Tobacco pricing and grading in KP

Tobacco grading and pricing

 

By Tahir Ali Khan |

 

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/25/tobacco-grading-and-pricing.html

 

GROWERS in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complain of low prices offered by tobacco companies and the unmerited grading of their crop.

 

At present, 200-250kg of barn-cured tobacco of different grades fetches around Rs30,000-35,000 which is much lower than warranted by the escalating cost of production, says a Swabi farmer Abdur Razzaq.

 

Tobacco, as per law, is the only cash crop whose weighted average price (Wap) must increase by a certain ratio each year.

 

“Though prices are supposed to be fixed in ‘consultation’ with farmers taking into account the cost of production and other factors, tobacco companies use their clout to fix prices of their own choice. They usually try to buy double the quantity of their annual purchase targets at the lowest possible price,” he said.

 

This season, as per assessment of tobacco growers, the average cost of production stood at Rs167 per kg. “The Wap should have been fixed at Rs200 per kg to benefit the growers, but buyers are offering between Rs125-78 per kg for different grades of recommended varieties and Rs104-95 per kg for non-recommended varieties. This shows how unrealistic is the price fixed by the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB). The shrinking profit margin has particularly hit the small farmers,” he said.

 

Last year the companies had purchased tobacco from growers at Rs103-105 per kg against the Wap of Rs98 fixed by the PTB.

 

“Tobacco companies earn huge profit as, according to an estimate, they prepare over 1,000 cigarettes per kg of tobacco. The influential firms are working as a cartel to increase their margins. But farmers are suffering for lack of cooperation and ignorance,” he said.

 

Had the companies not agreed to purchase the harvested non-recommended tobacco variety, called Swati locally, at the average support price of Rs104.30 per kg for the year, around 40 million kg of this variety would have no buyers and that would have exposed around 80 per cent farmers –that grow Swati in Mardan, Swabi and Charsadda – to huge financial losses. But thanks to the farmers’ efforts that the appalling scenario has been averted,” he said.

 

Asfandyar Khan, another farmer says “Farmers have greatly benefited from Swati variety as it has increased their output by about 50 per cent, saved them from the problem of grading as almost all of its leaves are of No.1 quality.”

 

Until recently, these companies were urging farmers to grow the Swati variety and why private buyers are taking it” he asked.

 

He said farmers were also unhappy over the deliberate and unfair down-grading of their tobacco. “The companies sort out the best leaves and reject the rest which is eventually purchased by private buyers. The importance of grading can be judged from the fact that for the top eight grades of recommended tobacco varieties, the average maximum and minimum prices per kg in descending order are between Rs125 and Rs107, Rs123-105, Rs119-103, Rs115-101, Rs105-94, Rs100-92, Rs90-83 and Rs82-78,” Asfandyar said.

 

As per the law (MLO No.487) and their written agreements with farmers, tobacco companies are to be fined if they fail to purchase the entire tobacco crop from growers but they often delay procurement or abruptly end purchasing the commodity.

 

“They ask us to bring our produce but they buy a little of it of their choice and close the depot. This is done precisely to make growers

run from pillar to post to sell their ‘sub-standard’ tobacco on low prices to private buyers who seem to be the agents of these companies,” he added.

 

Tobacco companies and the PTB each year warn farmers not to cultivate the non-recommended varieties as these won’t be purchased by them, but only 10-20 per cent farmers cultivate the recommended high-yielding varieties of Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008 and the other 80 per cent go for the Swati variety. This could either be due to their ignorance or the urge for better profit on part of the farmers.

 

Tobacco employs over three million persons directly or indirectly, contributes billions to national exchequer in taxes and saves billions likely to be spent on imports of cigarettes besides earning millions of dollars in exports.

 

KP produces between 65-85 million kg of tobacco but the output can be enhanced to 300 m/kg per year. With a possible production of 300 million kg, Khyber Pukhtoonkwa can earn $537mn annually from tobacco export. But the potential has yet to be realised. “KP grows about 98 per cent of Virginia tobacco but its membership in the PTB is equal to that of Punjab. It should be given representation proportionate to its output,” he added.

 

Following is the text of the article I had sent to Dawn.

Low tobacco prices and grading and purchasing problems

By Tahir Ali Khan

Tobacco farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are disappointed over low tobacco prices offered by tobacco companies as well as what they call unmerited grading of their tobacco crop.

At present rate of tobacco, an average barn comprising around 200-250kg of different grades of tobacco fetches the farmers only around Rs30-35 thousand which is much less than warranted on the back of escalated cost of production, Abdur Razzaq, a farmer from Swabi, said.

He said per kilogram cost of production for tobacco this season stood at Rs167 as per their assessment. “The Wap should have been fixed Rs200 per kg to benefit the growers, but companies are offering farmers between Rs125-78 per kg for different grades of recommended varieties and between Rs104- 95 per kg for non-recommended ones. The shrinking of profit margin has particularly hit the small farmers.” he added.

Tobacco, as per law, is the only cash crop whose weighted average price (Wap) must increase by a certain ratio each year but farmers have been traditionally denied good returns for their crop.

“Though theoretically tobacco prices are fixed in ‘consultation’ with farmers after different surveys and taking into account the cost of production and other factors, tobacco companies using their clout and unity are managing prices of their own choice and benefit. The companies usually purchase double the quantity of their annual purchase targets but at much lesser price than due,’ he said.

“Tobacco companies earn huge profit as according to an estimate they prepare over 1000 cigarettes from one kilogram of tobacco. They are united and can manipulate prices that suit them but farmers are suffering for disunity and ignorance in their ranks,” he added.

“That tobacco companies are offering up to Rs125 against the WAP of Rs104 speaks volumes of how unrealistic the price fixed by the Pakistan tobacco board (Ptb) is. Last year they had purchased tobacco from growers at Rs103-Rs105 per kilogram against the Wap of Rs98 fixed by the Ptb,” he said.

According to him, had the tobacco companies not finally agreed to purchase the harvested non-recommended tobacco variety, called Swati, at the average support price of Rs104.30 per kg for the year, around 40mn kg of this variety would have no buyers and that would have deprived around 80 per cent farmers –that grow Swati in Mardan, Swabi and Charsadda- of billions of rupees but thanks to the struggle by farmers, that nightmare has been averted. But the price offered for the variety is still insufficient,” he said.

Asfandyar Khan, another farmer, seconded his thoughts. “Farmers have greatly benefited from Swati in that it has increased their output by about 50 per cent, saved them from the problem of grading as almost all of its leaves are of N0.1 quality, made curing facile and brought almost to nil the wastage of leaves during curing, thus increasing their incomes. It is astonishing the companies first refuse to buy and then fixed a meagre price for Swati as until very recently, it were these companies that had urged farmers to grow the variety. If it has bad quality and taste, then why the private buyers are offering up to Rs128 per kg for it and asking the growers to bring as much as they can,” he said.

He said farmers were also unhappy over the deliberate and unfair down-grading of their tobacco. “The companies sort out the best leaves and reject the rest which is eventually purchased by the private buyers. The importance of grading can be judged from the fact that for the top eight grades of recommended tobacco varieties the average maximum and minimum prices per kg in descending order are between Rs125 to Rs107, Rs123-105, Rs119-Rs103, Rs115-101, Rs105-94, Rs100-92, Rs90-83 and Rs82-78. For Swati the maximum and minimum prices offered by companies is Rs104 and Rs95 while private buyers offer as much as Rs125 to Rs128 for this kind of tobacco,”

Asfandyar said as per the law (MLO No.487) and their written agreements with farmers, tobacco companies are to be fined if they failed to purchase the entire tobacco crop from growers but they often delay procurement or abruptly end purchase of the commodity.

According to another farmer who wished anonymity, ‘the companies request us to bring our tobacco produce but when we go there, they buy a little quantity of their choice and then close the depot. This is done precisely to make growers run from pillar to sell their ‘sub-standard’ tobacco on low prices to private buyers who seem to be the agents of these companies.”

Tobacco companies and PTB each year warn farmers not to cultivate the non-recommended tobacco types as these won’t be bought but only about 10-20 per cent farmers cultivate the recommended varieties of Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008 and the other 80 per cent go for the Swati variety. What could the farmers be expected to do if the latter has great profit for them.

Importance of tobacco cannot be denied as it employs over three million persons directly or indirectly, contributes dozens of billions to national exchequer in different taxes and saves billions likely to be spent on imports of cigarettes besides earning millions in exports.

KP produces between 65-85 million-kg though it can produce up to 300 m/kg per year. With a possible production of 300 million kg, Khyber Pukhtoonkwa can earn $537mn or Rs45bn annually from the export of tobacco, but the potential has not been realised. India`s exported the country`s surplus yield to 80 countries and earned Rs130 billion annually.

 

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Swat: The way forward

Batkhela Bazaar (Off Day)

Image via Wikipedia

Swat: what’s the way forward?

The area needs a lot more attention now than what it needed before

By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2011-weekly/nos-24-07-2011/pol1.htm#3

During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to many people in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. Not only in Swat but elsewhere too, lack of scientific approach, jumping to conclusions created by widely-held conspiracy theories and an acute absence of dialogue between the public and the establishment are not only hampering development of mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but other than several check-posts where military or police personnel register and identity destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that presence of security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Many people in Swat acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested or killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against either of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

If there are loopholes in the official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again, many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them.

But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when the Taliban killed the people. Yet, others exonerate them and think it was the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence.

Many others admit they had committed the mistake of siding with the insurgents — near revolt-like situation in 1994 led by Sufi Muhammad, and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah.

Some Swat people are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” says a man in his 40s, not wanting to be identified.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres. Many think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around, militants are still able to attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates, tell us how many have been killed or captured,” says a resident from Chakdara.

Many others are thankful to the army and say army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. First, the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities.

Some people in the area think terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area. What struck me the most was that this mindset was even held by apparently educated people.

The state and its security apparatus needs to open up and allow dissent in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used lack of speedy justice to attract people to their agenda. Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to violent agenda. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss and acute anarchy in their midst. De-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

The solution to the problems lies in our patient and judicious approach to problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities.

The state should try to build a consensus against militancy in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state.

The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

Following is the text of the article in original ( as I had sent it to the paper)

Analysis of the situation in Swat

Time for public-military open dialogue

By Tahir Ali

Asim Sajjad Akhtar in these pages last week analysed the situation in Swat. During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to numerous persons in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. In the light of what I saw and ascertained, some of his observations on the effects of the catastrophe, the profound suspicions, unanswered questions and fear amongst the people, on the lack of any meaningful critique in Pakistan on the war on terror and that before taking any position on ‘war on terror’ one should visit Swat and see the long-term consequences of war on ordinary Swatis could be endorsed, but one cannot completely agree with his assertions that army loathes everyone else there, including the police, and that there are irreconcilable holes in the official account of the war on terror.

Not only in Swat but at the national scene too, lack of scientific attitude, our national malady of jumping to conclusions, suspicions created by widely-held conspiracy theories, and an acute absence of open dialogue and of liaison between the public and establishment are not only hampering development of much needed mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but not that much as is suggested. Other than the several check-posts where military or police personnel register the identity and destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register the particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that much care and security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Their attitude with the public at large is not that bad either, provided you obey the rules or cooperate.

Many Swatis acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed, but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested nor killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against neither of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent, encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

To me, just as patriotism is not confined to conforming to official version alone, liberalism and objectivity also cannot be equalised with attacking the state policies at any cost. Unfortunately it has been.

If there are loopholes in official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them. But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when in their eyesight, the Taliban butchered the people. Yet others exonerate them and think it were the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence and increase their power and resources. Yet many others admit they had committed the mistakes of siding with the insurgents quite a few times- 1890s insurgency of Mad-mulla against the British, near revolt-like situation in 1989 and 94 led by Sufi Muhammad and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah, for example.

Some Swatis are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on the counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas –like Swat and tribal areas– challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” a man in his 40s said.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres and think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around the militants are still able to come and attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates but please tell us how many have been killed or captured,” said a chakdara resident.

They need to be reminded that army and police need authorisation for attack which was not there until the incumbent ANP-led government gave it a go-ahead. They need to be reminded that despite success of the operation, militants would continue their intermittent strikes for years to come. After all, you cannot man all entrances and stop those all the time who want to attack.

Many are thankful to the army and say the army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. “First the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then the security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities. Enmities in Pakhtoon societies go on for generations. Time is the best healer but I think it may take around 25-30 years to heal the wounds created by mutual suspicions or actual wrongs,” according to a teacher.

There were some hardliners who at first said there were no militants and when confronted, opined they were the agents of the establishment and those killed are no more than official sacrifices for a ‘greater national cause’ They thought terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area.  What struck me the most was that this profound suspicious mindset was even held by apparently educated fellows. They also need to be addressed. But the mainstream reconcilable population badly needs special sessions with open questioning to erase their suspicions before it is taken in by the propaganda in the streets and family functions.

The state and its security operatus needs to open up and encourage dissent with its stance in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people rather than the taken-for-granted-consensus against militants.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used the lack of speedy, easily and locally available justice to attract people to their agenda.

 

Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to any violent agenda for their nascent minds and needs to be separated and saved from the groups that arouse their emotions and keep them from pursuing education. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss, less advantage and acute anarchy in their midst.

 

The de-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

 

In Swat recently, Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani rightly insisted on the need to fight the “political, psychological or religious” trends which lead to radicalism. Solution to the problems lies in our non-reactionary, patient and judicious approach to world problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities, a robust and big middle class, rule of law, interfaith harmony and saying goodbye to emotionalism and puritanical approach and non-interference in the affairs of other states.

The state should try to build an anti-private jihad consensus in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state. Religious-political parties and scholars must discourage militancy.

The writer is a freelance columnist who blogs at:

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

Snags in commercialisation of KP’s Livestock sector

A boy herding sheep in India.

Image via Wikipedia

Snags in commercialisation of livestock sector
By Tahir Ali Khan
July 18, 2011

THE livestock sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, despite having great potential for poverty alleviation, has not developed on commercial lines because of paucity of funds, capacity and technology constraints.

While the share of livestock sector has been increased to Rs0.6 billion or 45 per cent of Rs1.35 billion total provincial agriculture budget, it not enough to care of the development needs of the sector.

The agriculture budget forms only 1.59 per cent of the provincial annual developmental programme whereas the share of livestock sector stands at 0.7 per cent of the total ADP.

The distribution of this tiny budget over numerous projects not only makes their timely completion impossible but also deprives farmers of the fruits of development and research initiatives for years.

For example, for the three ongoing schemes of livestock extension needing Rs380 million, Rs127 million has been allocated and for eight new programmes worth Rs1525million, only Rs246 million has been made available for the year.

The Achai cow conservation and development plan worth Rs222mn, which started in 2009, has been allocated a meagre sum of Rs42 million for the year though it needed Rs141 million.

For another project of livelihood improvement through strengthening of gender-based livestock interventions worth Rs300 million, intended to provide female livestock farmers with training, animal offspring, hens and better communication, only Rs15million has been earmarked for this year.

Development of improved poultry production, processing and marketing models though public-private partnership in KP has been launched with a total outlay of Rs300 million but only Rs25mn has been released.

It is a problem of trying to achieve too many objectives with a too little amount, but officials would not accept it.

A senior official of livestock and dairy development, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, declined to offer his comments saying it was a policy questions beyond his domain.

He, however, said the funds for the ongoing schemes were apportioned as per the demand of the department and that for the new ones the allocation was usually low in the first year of implementation.

The livestock extension has got Rs0.24 billion, livestock research and development Rs0.27 billion and the veterinary research institute Rs0.08 billion.

The important ongoing and new schemes of livestock extension include establishment of dairy colonies in DIK, Peshawar and Mardan; Achai conservation and development programme and establishment and construction of veterinary dispensaries; poverty alleviation through improved rural poultry production in Mardan; gender-based livestock interventions in rural areas; meat and dairy production/development with market linkages and development of improvement of poultry production under public-private partnership.

In the livestock research sub-sector, for four ongoing projects, Rs207 million has been set aside while for five new projects Rs68 million has been earmarked.

Important ongoing and new projects include strengthening and development of poultry sector in Hazara division, barani research institutes for goat and sheep in Kohat, pilot projects for increasing milk and meat and establishment of livestock research centre in Dir, projects for creation of facilities for drugs residue determination, for introduction of modern milking and milk-processing techniques, for reproductive efficiency, for improvement of fodder and forages in southern region and the goat/sheep research centre in Swat.

A sum of Rs70 million will be spent for improving the local goat species through cross-breeding with high-calibre foreign goat species.

For the four ongoing and one new project of veterinary research institute, Rs67 million and Rs16 million has been allocated. The lone new project in this field is that of poultry diseases investigation and vaccine production centre in Peshawar.

Apart from the provincial ADP, the livestock sector in the province has been allocated Rs5.2bn in the federal budget as well. A sum of Rs2.1 billion has been earmarked for upgrading district veterinary clinics, Rs0.8 billion for rural poultry farming, Rs0.5 billion for upgrading the Harichand farm, Rs0.4 billion for livestock extension through female workers, Rs0.25bn for preservation and development of local sheep in Hazara and Malakand, Rs0.5bn for model dairy farms at divisional level, Rs0.8bn for modern slaughter houses and Rs0.5bn for district diagnostic laboratories.

The size of foreign assistance in the new ADP is over Rs16bn but there is no project for the livestock sector. More than 90 per cent livestock is owned by small farmers who need animal progeny and guidance but there is specific project for them.

The government has yet to open model dairy, beef and poultry farms in every district of the province despite making promises to this effect.

Around 15 per cent of the milk produced is wasted during collection process causing a loss of billions of rupees to farmers. But despite this, neither of the public nor the private sectors has made any worthwhile investment for establishing a proper milk collection/preservation system, chilling tanks and milk processing plants.

The provision of cheaper fodder/feed and soft loans to livestock farmers, animal-fattening programmes, range management for communal grazing, small enterprises for compound feed manufacturing, evolution and promotion of high yielding varieties of fodder crops and beef-breed development etc, have been neglected.

Agriculture in budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Bakau agriculture 1

Image via Wikipedia

When it comes down to food

The budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not hold much for the agriculture sector

By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2011-weekly/nos-10-07-2011/pol1.htm#3

Agriculture sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has once again failed to elicit enough funds and attention from the provincial government in the budget.

Contrary to official claims that the new budget would be innovative in its outlook, an analysis of the annual strategy shows that it is yet another exercise characterised by meagre funding, phased allocation of funds that delays completion of projects for years and with overstretched plan of action that has no or negligible results.

Agriculture sector, which accounts to 25 percent of provincial gross domestic product and on which the livelihood of around 70 percent of its population depends directly or indirectly, requires an out of box solution, sufficient funds and their en-bloc release, and most of all commitment of provincial authorities whose indifference could be devastating for the sector after the 18th amendment.

The Chief Planning Officer of ministry of agriculture, Ahmad Said, informs agriculture Annual Development Programme (ADP) for 2011-12 has been prepared in the light of provincial agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, and reconstruction priorities.

The total outlay of ADP has been increased by 15 percent from Rs69bn to Rs85bn. Allocation to agriculture and its related sectors has been increased from Rs1.175bn in the outgoing fiscal to Rs1.355bn for new fiscal but its share has decreased from 1.70 percent to 1.59 percent as percentage to the ADP. The ADP has 71 projects, including Rs0.849bn for 47 on-going and Rs0.505bn for 24 new schemes.

The whitepaper 2011-12, issued by the provincial finance department recently, says this year’s provincial ADP reflects higher priority to income generating sectors of economy, including agriculture. “Agriculture can easily attain the status of big industry in the province if proper care and patronage is given to it,” it argues.

For example, for five old and new schemes of agriculture mechanisation requiring Rs855mn, only Rs164mn are allocated. And for 37 old and new schemes in agriculture research that required Rs1040mn, only Rs243 have been earmarked for the coming year. Similarly, agriculture planning schemes have been provided only Rs21mn out of the total required Rs640mn.

For project distribution of cultivable land amongst landless farmers and agriculture graduates, which has a total outlay of Rs200mn, only Rs10mn have been allotted to the year, which means it will take years for the project to complete and benefit the farmers.

Again, only Rs1mn have been set aside for rehabilitation of germ-plasma units in Hazara division that involves Rs10mn in all. And for the establishment of the olive orchards in wasteland, another good intervention, only Rs10mn out of the total Rs60mn have been approved for the year.

Similarly, for a 2008 project of strengthening of planning and monitoring capacity of the agriculture department involving Rs15, only Rs3mn have been allotted while Rs5mn had been spent on the project. Can there be any better proof for half-hearted measures on the part of the government?

According to an official document, in the outgoing year, out of the total core ADP estimates of Rs69 billion, Rs45bn were released but actual expenditure stood at only Rs26bn. For the agriculture sector, over Rs1.22bn were released against the budget estimates of Rs1.175bn but only Rs0.67bn of these could be spent till 20th May, 2011.

Viewed in this backdrop, the amount to be spent on agriculture may be much less than allocated in the ADP. In the new ADP, there are 39 foreign-funded projects worth over Rs16bn but the agriculture sector has no projects in it like the outgoing fiscal. The government should have arranged research and development projects with the help of foreign donors to give a fillip to the under-performing sector.

Last year, the KP government had announced revival of cooperative bank and promised to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women from the bank but actually onlyRs200mn were released. This year too, Rs400mn will be released. How can credit ratio be improved in this situation?

“The main problem confronting farmers is their poverty and costliness of agricultural inputs but there is no scheme to address the problem. The government should have announced an agriculture subsidy regime on its own or with the help of foreign donors,” says Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer. Despite these shortcomings, the annual agriculture roadmap of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is comprehensive and has something for each sub-sector.

According to Ahmad Said, lands that were washed away by floods would be rehabilitated and orchards would be established anew through free plants provision. “Another project for improving quality and increasing production of fruit plants through tissue culture technology has also been proposed. A public-private joint scheme for olive cultivation in areas where ordinary crops cannot be grown is being launched,” he adds. Subsidized inputs availability, weak coordination between farmers and government and wastage of on farm produce have gone unaddressed.

Empowering female farmers

Empowering female farmers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn July 11, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/11/empowering-female-farmers.html

 

WOMEN are deeply involved in agriculture and livestock sectors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They, however, remain deprived of access to extension services, financial empowerment and capacity-building while no facility is offered to them for training, input/services and livestock progeny.

The provincial agriculture policy 2005 and horticulture policy 2009 acknowledge that the absence of gender mainstreaming and participation, hinder the growth and development of the sector, making it less profitable for farmers, especially the poor/small growers.

While the provincial government has now acknowledged the need for empowering of women, its efforts in this direction are too feeble to make any significant impact.

In this year’s budget, a project for livelihood improvement through strengthening of gender-based livestock interventions with an outlay of Rs300 million has been launched in the province. Through this project, female livestock farmers would be provided training for rearing animal offspring and hens to help improve their skills and decision-making capacity. But only Rs15 million has been earmarked this year for disbursement for the project.

Another project worth Rs46 million is to be launched in Mardan which aims at alleviation of poverty among rural women by providing them with high calibre hens for rearing in their houses. This project will promote model poultry farms and would improve supply of poultry and its byproducts to the market.

Apart from carrying out household jobs, women also work in field preparation, cultivation, fodder cutting, weeding, drying/storing of cereals, fodder and harvesting crops and vegetables.

According to a survey carried out in five districts of KP, 82 per cent of the rural women took part in agriculture activities, spent 45 per cent of their time in fields which accounted for 25 per cent of production of major crops and 30 per cent of total food.

Around 35 per cent of rural women rear livestock and are responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of feeding and milking of cattle. Over 90 per cent of rural women keep poultry birds at home. However, they mostly apply traditional methods of rearing, breeding and management of livestock.

New concepts such as tunnel farming, modern household farming, tissue culture technology and modern animal husbandry techniques need to be used to increase production and encourage efficiency.

With expert guidance and technical, financial and marketing support provided to female farmers, agriculture would develop by leaps and bounds.

Rural women in the province have no separate agricultural extension services. Living in a backward region, female farmers would willingly attend trainings if these are arranged through female extension workers. Female veterinary graduates could be appointed for curing livestock owned by female farmers in rural areas.

They can also be provided support for opening biogas plants to cater to their domestic fuel needs that consume plenty of their incomes though other altrenatives.

The government and NGOs could empower women farmers and involve them in agriculture development by setting up a provincial body of women farmers.

The membership of female farmers in model farm services centres needs to be increased. Female farmers were part of only one MFSC in Haripur which had only 70 female farmers in the total strength of 1,600 farmers in 2009.

But with the present meagre funding, any significant progress for agriculture in the province remains a remote possibility. The share of agriculture as percentage of the provincial annual development plan has come down to 1.59 this fiscal year from 1.70 per cent in the last fiscal.

In a situation where only six per cent of the farmers in the province receive agriculture credit, the share of female farmers would be even more pathetic. The government needs to support agriculture financing by public and private sector banks to offer easy farm and non-farm loans to female farmers.

marketing of Swat onion

Red onions

Image via Wikipedia

Depressed onion prices in Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn- July 4, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/04/agriculture-and-technology-depressed-onion-prices-in-swat.html

Swat accounts for 3/4th of the onion harvest of the province. Malakand division, especially Swat and Dir, produced about 108,000 tons of onion in 2006.

 

Farmers say regulated markets, local onion purchase centres, improved transportation of the produce to other provinces and export facilitation centres are needed to help them get fair price for their crop.

 

Swat onions are liked for their big size, appetising taste and better quality, but farmers say the middlemen and commission agents are taking bulk of the profit.

 

Lower prices have compelled farmers to delay their harvest and sales in the hope of better return. While a few of them can afford to keep their harvest in self-owned or rented godowns, most dump onion in their fields in the open.

 

In Swat and Dir, one can see a lot of these onion-dumps in fields, hujras and in front of houses. A hailstorm or rain and humidity could damage the harvested crop.

 

“The commission agents in Gujranwala promise us good returns and say a bag fetches Rs900-1100. But when we reach there, we find the price at Rs600 per bag. A truckload of 200 bags of onion can fetch up to Rs120,000 while our total expenses on the same quantity of onion comes to around Rs150,000,” says Daud Khan, a farmer near Mingora in lower Swat.

 

The onion price, he says, is not sufficient even to cover his expenses on cultivation, farm-rent and transportation etc. “I have taken land on lease for Rs0.3 million per annum from a local landlord, and spent another Rs0.11mn on labour and other inputs on the crop. An amount of Rs50,000 per trip have been spent on transportation and other expenses. I will have to make at least six trips so the total amount in this head alone comes to around Rs0.3 million. My total onion production comes to around 1,200 bags each weighing 90kg. It means I will earn not more than Rs0.72 million at the present market price. This is exactly what I have spent on the crop. There is no profit for me despite toiling for months. How can I sell my crop at this rate,” he said.

 

“The problem is that we cannot delay our harvesting and deals for long as the field and truck are to be emptied for new crops and to avoid inflated trucks fares which increases if offloading is delayed. Then there is the problem of security and rent in the market. Rains also are a constant threat as the commodity lies in the open which could be destroyed by ground moisture or insects. So the farmers have to sell their produce willy-nilly at lower rates,” he adds.

 

“Isn’t it unjust that the farmers are being paid only Rs6 per kg while the commodity is being sold at not less than Rs30-40kg in the market? Shouldn’t the government stop this injustice by commission agents and ensure a better price for farmers,” adds Khan.

 

“The government says it will create linkage between market and Swat farmers but has failed to ensure fair price for our produce. Agriculture in the region has been badly affected first by militancy and then by flash-floods but local farmers are yet to be given proper support,” he complains.

 

The provincial horticulture policy 2009 recommends setting up of agriculture producers’ markets and market information systems at district level.

 

Local farmers are compelled to take their onion to Punjab to get better prices. The problem can be solved by establishing regulated local markets and opening onion purchase centres in different parts of upper and lower Swat and Dir in the public, private sector or through public-private partnership.

 

Transportation of onion could be facilitated by arranging special goods-train from Dargai in Malakand where existing railway lines mostly lie unused.

 

Onion farmers would benefit if some waterproof packaging is introduced to minimise crop losses and facilitate export.

 

THE onion farmers in Swat are not getting reasonable returns for their crop due to absence of a modern market system in the province. Despite a bumper onion crop this year, they have not fully benefited from the harvest.

Olive project being launced

Olives

Image via Wikipedia

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa project for olive plantation

By Tahir Ali Khan

June 27, 2011

A Rs60 million project for planting olive trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been proposed in the provincial development strategy.

“The project is based on public-private partnership. The agriculture department will provide certified olive saplings, technology and guidance to farmers while the orchard owners would provide land and labour. We have signed MOUs under which farmers would give a certain portion of their olive plants to the government for extension purposes,” said Ahmad Said, the chief planning officer in the provincial agriculture department.

The project is for lands on which major food crops are not grown. Olive is a strong plant that needs little water and fertiliser and can be grown anywhere, even in mountainous areas,” he added.

Ahmad says around 60 per cent area of KP was suitable for olive cultivation. If we could utilise even 20 per cent of it by planting new olive plants, it will reduce oil import bill besides increasing the incomes of millions of farmers and providing them with healthy oil for domestic consumption.

“We are trying to standardise the olive production technology as has been done in Italy which is growing millions of olive plants in a very short time. We have proposed another project for tissue culture technology through which plants can be grown in shortest possible time. The existing mechanism of fruit cultivation and fructification takes years. The tissue technology can produce millions of plants and ensure fruit-bearing sooner than usually possible,” he informed.

“While the public sector is trying its best to provide maximum certified olive plants to growers, we are facilitating and registering plant nurseries in the private sector. These nurseries will be regularly monitored to ensure quality of production of the fruit plantlets. We hope this way the use of non-fruit bearing olive plants would be minimised,” he added.

With only Rs10 million out of the total earmarked sum of Rs60 million have been allocated for the project in the next year’s ADP, it may take another five to six years for the project to be completed unless fund allocations are enhanced later.

Pakistan faces a widening gap between edible oil requirements and domestic production which is bridged by huge imports of edible oil and oilseeds.

Over 60 per cent of the tribal belt has wild olive trees that can be converted into fruit-bearing species.

According to an Italian expert Raffaele Del Cima, the province has over 444,574 hectares of cultivable wasteland which is suitable for olive cultivation. According to another estimate, well over 880,000 hectares could be used for olive cultivation.

There are an estimated 31 million wild olive trees in KP and tribal belt that bear no or a seed-sized fruit. Converting them into European type fruit bearing olive through budding/grafting procedure in the next few years should be the foremost priority of the government as it will help produce an estimated 75,000 tons of olive oil. The Pakistan Oilseeds Development Board has recently converted some wild olive plants in KP into fruit bearing trees. Italy, the world’s biggest olive producer with 1.2 million hectares under olive cultivation, has helped Pakistan to convert its wild olive plants into fruit-bearers, and also with new olive plantations.

The government and private sector need to cooperate for improving cultivation and harvest techniques in olive production, species selection, nursery management, oil analysis and the operation of oil extraction units.

By providing quality seed, modern training and marketing mechanism to the farmers, olive cultivation and yield could be considerably increased. The government may also encourage farmers to set up olive oil extraction units in different parts of the province.

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