymore. It is estimated that Swat’s hotel industry has suffered losses of billions of rupees so far. The shrinkage of tourists has had an adverse impact on various tourism-dependent sectors like hotel, transport, cuisine, horticulture and handicrafts in the area rendering millions jobless.

Improving marketing in Malakand

Mountains in the Swat Valley of the NWFP of Pa...

Image via Wikipedia

Linking growers with corporate buyers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn April 18, 2011

Initiatives to improve horticulture output and marketing links of local farmers with local and foreign firms have been launched in Malakand division under the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement programme.

The area, especially Swat, produces quality vegetables and fruits. It accounts for 34 per cent of plums, 95 per cent of walnuts and 82 per cent of provincial apple yield.

It also accounts for 64 and over 50 per cent of the provincial production of vegetables and fruits respectively. But farmers do not fully benefit from their crops for lack of finances, expertise and marketing linkages.

Shakil Qadir Khan, Director General of Parrsa, said his organisation was trying to help improve quality and value addition, standardise packaging and create modern marketing practices for the produce.

“We are not only providing advice, cash and in kind support to develop quality of indigenous fruits and vegetables but also helping growers find new markets for their products by creating liaison between them and local and multinational companies,” he said.

Last year, Pepsi-Cola Pakistan made a potato purchase deal of 350 tons with Swat farmers. But because of the devastating floods and resultant losses to potato crop and damage to communication network, the company could lift only 35 tons of the crop and that too by helicopters. Once linkages are established, these will be promoted and extended to other crops creating opportunities for modernisation of agriculture and increasing income of local farmers considerably.”

Khan said another $12 million package for agriculture was to be launched soon. “We have also approached various local firms and multinationals for the purchase of Swat apples, peaches, and apricots. If they agree, they are welcome. If they disapprove, we would request them to come and guide local farmers to produce quality fruits acceptable to them. We would provide them financial support for the purpose. The companies can send their experts for development of horticulture.

This will be a public-private partnership financed by Parrsa. Norway has expressed its desire to purchase local peaches but the fruit will have to be ISO certified.

Apple growers and market men were encouraged to shift to attractive paper-packaging instead wooden crates. The application improved sales tremendously,” Khan said.

Citing another intervention, he said, Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout fish in its 22 farms which was mostly consumed locally. Last July`s floods ravaged most of these hatcheries.

“Parrsa plans to provide marketing support to fish hatcheries to sell their produce to big food-chain restaurants both within and without the country. Trout decomposes fast when taken out of water. However, there are means to keep the fish fresh and transport it to farthest areas without fear of decomposition. Using the required technology and giving a new brand name like Swat/Kalam trout to the species in the market, the number of hatcheries in Swat could be increased to 200 in a year`s time,” he hoped.

In the first phase, Parrsa would arrange for the technology and provide information and financial support to fish farmers. “Later they would manage it themselves. If farmers are introduced to new technology, services and strategies and they know their utility, they would manage it next year themselves.”

Meeting meat shortage

Meeting meat shortage

Consumers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demand for a strict check on livestock smuggling

By Tahir Ali (The News 17-04-11)

The issue of livestock smuggling to Afghanistan and Iran and the resultant sharp increase in the prices of meat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has come into the limelight once again. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti told the Provincial Assembly recently he had received reports that animals were being smuggled to Afghanistan.

Conceding the issue of smuggling in the Provincial Assembly recently, Provincial Information Minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, informs that smugglers had set up a network to smuggle cattle to Afghanistan. “Cattle smugglers pay money to militants to help them in illegal transportation of cattle,” he discloses. “The matter has been taken up with federal government and the ministry has been asked to change mechanism for exporting cattle to Afghanistan as it was being misused,” he adds.

Meat and mutton prices have gone up to Rs200-250 and Rs350-500 respectively in different parts of the province as against Rs150 and Rs300 a few months ago. Prices of cattle and buffaloes have also risen by about 30-40 percent against last year for shortage of animals resulting from animal/meat export and smuggling to neighbouring countries, besides some other reasons.

Livestock farmers and dealers say the permission to export and the failure to check smuggling of animals and meat can trigger a crisis of meat across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan in coming months. Mehmood Ali Khan, a livestock dealer, says the federal government should check export licenses. “Adequate supply of animals is imperative to stabilise and control prices. As animal exporters are exploiting the facility, it should be banned until the government makes full arrangements to stop illegal transportation of animals,” he argues. Another livestock farmer and dealer, Bashir Ahmad, says illegal smuggling of animals could be stopped through efficient checking.

Director General Livestock Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Sher Muhammad, says the federal government had issued export licenses for 0.25 million animals and 25000 of these were to pass through the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham. “The government has made elaborate arrangements. Check posts have been established both in settled and tribal areas to allow only legal export of animals and to check smuggling. Proper record is being kept of all the animals that pass through the route,” he informs, adding “But one must remember that all animals going to federally administered tribal areas are not smuggled. The meat needs of the tribal belt have also to be met. Exporters of animals are also issued licences to export livestock to other foreign countries,” he adds.

“As far as our departments are concerned, we facilitate legal export and see that unnecessary hurdles are removed while sick, pregnant and breed-endangered animals are not exported or sent to Fata,” he informs. According to reports in the media, around a million animals are smuggled to Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian States yearly. This has to be stopped or regulated.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for livestock, Hidayatullah Khan, says the government is working to stop illegal smuggling of animals to Afghanistan and Iran. But an official, who does not want to be identified, admits that the long and mountainous border and poor law and order situation in the militant-infested tribal belt makes the task difficult. Afghanistan shares around 2000 km border with Pakistan that spreads over seven tribal agencies and district of Chitral.

But smuggling is not the only reason behind shortage of animals and meat. Livestock losses in floods, high breeding/nourishing costs, increased transportation charges, the role of middlemen in the sale and supply of animals, and increased government/contractor levies are affecting livestock farmers as well as the common men. Last year, floods had killed 0.15 million animals, causing a loss of around Rs7 billion to the sector in the province.

The problem has been aggravated further by the absence of beef-breeds of cattle in the country. Pakistan has 25, 26, 25 and 57 million buffalo, sheep, and goat respectively. These animals belong to various breeds but none of those has been bred on a mass-scale to produce genetically superior beef and mutton breeds.

Meat production has remained mostly the same. No worthwhile investment has been made in beef and mutton production. Genetic improvement of local livestock species, fattening farms and reproductive efficiency of animals are some of the ways to meet the demand of mutton and beef in the country.

Hidayatullah Khan says one model beef farm would be established in every district of the province. But there is still no development on this count. The Policy Document Livestock Vision-2020 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa says the province is deficient in meat production. The average availability of red meat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 31 grams/person/day (GPD) whereas the requirement is 56 GPD. So there is a gap of about 25GPD.

Dr Sher Mohammad says since there are no beef breeds of cattle in the country, working cattle, cows and buffaloes that are no longer able to work or produce milk are slaughtered and consumed as beef. “Beef cattle farms produce more than double the beef and mutton produced through common ways. By establishing beef farms, the gap between demand and availability can be bridged. These will improve the socio-economic status of the farmers through increasing meat production. It will also bring self sufficiency in meat and check spiraling meat prices,” he argues.

Sajjad Haider, another farmer, says the government should start a crash plan for the uplift of livestock farming. “It should import and use latest reproductive technology and breeding techniques to increase livestock population in the country. Steps to be taken include provision of fodder and feed to farmers on affordable rates, expansion of animal healthcare system, and improvement in breed and animal-fattening programmes. It should also provide soft loans for at least one year to help improve animal health and production,” he says.

“Cross-breeding of local and foreign cattle, buffalos, goat and sheep will help improve local low-productive breeds into highly producing ones. For example, weight at the time of maturity of local cattle is 300kg whereas in case of cross-bred it is 350kg or even more,” Sher adds.

But it also requires availability of semen for artificial insemination services. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, has only two semen production units, as many nitrogen-production plants at Peshawar that are vital to keep the semen safe and 361 artificial insemination centres (AICs). More such facilities are needed. Animal breeding and genetics experts should be involved in a campaign to increase meat production.

undermined tobacco research

Tobacco field in northern Poland

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Tobacco research undermined

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn April 4, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/04/tobacco-research-undermined.html

THE country’s biggest tobacco research station in Mardan, severely handicapped by shortage of staff, is unable to offer much of the required expertise to farmers of the tobacco-rich region.

 

At least 60 per cent posts of research officers at the station, run by the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), are lying vacant. No appointments and postings have been made against the posts of retiring officials.

 

Shortage of research and development staff at the PTB such as assistant development officers (ADOs) and field assistants in different districts is undermining its research and development activities and consequently liaison with tobacco farmers.

 

The government should not only fulfill the manpower needs of the facility but also provide development staff at the grass root/farm level, farmers demand.

 

The research station performs various functions and works to ensure production of quality tobacco crop in the region. “We have soil testing, plant pathology and breeding, and agronomy laboratories at the station. Experiments are conducted here on different crop varieties using different ratios of fertiliser, both imported and local, insects/pests and disease control methods apart from holding workshops, seminars and field days for training and educating farmers and other stakeholders,” said Ghulam Farid Marwat, manager at the station.

 

Soil testing is carried out both at the station and at farm level. Soil sample from different areas of the country are collected regularly, and analysed and the findings of the tests are conveyed to farmers.

 

The station is also working on green manure project in Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Okara in Punjab.

 

“For producing green manure, Egyptian clover (Barseem) is mixed in the land. We have used half the quantity of NPK (fertiliser blended with ingredients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) generally used in fields and have obtained better results.

 

The tobacco per hectare yield (PHY) increased from 2,600kg to 3,550kg with the improvement in soil condition. The technology and guidance would soon be transferred to farmers,” he said.

 

The focus of PTB and the research station is on quality as well as quantity of the crop as smokers worldwide prefer quality tobacco leaves and products.

 

“Farmers are needed to grow only the recommended varieties- Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008. Tobacco companies do not buy tobacco other than these varieties. The new variety developed by PTB -TM 2008- has the potential to increase per hectare yield by over 20 per cent than the non-recommended varieties,” Marwat said.

 

To a question, he said, whereas only about 20 per cent farmers in the past used to cultivate the recommended tobacco varieties, now most of them cultivate the recommended varieties. “This would help produce better quality tobacco crop generating more income for farmers and the country by boosting exporting of tobacco and its by-products,” he hoped.

 

To minimise the use of wood in tobacco curing and avoiding deforestation, the facility has also built a solar-barn with the help of Peshawar University of Engineering and Technology. This energy is being used in curing tobacco.

 

“This has saved about 50 per cent fuel. The facility will be transferred to farmers in coming years. With the help of one time investment, farmers will save a lot in fuel expenses as well as the environment from pollution,” he said.

 

The station is also working on a project of growing mushroom. After the curing season, the curing barns of tobacco farmers lie unused for months which will now be used for growing mushroom. The idea will be expanded at farm level later and farmers would be guided and provided technical know-how. This will create income opportunities for farmers on the one hand and ensure availability of a protein-rich food for the people on the other.

 

Though the station works in close collaboration with tobacco growers in solving their problems and developing the crop, the liaison among growers, the station and the PTB seems to be weak and needs practical steps to strengthen it further.

 

The facility should have more land under tobacco seeds cultivation as against the present 16 acres. Obviously, the facility is providing limited quantity of free seeds to selected growers due to meagre production of seeds and has left the task to tobacco companies.

 

Besides Mardan’s tobacco farm, there are four other sub-research stations for developing tobacco crop – two each in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one model farm in Buner which will be functional in next two years. Tobacco research stations are planned in Pishin, Balochistan, and Jampur Punjab in near future.

 

Secretary PTB Numan Bashir confirmed that PTB and the station were facing paucity of research and development staff and feared that it might impact liaison with farmers at root level.

 

“Most of the field assistants and ADOs have served for over 30 years now and have retired or are on the verge of retirement. For the moment, we have given additional charge to officers in some areas. Inductions will be made soon after go-ahead from the higher authorities,” he added.

livestock breed improvement

Jersey cattle being judged at the West Show, S...

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Lag in

livestock breeding

By Tahir Ali Khan

IMPROVING livestock breeding is a critical issue in raising milk and meat production but not enough is being done to increase productivity of farm animals.

The livestock sector is characterised by delayed puberty, low reproductive efficiency and low production of milk and meat. Better breeding is included in the federal livestock department’s programme, but there is no sign of it being taken up any time soon.

High reproductive efficiency requires more semen production units, increased artificial insemination (AI) centres, embryo transplant technology (ETC) and provision of quality feed to animals which necessitates investment both by government and private sector. Ironically, there is only one ETC at a military farm in Islamabad.

Reproductive efficiency could be achieved in two ways: by utilising semen from proven bulls through AI and/or through embryo transplantation technique wherein embryos from best female are collected and implanted in other female animals.

AI is extensively being used for genetic up-gradation worldwide. Through AI, a bull can produce more than 500,000 calves in his lifetime. In Pakistan, AI began in 1954 but currently it covers only about 10-15 per cent of cows and buffaloes in the country.

As far as ETC is concerned, experts say, both surgical and non-surgical methods are used for embryo transplant but the latter is preferred in cattle and buffaloes. Embryo transfer increases reproductive capacity of female animals. Generally, official data says, 15-30 calves per annum can be obtained from a genetically superior female cow/buffalo against getting the normal one calf per 12-18 months as usual.

Delayed puberty and reduced progeny level is mainly caused by poor feeding. These factors reduce milk production/duration. It is estimated that during the productive life, each animal losses two to three lactations due to poor reproductive efficiency.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 5.97 million cattle, 1.93 million buffaloes, 3.36 million sheep and 9.6 million goats, but none of the species have been utilised to produce genetically superior and high yielding species with high reproductive efficiency on mass-scale so far.

Dr Ghulam Muhammad, a local livestock expert, says: “Breed improvement can tackle the problem of low productivity. The local breeds attend puberty fairly late – in about 24-36 months as against the cross-bred ones which reach puberty in about 9-12 months. Similarly, the average milk production of local breed is 900 litres per lactation while that of crossbred ones is 1740 litres/lactation (an increase by 93 per cent). Besides, the latter are heavier and healthier than the local ones. This can substantially increase the income and prosperity of farmers.”

Pakistan is blessed with the best buffalo/cattle breeds of the world –Azikheli, Nelli-Ravi and Kundi buffaloes and Achai, Sahiwal and Red Sindhi cows- which can be utilised for their reproductive efficiency. Similarly, the cross bred Friesian and Jersey cows also can be adapted.

The livestock, particularly cows and buffaloes are mal-nourished and millions of animals die of it in the country each year. To overcome this problem, wastelands should be developed into pastures and communal grazing should be evolved, small enterprises for compound feed manufacturing should be introduced and research institutes may be asked to develop and inseminate high yielding fodder varieties.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa department of livestock has 1,042 veterinary institutions, 361 AI centres, two SPUs and two liquid nitrogen plants, four demonstration and breeding farms, one each for cattle, buffalo, sheep and poultry, in the province. But breeding programme is still in its infancy here. Because of weak coordination and communication between farmers and the department, the former have scarcely benefited from these facilities.