Sugar beet crushing in KP

Sugar-beet crushing in KP

By Tahir Ali

http://dawn.com/2012/06/25/sugar-beet-crushing-in-kp/

LONG queues of trucks and tractor-trolleys loaded with sugar-beet can be seen these days waiting for their turn to unload the commodity at the Premier Sugar Mills in Mardan.

Around 350 trucks/trolleys loaded with beet arrive daily at the mill and beet in 250-260 of them is crushed in 24 hours, said Masud Khan, the mill manager.

“Crushing which had started on May 21 will be wrapped up in a couple of days with the supply of beet coming to an end. Another mill in Dera Ismail Khan, where crushing had started in April-end, has already stopped crushing,” he said.

Several farmers complained that while ordinary farmers had to wait for 48 hours for their turn to unload their yield, those with connections unload their trolleys without any wait.

Farmers also complained that the weight of their beet-trolleys was not mentioned in the indents issued by the mill. They showed their receipts to substantiate their claims.

“In the pre-sowing period, mill agents urge growers to cultivate beet. They offer seed, fertiliser, insecticides etc., on deferred payment and promise good rate and five per cent cut at the time of delivery. But afterwards they are subjected to inordinate delay in weighing with mostly 20 per cent cut in weight on the pretext of clay/grass etc., and offer an unattractive price. While the mill has a large area, the growers are made to stay on roadside exposed to insects, mosquitoes in severe weather
conditions,” a farmer said.

Mr Khan refuted the allegations claiming that everything was done on merit. He said beet price was increased from Rs120 per 40kg last year to Rs145 this season.

No official figures were available on sugar-beet acreage and yield in KP. Mr Khan said the exact quantity brought to the mills
would be known after the crushing was over.

But, according to a source, around 90,000 tons sugar-beet is crushed at the Mardan mill and more or less the same quantity at DIK mill. Farmers, however, say beet acreage has decreased considerably in recent times.

“Not long ago, sugar-beet crushing would continue for almost two and a half months but of late it finishes in a month. While a few years ago, sugar-mills in Khazana, Charsadda and Takht Bhai also crushed beet, now only Mardan sugar-mill crushes it. Once an important cash crop in KP, sugar-beet has lost its importance to other crops for lack of incentives,” said a farmer from Mardan.

Hakim Shah, another farmer, said while high per acre cost and low returns had left little room for farmers to continue sowing beet, farmers nevertheless are compelled to go for it.

“The cost of production for beet is around Rs25,000 per acre against Rs1,000-15,000 for wheat but farmers cultivate beet for badly needed cash as it matures soon and is instantly sold to mills to get money needed to repay loans taken for buying farm inputs. Again, sugar-beet is used as vegetable and its pulp as animal fodder in KP,” said Shah.

“A beet grower has to forego wheat, maize and tobacco crops for beet production. But with application of good seeds and hard-work, he can get good compensation. A beet farmer can get a per acre yield of around 600 maunds or 24 tons which can fetch him around Rs90,000 at the current mills rate. But of late, for lack of water, substandard seeds and some dieses, beet output has declined considerably making it less competitive for farmers.

The government should waive duties and taxes on sugar made from sugar-beet. Mills would then offer good prices to farmers.

Increase in acreage and per hectare yield would result in more sugar yield, increase in farmers’ income and saving jobs for thousands in mills,” said a farmer.

Mr Khan said his mill provided quality hybrid beet seed along with fertiliser, insecticides, weedicides etc., to around 3000 farmers on deferred payment and their cost would be deducted from their payment.

However, he said beet has a higher per kg cost of production than sugarcane for non-availability of bagasse in case of the former. “In case of cane, bagasse recovers the fuel cost. Our fuel cost is around Rs3.5mn per day for beet crushing. If the market price is around Rs60-65, it would be economical for us, otherwise the current market price of Rs55/kg, sugar production is unaffordable for us,” he said.

But according to a farmer, two trolleys load of beet produces a trolley load of pulp and the mill earns quite a lot of money by selling the beet pulp at Rs13,000/per trolley to farmers.

Sugar-millers don’t want to invest in sugar-beet processing plants for lack of confidence in the crop, high cost of production and lack of expertise and technology.

A sugar-beet development policy needs to be devised with incentives like duty-free import of new and secondhand sugar-beet plants, production and supply of quality beet-seeds, easy access to soft loans, tax exemptions and if possible, crop insurance for farmers and millers to build their confidence in the economic viability of the crop.

Around one-third of the 130 million tones of sugar production globally are made from sugar-beet but it accounts for one per cent of the total sugar yield in Pakistan.

The national sugar policy 2009 says sugar production from beet would be encouraged and urges the provincial governments to encourage the technology shift in the existing mills towards sugar-beet and setting up of new sugar beet mills.

Agriculture neglected in KP budget

KP budget2012-13
An unfair share
The share of agriculture in total ADP of KP has, in fact, decreased from1.6 per cent in the former ADP to 1.48 per cent in the current one
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jun2012-weekly/nos-24-06-2012/pol1.htm#2

Agriculture sector, the main source of living for over 70 per cent of the people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has yet again been neglected as meagre funds have been allocated in the next annual development programme.

In the Rs303bn budget, total ADP is Rs97.4bn, up from Rs85bn in the outgoing year, with the core provincial ADP standing at Rs74.2bn.

While apparently the allocation to the sector has been increased from Rs1355 in current ADP to Rs1452mn in the next one, the share of agriculture in total ADP has in fact decreased from1.6 per cent in the former ADP to 1.48 per cent in the current one.

The agriculture sector has only got Rs17mn or 0.1 per cent in the total foreign component of Rs23.2bn in the ADP against the share of 42 per cent for education.

The share of livestock in the agriculture ADP has also decreased to Rs0.379bn (26 per cent) this year from Rs0.60bn (44 per cent) in the current year, reducing its share in total ADP from 0.70 per cent this fiscal to 0.38 per cent in the next ADP.

Only Rs1197mn of total agriculture ADP of Rs1355mn could be utilized this fiscal. Viewed in this backdrop, the actual agriculture ADP may be much less than allocations.

Most of the funds are, however, directed to the revenue expenditure with only a portion going to the capital (civil works/construction) side. However, allocation for capital expenditure has increased on some projects. For example, while agriculture and livestock extension had earmarked Rs25mn and Rs81mn in this head in the outgoing ADP respectively, they have Rs43mn and Rs88mn for civil work in the next ADP.

The government intends to give grant of Rs500mn to the model farm services centres for purchasing modern agriculture machinery and agriculture inputs but it is too less an amount to have an impact.

Again, the establishment of poultry diseases investigation and vaccination facility in VRI Peshawar has been conditioned with free donation of land which seems improbable there for high land prices.

According to an official, who didn’t want to be named, the new ADP has been prepared in the light of KP’s agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, the comprehensive development strategy (CDS) and the economic growth strategy (EGS) prepared by KP government.

The EGS says productive sectors (energy, minerals etc) and socio-economic sectors food, agriculture etc) would be the top priority in allocation and the expenditure on social sectors would be capped at current level but allocations to the sectors speak otherwise.

Against the avowed 70 per cent, 30 per cent and 20 per cent share for the sectors respectively in the ADP, while the 9 productive and 7 socio-economic sectors have been allocated just 12 per cent (Rs11.6bn) and 23 per cent (Rs22.6bn) respectively in the ADP, the social sectors have got 39 per cent (Rs37.9bn).

Agriculture extension with schemes of Rs61mn, agriculture mechanisation Rs372mn, on farm water management Rs188mn, agriculture research Rs155mn, livestock extension Rs223mn, agriculture planning Rs8mn, livestock research Rs89mn, soil conservation Rs91mn, veterinary research institutes with Rs68mn and Fisheries with Rs67mn make up the agriculture the ADP for 2012-13.

The 2012-13 ADP focuses on ongoing programmes and in line with the EGS recommendations, allocations for the ongoing projects and new projects have been increased to 70 per cent and 30 per cent of the agriculture ADP respectively from 63 and 37 per cent this year.

Rather than thinly distributing money over several schemes as earlier, allocation has been made to fewer schemes as per the EGS. For example, against 37 schemes of agriculture research this fiscal, Rs155mn are distributed in 6 schemes in new ADP. Similarly against 9 schemes in the livestock research this year, there are only 4 schemes in the next ADP.

Livestock and diary development department, farm mechanisation, on-farm water management and soil conservation have been the biggest beneficiaries of the decision both in terms of retaining most of their projects and getting hefty allocations. The agriculture extension and research have suffered on both there counts.

But for overall lesser funds, several schemes from the current year’s ADP have been dropped, apparently for shortage of funds. For example, the project for integrated pest management and strengthening of model farm services, construction of research station in Buner, block plantation of selected fruit in the hills of Hazara and Malakand, rice research in KP and the much trumpeted wasteland development and its distribution to landless farmers and agriculture graduates, strengthening of research stations in Mansehra and Peshawar and of outreach activities in KP, capacity building of livestock extension staff, and processing techniques in Southern KP and on development of improved poultry production projects have been left out.

Projects for backyard farming and livestock rearing, value addition of fruits and vegetables and project on micro-propagation/tissue culture have been neglected.

Farmers say the agriculture sector has been neglected. Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer leader in KP, lamented that the negligence continued even in the post devolution scenario.

“The government hasn’t provided any subsidy on agriculture inputs nor announced any subsidized loans. Worse, the KP government has decreased development budget for the sector this year while it should have increased it to at least five per cent of ADP after its manifold revenue receipts from the federal government. The sector is threatened by the indifference of the government and lack of unity amongst farmers,” he said.

Murad Ali Khan, another farmer from Charsadda, complained almost all of the lands destroyed by the 2010 floods were yet to be rehabilitated though the government promised each year to do so. “It should have allocated sufficient funds to buy land levelling machinery for the purpose. Lack of coordination between the farmers and government and inter-departmental liaison also goes unnoticed,” he said.

The official, however, said the ADP focuses on potential sectors for increased productivity and value addition.

“KP has vast edible potential especially in olive oil. We will introduce European olive varieties and plant more olive gardens on the waste lands,” he informed.

“There are also 5 projects worth Rs181mn in the fisheries. Through a project, model fish farms would be established in Peshawar, Nowshera and Mardan. Through another project, the floods devastated trout hatcheries will be rehabilitated and their production capacity will be expanded in Swat, Chitral, Dir and Shangla. Also there is a project for conservation of fish resources in Lower Dir on pilot basis,” he added.

“We also would construct check dams in rain-fed areas for water harvesting. Each of these will not only irrigate around 100 acres of land and will contain soil erosion but these will be used for fish production. Another important intervention is the project on fermenting technology in which the animal wastes dumps of farmers will be used for making organic fertilizer. We also have milk, meat and poultry related projects,” the official noted.

High efficiency sprinkle and drip irrigation technologies are to be installed on 2,000 acre land and water courses would be lines. Dug-wells be established, 25 bulldozers will be bought and fruit orchards would be established on1000 acres to rehabilitate floods devastated lands. Thousands of farmers would be trained under a project for food security. Animal health dispensaries would be established. There would also be projects for livelihood improvement of rural women through livestock intervention.

“Public private partnership on 80:20 percent cost sharing for government and farmers is being followed in watercourses’ lining, construction of water storage tanks and in maize hybrid seeds production,” said the official.

According to him, there was no scheme for easy loan to small farmers but talks continued with the ZTBL and SBP to offer credit schemes where principal amount will be paid by farmers and interest by the government. ­

KP misplaced priorities

KP’s missplaced priorities
By Tahir Ali
18th June, 2012
http://dawn.com/2012/06/18/kps-missplaced-priorities/

THE share of agriculture in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa’s annual development plan has declined in the budget 2012-13 as compared to the current fiscal year.

Farmers lament that misplaced development priorities of the provincial government has eclipsed their hope of getting a better deal from the provincial government after the fiscal devolution.

As in the past, the agriculture sector remains neglected, says Haji Niamat Shah, central vice-president, Anjuman-i-Kashtkaran, KP. The provincial government hasn’t provided any subsidy on agriculture inputs including loans unlike Punjab which has taken several pro-farmer decisions in its budget.

Worse still, the government has cut the development budget of the sector this year while it should have increased it at least by five per cent of ADP after its huge revenue receipts from the federal divisible pool, said Mr Shah.

The livestock and dairy development department, farm mechanisation, on-farm water management and soil conservation are the biggest beneficiaries of the budget 2013 both in terms of retaining most of their projects and getting hefty allocations. The agriculture extension and research have suffered on both these counts.

According to an official, the new ADP has been prepared in the light of KP’s agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009, comprehensive development strategy (CDS) and economic growth strategy (EGS).

The allocations in the budget are: agriculture extension Rs61mn, agriculture mechanisation Rs372mn, on-farm water management Rs188mn, agriculture research Rs155mn, livestock extension Rs223mn, agriculture planning Rs8mn, livestock research Rs89mn, soil conservation Rs91mn, veterinary research institutes Rs68mn and fisheries Rs67mn.

In the Rs303bn budget, development spending is Rs97.4 up from Rs85bn of the outgoing year with the core provincial ADP at Rs74.2bn. But the share of agriculture in total ADP has decreased from 1.6 per cent in the current ADP to 1.48 per cent in the next one.

The farm sector got only Rs17mn or 0.1 per cent in the total foreign component of Rs23.2bn in the provincial ADP. The share of livestock in agriculture ADP has decreased to Rs0.379bn (26 per cent) this year from Rs0.60bn (44 per cent) in the current year, reducing its share in the total ADP from 0.70 to 0.38 per cent.

Only Rs1197mn of the total agriculture ADP of Rs1355mn could be utilised this fiscal. Viewed in this backdrop, the actual spending on agriculture may be much less than allocations.

Most of the funds are, however, directed to the revenue (salary, office items etc) expenditure with only a portion going to the capital (civil works/construction) side. However, allocation for capital expenditure has increased on some projects. For example, while agriculture and livestock extension were provided Rs25mn and Rs81mn in the outgoing ADP respectively, they have Rs43mn and Rs88mn for civil work in the next ADP.

The 2012-13 ADP focuses on ongoing programmes; the ratio of allocations for ongoing projects and new projects have changed to 70 per cent and 30 per cent respectively from 63 and 37 per cent this year.

Rather than thinly distributing money over several schemes, allocation has been made to fewer schemes. For example, against 37 schemes of agriculture research this fiscal, Rs155mn have been distributed among six schemes in the new ADP. Similarly, against nine schemes in the livestock research this year, there are only four schemes in the next ADP.

But for overall scarcity of funds, the sector has been deprived of several schemes. The project left out include strengthening of model farm services, construction of research station in Buner, block plantation of selected fruit in hills of Hazara and Malaland, rice research, wasteland development and its distribution to landless farmers and agriculture graduates, strengthening of research stations in Mansehra and Peshawar, capacity building of livestock extension staff and introduction of modern milking and processing techniques in southern KP.

Besides these, projects for backyard farming and livestock rearing, value addition of fruits and vegetables and project on micro-
propagation/tissue culture have been neglected.

An official, however, said the ADP had focused on potential sectors for increased productivity and value addition.

“KP has vast edible potential especially in olive oil. We plan to introduce European olive varieties and plant more olive gardens on wastelands. Hopefully the province would produce large quantities of edible oil once these initiatives are implemented,” he said.

“There are also five fisheries projects worth Rs181mn. Model fish farms would be established in Peshawar, Nowshera and Mardan. The flood- devastated trout hatcheries will be rehabilitated and their production capacity enhanced in Swat, Chitral, Dir and Shangla. Also there is a pilot project for conservation of fish resources in Lower Dir,” he added.

“We will also construct check dams in rain-fed areas for water harvesting. Each of these will not only irrigate around 100 acres but also prevent soil erosion and increase fish farming. Another important project based on fermenting technology will use animal wastes for making organic fertiliser,” the official added.

“Besides, watercourses would be lined and improved to reduce water losses. High efficiency irrigation-sprinkle and drip irrigation technologies are to be installed on 2,000 acres to bring barren land under cultivation. Fruit orchards would be set up on 1000 acres to rehabilitate flood-devastated lands. Veterinary dispensaries would be set up to treat about 1.5mn animals.

There would also be projects for livelihood improvement of rural women through livestock farming and conservation of native livestock breeds,” he said.

“Public private partnership on 80:20 per cent cost sharing for government and farmers is being followed in watercourses’ lining, construction of water storage tanks and in maize hybrid seeds production,” the official said.

There was no scheme for easy loan to small farmers but talks continued with the ZTBL and SBP to offer credit schemes where principle amount would be paid by farmers and interest by the government, he said.

The government intends to give grant of Rs500mn to model farm services centres for purchasing modern agriculture machinery and agriculture inputs.

KP to achieve wheat procurement target

KP to achieve wheat procurement target
By Tahir Ali
Dawn 11th June, 2012
http://dawn.com/2012/06/11/kp-to-achieve-wheat-procurement-target/

THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa food department hopes to procure the targeted 0.325 million metric tons of wheat this year. This is in contrast to half the targeted 0.4 million metric tons procured last year.

KP Food Director Anwar Khan said around 85 per cent of the target has been achieved.

“Hopefully the purchase target would be met this year for we made early preparations, arranged/provided enough gunny bags to growers and started the process well in time. Another incentive was the raised official support price to Rs1050/40kg from Rs950/40kg last year,” he said.

The cost of procurement at the rate of Rs26,250 per metric ton works out to Rs8.5bn out of which Rs6.5bn has been provided by Bank of Khyber and Rs1bn each by the First Women Bank and Bank Alfalah at equal lending rates of kibor+2 per cent which is lesser than the rate offered to Punjab and Sindh.

“The banks were selected after open bidding and the food department would reimburse their money after it sells the commodity to millers,” he said.

KP usually misses the wheat procurement target owing to reluctance of farmers to sell their yield meant for domestic consumption, shortage, distant location of procurement centres and lack of storage facilities etc.

“There are too few procurement centres. Most are located in cities far from the village wheat farms. Some districts like Kohistan, Shangla, Swabi, Buner etc. don’t have procurement centres,” said a Peshawar-based farmer Khalil Khan.

Strangely, this year out of the 25 districts of the province only 19 had procurement centres with only 14/15 functional. Swat, Dir Upper and Lower, Buner and the wheat-rich Swabi districts had no procurement centres at all.

When asked, the official said: problem of storages in Buner and Swabi and high transportation costs in Swat and Dir districts made procurement unfeasible. “You can’t buy wheat in Shangla and Kohistan as it would be too costly,” he said.

“It is mind-boggling and depressing that the government didn’t open procurement centres and offer suitable alternatives to growers against the middlemen in the far-flung militancy-hit districts where poverty is more severe,” said Sharif Gul, a Swat farmer.

The official said wheat and flour requirement of the province and the tribal belt was over 4MMT of which around 1.1MMT was locally produced and the rest was purchased from Punjab and provided by Passco to flour mills at subsidised rates. This year Rs2.5bn had been allocated for wheat subsidy in the budget.

“KP has a cumulative storage capacity of 0.335MT which is going to be doubled by 2017 under a farm development strategy prepared by KP to ensure maximum procurement,” the official said.

The meagre storage capacity hinders maximum direct procurement which deprives the province of savings of billions of rupees. Direct procurement could saves around Rs6,000 per ton if it could procure all the 4MMT of its target from the open market.

KP had allocated Rs540mn for construction of eight storage centres this year.

However, this was not enough. KP maintains a wheat stock of around 0.3MT to ward against artificial shortage and price-hike which, according to the official, is sufficient for three months. But the figure seems unrealistic keeping in view the total 4MMT wheat requirements for 12 months.

Against the practice in other provinces, KP rarely hires private godowns to increase its wheat storage capacity.

A farmer Ahmad Khan said the government should increase procurement centres and construct modern silos at tehsil levels, if not at village levels.

Farmers complain of shortage and maldistribution of gunny bags. The official reject the allegations saying gunny bags are given to growers on first-come-first-served basis.

“Gunny bags are given to farmers depending upon the storage capacity and procurement target. Vigilance committees oversee the process. The farmers have to apply to the District Food Controller (DFC) before the harvesting season and deposit the required money in designated accounts. “We had over 2.5mn bags of left-over stock and some were purchased this year. Rest of the wheat was packed in plastic bags or gunny/plastic bags brought by farmers themselves,” he said.

The official also rejected allegation of delay in payment to farmers. “Right after they bring their wheat and it is purchased, they are paid. The price/security money of gunny bags they deposit earlier,” he added.

Farmers complain they are compelled to approach the ‘agents’ in case of delay in assessment or unwarranted rejection of their wheat.

The official, however, said wheat was selected or rejected by a committee headed by the DFC and having the representatives of the agriculture and revenue departments and the DCO. “If there is too much external material or high humidity in the grain bags, it is rejected,” he said.

Habib Khan, a farmer in Mardan, unaware of the increased official price, sold his crop to a private agent at Rs1,100 per 50/kg, much less than the official support price.

“The government should enter into pre-sowing wheat purchase contracts with growers and the procurement target must be increased which would not only save farmers from commission mafia but also help save billions for the province,” Khan said.

Pre-budget 2012-12: Farmers’ expectations

Farmers’ expectations
By Tahir Ali
4th June, 2012
http://dawn.com/2012/06/04/farmers-expectations/

THE enormous food deficit in Khyber Pakthtunkhwa necessitates that agriculture should be at the centre of the provincial development strategy, but, according to indications, there is no move in the coming budget 2012-13 proposals to significantly increase investment in the farming sector.

Traditionally, in the planning process and budget allocations, the fact that a majority of the population of the province directly or indirectly depends on this sector is also not taken in to account.

And this is happening now in spite of the devolved responsibility under the 18th amendment, and financial autonomy given to the province under the 7th NFC Award, raising farmers’ expectations for a better treatment from the KP government.

While officials involved in formulation of annual development plan for agriculture are not revealing anything, there are indications that the budgeted amount for agriculture for fiscal 2012-13 may be very close to last year’s allocation, a little lower or a little higher..

Farmers in KP are seeking direct subsidies on farm inputs to reduce the rising cost of production saying other things are secondary in nature.

“Agriculture is fast becoming unaffordable and unattractive for majority of the farmers, and their meagre income is not enough to invest in modernisation of the farm economy,” said Muhammad Zahir Khan, vice- president of KP Chamber of Agriculture.

He said small and medium farmers are particularly hit by the rising cost of inputs. “The budget must focus on small farmers and ensure efficient marketing system for their produce. In a situation where cost of production has increased manifold, marketing system is flawed and farmers lack price support (getting less than official price), farming ceases to be profitable occupation for many,” he said.

“The farmers need easy loans for buying inputs. Also sufficient funds are needed by researchers to develop new seed varieties to stop import of costly seeds,” he added.

Improved marketing is vital for increasing farmers’ income. Regulated markets ensure good returns for farmers. These function only in two KP districts. The government needs to build cold storages in villages for perishable vegetables/fruits. Grain storage capacity also needs to be
raised. Soil testing laboratories should also be opened in all district and tehsils,” Mr Khan urged.

Murad Ali Khan, president of the Kissan Board KP, said the rising cost of production was resulting in fall of agriculture output. He complained that almost all lands destroyed by the 2010 floods were yet to be rehabilitated despite government promises.

“Till quality seeds are developed locally, high yielding seed varieties must be imported and their easy and timely availability to farmers should be ensured by improving the distribution network. Coordination between farmers and government and inter-departmental liaison should be improved,” said another farmer.

The government needs to invest in water harvesting, water/soil conservation, land development, mechanised farming, hybrid technology, water management and agriculture and livestock research and extension, capacity building of farmers and agriculture scientists. But all these sectors are still a low priority.

According to official sources, KP is faced with a revenue deficit of about Rs25bn because of reduced income both from provincial and different federal receipts while the provincial government is determined to raise perks and allowances of its employees that may further strain its kitty. It would not be surprising if the core provincial ADP may have to be curtailed by about 10-15 per cent next year.

It is feared that the agriculture budget outlay would either be retained at or slashed from the current outlay of Rs1.35bn this fiscal. Top officials, however, are satisfied with the prepared budget proposals.

“We have tried hard to prepare the best possible ADP within the available resources. Projects for research, development of maize hybrid seeds (and their provision to farmers), edible oil, especially olive oil, water courses lining, and efficient irrigation system such as sprinkler irrigation technology are there in the ADP Projects for rehabilitation of flood-ravaged fish hatcheries, development of new fish/trout hatcheries and capacity building of the existing ones has also been included.

Mini dams for water harvesting/conservation in rain-fed areas together with bio-engineering projects are also on the agenda. Besides projects on milk, meat and poultry farming, there are schemes on fermenting technology and food security/capacity building by training farmers in these technology,” said an official.

However, the use of modern laser technology for land levelling and development of miniature engineering machinery that could help cope with the problem of small landholdings, have been traditionally ignored.

Proposals for public/private partnership for setting up agriculture machinery pools at grass root level has not yet been conceived. It is not known whether there is any allocation for reducing loss of irrigation water.

Reclaiming agriculture in Swat

Out in the field
Farmers in Swat need a helping hand to revive their fields and plant new crops
By Tahir Ali

Farmers in Swat — known as the fruit and vegetable paradise of the country — say the potential of the area’s agriculture and its related sectors remain unutilised even after the areas have been cleared by the security forces.

The area is a natural hub of high quality walnut, honey, soybean cultivation, trout fish and seasonal and off-season fruits and vegetables. The government has not focused on the potential sectors the way they should have been.

Swat farmers have not benefited from the resources for lack of money, expertise and marketing linkages, including substandard packaging, absence of value addition and processing plants.

Ihsanullah Khan, a farmer and social activist from Swat, says agriculture in general and the horticulture sector in particular has been made hostage to high prices of agriculture inputs, lack of cold storages and processing facilities, transportation and marketing blues and the use of substandard pesticides and fertiliser that renders export impossible. “The smaller farmers find it difficult to meet their basic needs. They don’t get good returns on their crops. They take advance loans from commission agents and enter into contracts with them for the sale of their fruit earlier. Thus, they are compelled to sell their produce at pre-determined prices which are usually far below the market price at the harvesting seasons. The government needs to help them find new markets for their products by creating linkages and liaison between them and local and multinational companies.”

The Khan adds, “The government and various local and international NGOs have done a commendable work for agriculture uplift in the area. The Italian government has supported the local farmers. The Sarhad Rural Support Programme has formed many community organisations, trained farmers and established link-roads to facilitate transportation of their produce to markets. But I think while there were thousands of NGOs in the early relief and recovery phases, hardly a few are working these days.”

According to Tariq Khan, a farmer from Miandam Swat and the president of a local community organisation, Roshan Saba, agriculture in Swat has been hit by the poverty and illiteracy of local farmers and indifference of the government.

“The people could enormously benefit if the government and NGOs helped the locals plant walnut trees there, establish orchards, provide support and free or subsidised inputs for the potato, peas and red beans crops, construct link roads to far-off villages and improve the capacity of farmers by providing them modern training and help establish cold storages and regulate markets in the area,” he says, adding, “the local farmers need support for mechanised farming for cementing the Katcha water channel, and construction of small dams for harvesting rain water,” he says.

Tariq Khan says his organisation has planted pine trees on 500 acres with the help of watershed project. “We also planted Deodar trees at 60 acres, apple orchards at 20 acres and persimmon trees at 30 acres with the support of Italian funded and Early Recovery of Agriculture and Livelihood Project (ERALP).

With the support of Hujra project, Roshan Saba planted fruit plants in 100 aces. For paucity of funds, we cemented 20 per cent water channels in some but only 5-15 per cent in other areas. The IRC and ERALP also provided with inputs which increased potato yields manifold. In our village, before the intervention, potatoes worth Rs10mn were sold but following it potato worth Rs25mn was sold last year,” he says.

“We would like the NGOs, the government and foreign countries to help revive the agriculture sector to its good days and realise its full potential. We would welcome them. We also request the Italian government not to discontinue the ERALP programme as it has helped us a lot,” he adds.

Another farmer, Izzat Mand, was all praise for ERALP and wanted its continuation as it helped farmers in Swat to increase their incomes through various interventions in agriculture and livestock.

Farmers and residents in the cooler parts of Swat still go without wheat growing as the ordinary wheat seeds can’t mature there and research scientists have so far failed to develop any specific early-maturing and cold-resistant seed for the area.

Swat accounts for around 50 percent of the provincial walnut population but the potential of walnut in the area is far from being utilised for lack of official support, continuous deforestation of the existing trees, non-cultivation of new ones and some ailments.

Shah Abdar, a farmer, says walnut could be the greatest source of income. “There are around 5 big walnut trees in one canal of land. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals (around 6 acres) and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become a millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate. The tree usually grows on mountain ridges and thus won’t impact cereal crops,” he says.

He says there is also a vast potential for growing potato but there is a lack of potato-processing units, one that could produce potato chips.

“Large size and good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat’s potatoes. Average yield per hectare is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively but is around 20MT in Swat. Still, farmers avoid the crop for flawed marketing” he adds.

Before the 2010 floods, Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout fish from its 22 farms, which was mostly consumed locally. Last July’s floods ravaged most of these hatcheries. However, Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority (PaRRSA), with assistance from a USAID project worth $1.2mn, is helping repair these hatcheries.

According to an official whitepaper published last year in June, besides ERALP being implemented by PaRRSA, the USAID is financing several projects worth billions of rupees to help revive and develop agriculture, restore trout fish farms, the honey sector, medicinal and aromatic plants and the agricultural inputs, livestock and poultry tools, etc.

Funding is apparently the main problem. According to the official white-paper, out of total $860mn reconstruction needs for post militancy needs, KP still has no commitments for over $526mn.

As per the white paper, out of the total $1065mn damages in floods, the agriculture and its related sectors received loss of $396mn. For post militancy floods, reconstruction needs requiring $218mn in agriculture sector, the government still requires $217mn as only Italian government had committed $10mn for the agriculture sector.

The USAID, UNDP and several countries like China and the UAE, are providing support in sectors like roads, education, health, housing, etc, worth billions of rupees, it is but lamentable that agriculture has not received the required attention.

A robust crop insurance system and a subsidised easy-credit scheme and financial support for the expansion of agricultural engineering networks in the area, promotion of off season vegetables through ‘tunnel farming’ and training and support for small household businesses are also needed.

Setting priorities for new KP budget

Setting priorities
Expansion in non-productive sectors is creating liabilities for the government and is ultimately leaving little space for other activities
By Tahir Ali

As the drafting of the 2012-13 budget is in final stages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial government has spelled out its budget priorities.

Chief Minister KP, Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, says investment in productive sectors (industries, water and energy, etc,) completion of ongoing schemes, and need-based one-time allocation of funds for new projects would be top priorities in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the coming budget.

Chief Economist of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, planning and development department, Usman Gul, says there would be more emphasis on the improvement of service delivery in both the socio-economic sectors (agriculture, food, R&D, etc,) and social sectors (education and health, etc,).

According to him, most of the ADP projects would boost regional economy, spur economic activities, and bring marginalised districts to the mainstream of development.  In line with the ongoing ADP, he says, ADP would be 35 per cent and the current expenditure 65 per cent of the total budget.

Following landmark increase in KP’s income from 14.78 percent to 16.42 percent under the 7th NFC award and other federal heads that saw provincial income from the sources jumping to Rs223bn last year from Rs133bn in 2009-10, which is projected at over Rs252bn for the ongoing year, the provincial government more than doubled the ADP outlay from Rs39bn in 2009-10 to Rs85bn this year.

But the increase in current expenditure for high pay and pension bill, soaring cost of security and flawed development priorities have left the people mostly deprived of its benefits.

The ADP tries to address as much problems as possible in the limited space and money available. The result is, the people are only made to wait for the trickle-down effect rather than full-blown development initiatives.

According to an official document, the previous ADPs were skewed towards brick and mortar projects, which created public assets, but deprived soft drivers of growth in productive and socio-economic sectors.

Social sectors have consumed a sizeable chunk of the development programme whereas the socio-economic and productive sectors remained low in priorities. Rapid expansion in non-economic sectors is creating massive liabilities for the government and is ultimately leaving little space for other activities,” it reads.

The size of ADP for the current year, for example, was Rs85bn, including foreign assistance of Rs16bn with the share of ADP in budget standing at 35 percent against 65 percent for the current revenue expenditure.

But the productive sectors were allocated only Rs10.8billion, socio-economic Rs21.3bn and the social sectors Rs36.8bn. The allocations for the socio-economic sectors like agriculture don’t match the assertions. For example, even though allocation for the agriculture and its related sectors was increased from Rs1.175bn in the last fiscal to Rs1.355bn this year, its share decreased from 1.70 per cent to 1.59 per cent as percentage to the total ADP outlay.

Increasing current expenditure is the major worry. KP’s salary budget alone has increased from Rs40bn in 2008 to Rs76bn in 2010, mainly for the creation of new posts, increase in salaries and rising rate of retirement. The strength of government employees has risen from 0.3mn to 0.37mn posts between 2006-07 and 2011-12. This leaves little room for investment in productive and socio-economic sectors.

Low utilisation of allocated funds is another problem. For example, by March- this year, an overall 50 percentage utilisation ratio was recorded with productive sectors registering 32 per cent, the socio-economic sectors 62 percent and the social sectors 38 per cent utilisation ratio.

Officials, however, are optimistic that ADP utilisation ratio would be between 80-100 per cent at the year end. Usman Gul claims all the ongoing projects are moving according to plan, adding that almost all the major sectors, especially social and economic ones, have achieved their targets.

KP has prepared a 10-year hydro power generation action plan worth Rs330 billion according to which 24 projects would be initiated in KP to generate 2100 megawatts of electricity. “Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti recently inaugurated the Dral Khawar Power Project in Bahrain, having a capacity of generating 36.6 megawatts. It would be completed within three years at a cost of Rs7 billion”, he says adding, “Work on numerous other energy projects forming part of the present ADP also continues. These will help meet our energy requirement. All these projects are predominantly foreign funded with only 10-20 per cent local component,” he says.

About foreign investment in KP, Mr Gul says donor’s intervention in KP has increased by about 4 times in FY 2011-12 as compared to FY 2008-09. Also, major share -79 per cent- in the foreign aid in 2011-12 is that of grant.

“Likewise, through Foreign aided project ‘Livelihood Development’ the government is trying to reach out to the poor population to create livelihood activity, and work on social safety nets. Livestock, dairy development, seed quality assurance, water for all, maximise food production, and above all mitigate climate change impact on all the sectors remains focus of this project,” he adds.

“Besides, work on the three special area development schemes for the backward districts of Torghar, KalaDhak and Kohistan worth Rs4bn, Rs1.3bn and Rs0.9bn respectively also continues. Along with several other urban development projects, such as construction and remodelling of Southern Bypass at Hayatabad worth Rs3bn and flyover on Rehman Baba and Bacha Khan Chowk Peshawar worth Rs1.8, the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme worth Rs1.5bn also continues in full swing,” he informs.

ADP utilisation ratio has been low due to corruption, terrorism, financial constraints or lack of capacity of the implementing agencies/departments. To a question about whether these and other factors affected the ADP utilisation this year and to what extent, Gul says the aggregate utilisation ratio of previous ADPs usually remained at 50 percent at the end of the 3rd quarter but it increased in the last quarter. “Local ADP utilisation remained very good, except for donor funding and federal pledging for its vertical programmes, which sometime causes delay and, resultantly, ADP utilisation suffers. But we do not anticipate any such issue for the current ADP,” he adds.

However, the economic growth strategy paper prepared by KP, poor infrastructure, low human resource base and skills levels, high insecurity, unreliable supply of utilities — electricity, communication and water — and weak public-private collaboration are hampering the development and entrepreneurial activity of industrial and value added sectors of the economy.

The completion of Chakdara Bridge, connecting Dir with the rest of the country via Malakand in a record time of four months with the help of Pakistan Army shows delay in development projects can be minimised provided coordination with relevant development agencies is improved.

The province needs to focus on sectors like energy and power, water, minerals, industries, labour, transport, agriculture and tourism sectors that could mobilise resources and generate employment.

Against the present practice where non-productive sectors are preferred, 70 per cent additional funds should be provided to productive sectors and 30 per cent to socio-economic sectors. The government should utilise loans only for the productive sectors. It should seek grants from donors for the social sectors and if need be, soft loans for the socio-economic sectors.

 

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