Floods and wheat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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Floods and wheat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn May 16, 2011

THE floods may have caused colossal damages to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s economy but they have brought some good tidings for the post-floods wheat crop.

Despite repeated claims of losses to agriculture due to land erosion, the province is set to get a bumper wheat crop this year, especially in Nowshera, Charsadda and Dera Ismail Khan — the areas worst hit by last year’s floods.

Officials say rains at the right time, silt brought by the floods and provision of seeds by the public sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have helped produce a bumper wheat crop.

“Rains at good time have a pleasant effect on the crop. Again the silt layer brought to the fields by floods has also enriched and energised the soil. In our biggest wheat producing area, DIK, floods increased moisture contents in the non-irrigated fields. All these factors have enhanced wheat yield though its acreage has been comparatively less than the preceding year,” said a senior official.

Muhammad Tasleem, director general, Agriculture Extension, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said it was true that floods had eroded plenty of cultivable land and destroyed agriculture infrastructure. It had also made thousands of acres uncultivable across the province by bringing sand and pebbles to the fields besides raising its level beyond irrigation capacity. But at the same time floods had also benefited the soil,” he added.

According to him, though there had been losses to both public and private seed stocks in floods, its impact was not much as the department distributed around 5,000 tons of quality seeds which had been obtained from registered growers or purchased from Punjab Seeds Corporation.

The province had a wheat sowing target of 0.758 million hectares but the actual cultivation of wheat was on 0.740mh this year, he said. “This fall in acreage of staple food crop was because of land erosion and huge silting of fields mostly in the biggest wheat-growing areas of Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera and DIK. There was no rain at the time of sowing in rain-fed areas that decreased the acreage by about 5 – 6 per cent. But we are hopeful that production would be more this year than last year.

“Though wheat acreage has come down, the increase in per acre yield this year will offset the deficiency. There are reports of bumper crop with bigger grain from all areas especially the ones that had been worst hit by floods. The average per hectare yield of 1,519kg in 2009-10 has gone up to 1,575kg this year. And while we had 1.11million metric tons wheat output that year, we are hoping to get 1.14 million tons this year,” he added.

“Both per hectare yield and total production could have been even bigger had the farmers used sufficient quantity of DAP and urea in their fields. The commodity is simply getting unaffordable for the poor farmers as it is being sold at Rs4,200 per bag these days against Rs2,500-3,000 last year.

To ensure provision of quality wheat seeds to growers, the provincial government intends to purchase 5,000 tons of wheat
from registered progressive growers. The province needs around 8,000 tons in all. The rest would be provided by the private sector and the farmers themselves.

Tough there had been a lot of complaints against the NGOs and foreign donors for wrong distribution which were mostly given to non-farmers and thus were either consumed as food or sold in the market, Sherzada, chief planning officer of the ministry of agriculture, said they had not done a bad job.

“The FAO had spent around $54 million on buying and distributing fine quality wheat seeds among growers, he added.

But growers say they will benefit from the bumper crop only if the government procures wheat in time.

Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chamber of Agriculture, said the government was yet to announce establishment of wheat purchase centres and its procurement mechanism. “The farmers will benefit only if the government purchased their produce directly from the growers rather than leaving them at the mercy of the middlemen,” he

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

2 Responses to Floods and wheat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

  1. Was this article published in DAWN. If yes, Can you please share the link ?

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