Patwari a shield for big farmers

Patwari a shield for big farmers
By Tahir Ali
Dawn 27th August, 2012

KHYBER Pakhtunkhwa has achieved aggregate target for farm income tax and land revenue set at Rs21 million last fiscal year which is, however, much lower than the sector’s potential.

If one goes by the slabs in the Ordinance 2001, the tax collection turns out to be a paltry sum because of so much non-compliance by the landed gentry.

The share of agriculture income tax (AIT) was just 0.11 per cent in the total provincial own receipts (PORs) of Rs18.91 billion and only 1.5 per cent in the direct taxes of Rs1.4 billion. Tax from AIT is targeted at Rs22mn for the current fiscal.

An official said the income from land tax/AIT dropped because the government, after second thoughts, exempted five acres or less land from land tax and the number of tax payers decreased.

But, the AIT should have gone up in the wake of rising farm incomes owing to increased support prices of wheat and sugarcane and rising cereal and fruit/vegetable prices.

Under the 2001 Ordinance, the AIT is levied on income from ‘cultivated land’ —- the net area sown and the harvest during a tax year, regardless of the number of crops raised, including area under fruit-bearing orchards. It is collected from the owner, mortgagee or lessee or tenant.

Land tax is collected at a fixed rate of Rs72 per acre while exempting 12/5 acres under crops and Rs300/acre for orchards.

Initially there was also no exemption for LT but later five acres or less of agriculture land under crops or orchards were exempted. Of late, this limit has been increased to 12.5 acres.

There are around 28,000 landlords holding over five acres, but only 100 are registered tax payers.

The taxes are collected by the revenue and estate department through patwaris. Small farmers say they have no political clout and have to oblige patwaris while remaining major contributors to the AIT.

“In the absence of any reliable computerised system for the assessment and determination of expected agriculture income each year and the lack of a sound computerised database of all landowners in the province, the AIT collection is left to the discretion
of the dreaded patwari.

He can claim any amount from a small landowner/farmer to extract bribe from him. “The Patwari can damage property record and lodge false complaint against you in revenue court,” said a farmer.

According to growers, there is rampant evasion of taxes and corruption in the system.

“Patwaris lack the power to make the powerful landlords pay the taxes. Once an officer asked a patwari in my presence to visit a landlord and collect the taxes from him. The patwari said he would not go because he may not be able to return as the landlord
had threatened him with detention if he visited him for tax collection.

The fact is big landlords hardly contribute any taxes while small farmers are subjected to unjust taxation,” he said.

“The problem will be there unless land record is computerised with an unquestionable database of landholders, their normal incomes, and a list of persons liable to pay taxes while the discretionary role of the patwari is minimised” he argued.

But a patrwari said, “many farmers are defaulters and our repeated visits and requests to them to clear their dues fall on deaf ears,” he said.

According to a farmer, there is no formula to assess the difference in quality of land, seeds, water and the weather effects.

“The provincial board of revenue needs to provide basic training to revenue officials on computing farm incomes on the basis of returns filed by growers,” he said.

Land revenue receipt, recorded at Rs604 million in 2007, rose to Rs915 million in 2011. It has been targeted at Rs920 million for FY2012-13.

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Peach orchards on the rise in Swat

Peach replacing apple farms in Swat

By Tahir Ali

APPLE orchards in lower Swat, particularly in Matta, are losing space to peach farms, farmers say.

“Peach has become the centre of interest for fruit farmers. While apple trees are intact in upper Swat areas like Kalam, Bahrain etc, these are gradually disappearing in lower parts of the districts,” says Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of Anjuman-i-Tahaffuze Zamindaran wa Kashtkaran, Swat.

“Apple orchards, that require cool climate, have been hit by changes in climate and global warming. The trees are becoming susceptible to diseases and insects and are drying up. With decrease in the number of healthy plants, per tree yield of apple has decreased considerably with less profitability,” he said.

“Apple is losing to peaches for other factors also. A peach tree matures early and starts production in 4-5 years while an apple tree bears fruit in 7-10 years. Again, a peach tree bears fruit regularly every year whereas apple has ample yield every alternate year,” he added.

Both apple and peach trees can produce up to 30-40 crates each of 20 and 10 kg respectively if the trees are healthy. “An acre of apple/peach orchard could fetch its owner up to Rs0.4 million but apple production and profitability is coming down.

Earlier around 50-60 trucks load of apples with around 8-10 tons each used to leave the area for markets, now only 4-6 trucks are marketed. Against this, over 100 trucks loaded with peach now leave the area for markets in Peshawar, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi,” Khan said.

According to another Swat farmer Saeed Alam, peach has eight varieties. “ Top 1-3 varieties fetch good prices as these are ready by May-June. Depending on size and quality of the fruit, these are sold at Rs500-600 per crate. These days, varieties 4-6 are being sold at Rs200-350 per crate. The next two varieties also usually fetch good prices in local and outside markets,” he said.

“The costs of transportation of a truck of fruits to Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi are Rs20,000, Rs40,000 and Rs70,000 respectively. Each truck can take a load of around 800 crates of peach and 400 crates of apples. The total cost per crate including transportation and harvesting, comes to around Rs80 per crate. Thus a crate usually fetches around Rs200-400 for the growers though it is sold at much higher prices by commission agents. Had there been big local markets in the area, the growers would have benefited more,” he added.

Orchards are commonly bought by fruit dealers before the start of the fruiting season. Farmers prefer this deal as they get risk-free cash payments in advance. But in this case, the rates are far less than the market price at the time of harvest.

Pre- and post-harvest losses are estimated at 30-40 per cent on account of windstorm, hailstorm, diseases and outdated harvesting techniques.

“While value-addition can be a thriving business in the area, it is regrettable that there are no processing plants, neither the people have the means to enter into such lucrative business. The government and private investors are needed to set up such plants in the area,” said Khan.

According to a fruit dealer in Mingora, peaches and apples in the past were packed in wooden crates but now these were being packaged in paper cartons. “Paper cartons may be good from environmental point of view but cannot save fruit against rain and sustain weight pressure during transportation. As a result, huge losses are suffered by farmers, he said.

The absence of cold storages in Matta and shortage elsewhere are also a problem, according to Khan. “There was only one peach specific cold storage in Mingora but it has been closed. The other is in the city which can only provide space to fruit dealers for a month. More such cold storages are needed in the area but they cannot be set up because of acute power shortage,” he added.

The period between June and September is the fruit season in Swat. The local fruit industry provides employment to 70 per cent of locals including females in spraying, pruning, packing and transportation at fruit orchards.

In 2007-08 together with Swat, Malakand division accounted for 30 per cent of provincial plums yield, eighty per cent of persimmon, 67 per cent of apricots and over 82 per cent of apple and peach yields.

A farmer said non-governmental-organisations should offer cash grants or soft loans and modern technology with training to farmers for saving their orchards from diseases. “Far-flung areas such as Kabal, Matta and other upper Swat areas need to be given proper attention to augment fruit production,” he said.

Most of the 0.3 million farmers in Swat are small and poor who cannot afford to buy agricultural inputs.

They should be offered agriculture inputs free or at subsidised rates to nurture their fruit plants.

KP expanding seeds processing industry

KP expanding seeds processing industry

A seed processing plant. – Dawn file photo

A seed processing plant. – Dawn file photo

THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agriculture department plans to install several seed processing and treating plants to augment its existing capacity of seeds preparation for various crops.

A senior official of said the department had purchased seed graders, four seed treating plants and three 20kv power generators.

The department has also imported machinery for measuring moisture contents in seeds of different crops.

“The machinery will be provided to the districts where wheat is procured in bulk from registered growers and is used for grading and treating seeds. The graded healthy and cleansed seed will be provided to growers by the provincial seeds industry,” said Ismail Jan, director seeds, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

To a question, the official said the seed grading technology was meant for processing and grading seeds of all crops like maize, rice, oilseeds, pulses and vegetables. Only the sifter was needed to be changed and affixed to the machine for grading different crop seeds, he said.

Bannu, Kohat, Swat, Charsadda, Mansehra and Timergara would get the processing plants while Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Mardan would receive the seed treating plants and generators.

“Peshawar, DIK and Mardan already possess seeds processing plants. The rest of the districts would transport their seeds to one of these plants for the grading of their seeds. This would however entail high transportation costs for the districts and consume a lot of time owing to work pressure and loadshedding.”

“Local processing plants in more districts along with generators would help prepare bulk seeds, save time, reduce transportation cost and make quality seeds available to the department for timely onward distribution to growers,” he added.

The DIK plant produced bulk of wheat seeds and majority of registered growers, who produce certified seeds for grading purposes, were located there. It used to process over 2,000 metric tons of wheat seeds.

According to the official, how economical this new technology would be is evident from the fact that last year the government had spent around Rs7.3mn on wheat transportation to distant seed processing plants. “Now the department has purchased processing plants with the same amount. The technology will recover its cost in one year and would help save millions in the years to come,” he added.

Even after setting up these seeds processing plants, only nine of the 25 districts in KP will have the seed grading plants and the rest would depend on them for these facilities.

When asked why the technology was not provided to the remaining districts like Abbotabad, Nowshera, Karak, Laki Marwat etc, the official attributed it to meagre funds. “The plant in Mansehra would process seeds from the adjoining districts of Abbotabad, Haripur etc and the plant at Kohat or Bannu would grade seeds for Karak and Laki Marwat,” he said.

According to the official, the KP seeds industry in the past used to treat the seeds to guard against diseases, pests and weeds but then the process was stopped. With the new seed treating plants, the department has once again entered in the era of seed treatment. This would produce hygienic seeds, he said.

The official said the seed industry had procured around 5,000 metric tons of certified seeds from growers this year which would produce around 4000 metric tons of graded seeds after processing. The seed is kept for one year in stocks and then sold to growers on discount through district offices of the agriculture departments.

The cultivable land in the province needs around 8,000 metric tons of certified wheat seeds. The KP seeds industry produces 5,000 tons and the rest is produced by the private sector or purchased by the department from Punjab.

On a question that the department had claimed producing over 9,000 metric tons of certified seeds, how it had come down, the official said the province could produce even more but there were problems. “Lack of sufficient funds and storage facilities are the major handicaps, ” he said.

Growers say the seed research farms in the province have developed high yielding varieties of wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their on time and easy availability has always remained a problem.

“The government has failed to streamline seed distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on the substandard seeds in the market. When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available, farmers generally use substandard seeds which results in rampant low per acre yield,” said a grower Aslam Khan.

State of farming in Swat

State of farming in Swat

SWAT’S agricultural potential still remains unutilised for want of supporting infrastructure facilities.

Agriculture in general and the horticulture sector in particular has been hit by the high prices of agriculture inputs, lack of cold storages and food processing facilities.

Enormous crop yield losses, transportation as well as marketing blues and use of substandard pesticides/ fertiliser perpetuate subsistence farming and poverty in the area.

Most farmers, especially small ones, take advance loans from commission agents and enter into contracts with them before season. They have to sell their produce at pre-determined prices which are usually far lower than the market price at the harvesting stage.

The government needs to help growers find new markets by creating linkages and liaison between them and the local and multinational companies,” says Ihsanullah Khan, a farmer and social activist from Swat.

Swat is the natural hub of quality walnut, honey, soybean, delicious trout, and of both seasonal and off-season fruits and vegetables and a strong plant nursery production that ranks third in the country. But the government has not focused on these potential sectors, and the farmers remain deprived for lack of money, expertise and marketing linkages, substandard packaging, absence of value addition and processing plants.

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

Swat accounts for around 50 per cent of the KP’s walnut population but the lack of official support and continuous deforestation without fresh re-plantation, have badly affected the area.

“A family with 50 canals of land can grow around 250 walnut trees on its sides. And even if per tree yield is just 50kg, it would earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate. The tree usually grows on mountain ridges and thus won’t impact on cereal crops,” said a farmer.

There is also vast potential for potato but lack of potato processing units that could produce potato chips or frozen French fries, is amazing, he says.

Large size, good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat potato. Average yield per hectare which is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively, is around 20MT in Swat, but farmers avoid the crop for flawed marketing. Before the 2010 floods, Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout in its 22 fish farms that was mostly consumed locally. Last July’s floods ravaged most of these hatcheries.

However, the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority with the assistance of a USAID project worth $1.2 million is repairing these hatcheries.

The local farmers also need a robust crop insurance system, a subsidised easy-credit scheme, financial support for the expansion of agriculture extension and farm engineering networks in the area, promotion of off season vegetables through ‘tunnel farming’ and training and support for small household businesses-fruit drying, production of fruit jams and fruit juices and women-centred livestock projects.

 

Tussle over tobacco pricing

Tussle over tobacco pricing

THE two-member committee set up by the federal ministry of food security and research to look into tobacco prices, assess its present cost of production and recommend new rates if necessary, has presented its report.

But with the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) terming the exercise  unauthorised, tobacco companies resisting increase in minimum price (MP), the federal ministry of commerce has yet to decide whether to approve a new rate or retain the earlier minimum price. And with the tobacco purchase season to start early in July, tobacco growers are losing hope and patience.

They have filed suits in the court, are planning agitation, and intend to besiege tobacco purchase centres if the recommendations of the committee are not implemented before the start of the purchasing season.

The committee, led by Dr Muhammad Sharif, DG National Agriculture Research Council, formed after the growers had rejected the PTB committee report on tobacco’s cost of production (CoP) and MP and demanded increasing the price to Rs200/kg citing the skyrocketing prices of inputs. The committee also ruled against the PTB’s cost of production report while assessing it at Rs159.5/kg and suggested raising tobacco MP to Rs183.4/kg from Rs117/kg, earlier recommended by the PTB for the year 2012-13.

Later, Federal Crop Commissioner Dr Muahmmad Aslam Gil, who had also signed/notified the earlier PTB’s committee report, signed the Sharif report and notified the new CoP and price.

The growers welcomed the decision but the tobacco companies and the PTB questioned the report and its recommendations, though on separate grounds.

Abbas Khan Afridi, Minister of State for MoC, convened a meeting of all stakeholders on June 18 to discuss the issue but it remained inconclusive as growers and tobacco companies stuck to their stands. Mr Afridi then decided to talk to stakeholders separately to reach consensus decision on tobacco CoP and prices.

The PTB opposed the Sharif committee COP assessment exercise as unauthorised. “The assessment of tobacco COP and fixation of MP is the sole prerogative of the PTB under the PTB Ordinance 1968 and the MLO 487.

These have already been announced by a recognised/notified committee comprising representatives of tobacco growers, PTB members, representatives of Agriculture Policy Institute and national and multinational companies and PTB officials,” said an official of the PTB on condition of anonymity.

When asked, the official said the MoC would handle and decide the issue of new tobacco price ultimately as it was authorised under the law but he said that as Dr Aslam had also notified the new and earlier price, one wondered which one of his orders would be implemented.

“The growers are emotional, they should have approached the PTB, which is the relevant forum and should have pointed out any flaws/mistakes in the process of COP assessment and calculation by the PTB notified committee. All the members of the committee would have satisfied them on oath that no irregularity whatsoever had been committed in the process,” added the official.

Farmers allege the PTB is hands in glove with powerful tobacco companies and is not safeguarding the interests of growers. The official, however, rejected the allegation and said the PTB had safeguarded the interest of growers but it was also duty bound to take care of the interests of other stakeholders –the tobacco companies and dealers.

“The PTB is an organisation which is widely criticised by all for nothing,” he said. The approval of new price could lead to another situation. “What if the tobacco companies decide tomorrow not to purchase tobacco from growers? Can they be forced to buy it,” the official asked.

A grower responded by saying tobacco companies would necessarily purchase the crop directly or indirectly through middlemen as they have done in the past.

Liaqat Yousafzai, the Kashtkar Coordination Council general secretary, said the MoC meeting on June 18 remained inconclusive as the PTB and tobacco companies, especially the multinational ones, resisted approval of the new price.

“However, in case tobacco companies started purchasing tobacco before the approval of the new price, they won’t allow that.
We would besiege the purchase centres until our demands are accepted. We have challenged the delay in approval of CoP and the price recommended by the Sharif committee through two petitions in the Peshawar High Court. We are also forming a farmers’ volunteer movement in Swabi for a long struggle and have so far enlisted 500 farmers’ volunteers. We are also mobilising political support,” he said.

“Growers have every right to be paid a price considering its prices last year, inflation and global tobacco price trends and increases in prices of other crops and agriculture inputs and our profit margin,” he added.

Around 80,000 families in KP are depend on tobacco production and tobacco-companies buy around 85 million kg of tobacco from growers in KP. At Rs104/kg price last year, the rural economy of the militancy-hit KP is estimated to have pocketed revenues of around Rs12 billion which may go up to Rs18bn this year if the new price is implemented.

However, according to industry, any big raise in price will render the local cigarettes uncompetitive; encourage cheaper illegal foreign brands and lead tax to evasion This will ultimately hit the farmers as foreign brands will crowd out the local products.

Farmers say tobacco production could be increased to 300mn/kg annually and KP could earn billions more if export of tobacco is allowed from the province, and growers are encouraged through subsidised inputs, soft loans and crop insurance facilities.

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.

Farm mechanisation a low priority in KP

Farm mechanisation a low priority in KP
By Tahir Ali
 28th May, 2012

ACCORDING to the agriculture engineering department, issues in mechanisation of farm sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa range from small land holdings, meagre budget allocations, low funds utilisation to shortage of machinery pool and required services.

“The major hurdle in farm mechanisation is the lack of coordination among farmers and the private sector together with poverty and ignorance of farmers, says Sardar Alam, a farmer from Swat.

An official said though Rs60 million and Rs104 million were budgeted for the ongoing and new schemes respectively in the current fsical year, much of the funds remained unutilised for one reason or the other.

“The department is still using the 22-year-old machinery that needs to be replaced immediately. For this, sufficient funds are needed. But the KP government has limited resources to cope with the situation,” the official said.

“With scarce financial allocations, no worthwhile technology can be promoted. Beside, high priced agriculture machinery is unaffordable for the farmers.”

On the strength of staff, he said, there were 1500 officials a decade ago. Since then, particularly after the 18th amendment, the number was reduced. Different offices and posts were abolished and the staff was sent to surplus pool.

“There are seven machinery centres in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, one each at divisional level. However, most of the 25 districts in the province do not have any such facility. The outdated machinery has not been replaced since 1992. The federal government had promised in 2009 to provide 100 bulldozers to the province, but the promise was not fulfilled,” the official said.

At present, only 20 per cent farmers can afford to use modern machinery in cultivation and harvesting of crops. However, Mr Shafiq, director AED, said the situation was improving gradually as a number of schemes were being incorporated in the budget every year.

He said the current year’s ADP had several ongoing and new schemes for improving mechanised farming in the province. “Amongst the ongoing schemes (2009-12), installation of 500 dug wells worth Rs150 million in areas facing water scarcity continues and would hopefully be completed by the end of the next financial year. Another project (2009-12) worth Rs100 million for land development of small farmers is in progress,” he added.

However, according to the ADP document, only Rs5.5 million could be utilised by end of June last year, and only Rs10 million has been allocated for land development scheme this year.

“A sum of Rs298 million has been provided for procurement of 25 bulldozers for land reclamation for which tender has been floated recently. It is hoped that purchase of bulldozers would materialise in the next fiscal year.

These machines would help reclaim10,000 hectares annually. The government would also install three power winches with ancillary equipment for installation of tube-wells. Besides, funds had also been allocated for the construction of agriculture engineering workshop in Mardan, he said.

However, the ADP document explains that Rs90 million out of the total fund of Rs567 million has been allocated for bulldozers which too could not be utilised. The tenders issued earlier this month means that the scheme would be carried forwarded to next financial year.

The AED provides earth moving machinery to farmers for reclamation of cultivable wasteland and addition of cultivable land to enhance agricultural produce. It also helps exploit the surface and sub-surface water resources for irrigation by use of machinery. It offers free of cost counselling services on farm mechanisation and related problems. The government also uses its machinery in case of calamities like earthquake and floods.

“The provincial government should procure agricultural machinery and provide it to the farming community on subsidised rates across the province. For this purpose, it will have to set up machinery pools in the district and at tehsil levels with transparent monitoring mechanism, says a farmer Zahir Khan from Peshawar.

“These machinery pools could be set up on the basis of public-private partnership and extended at grass root level to villages. These machinery pools have long been promised by the government but not delivered,” he adds.

Sluggish wheat harvesting in KP

Issues in wheat harvesting
By Tahir Ali

http://dawn.com/2012/05/21/issues-in-wheat-harvesting/

THE unusually cold, rainy/cloudy and windy weather in April and May in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has delayed wheat harvesting in various stages across parts of the province.

The harvesting process has been completed in KP’s hot southern climatic zone (Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat etc.,) last month and continues in the central zone (Peshawar, Charsadda and Mardan etc.). The crop in the northern zone (Swat, Dir etc) will mature later, farmers say.

According to Sahibzaman and Abdul Jabbar, farmers from Swat, and Nasir Khan, a farmer from Dir, wheat crop will be ready for harvesting in a fortnight in lower Swat and Dir areas but in upper/cooler parts of the districts will be ripe by end of next month where harvesting and threshing usually last till July.

Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary Chamber of Agriculture KP, said wheat harvesting in central zone would be over within a week or so.
“Harvesting in the area is usually completed by the end of April but this year the cold weather delayed maturity. The farmers also feared that the harvested crop lying in the fields for threshing, may get damaged in case it rains. The manual reaping of the crop takes a lot of time,” he said.

Mr Khan recalled that gone are the days when farmers would reap their crops through Ashar –where farmers would help
each other in harvesting and threshing.

“Farmers in KP now mostly get their crop harvested through labourers. The labourers and farmers share the crop in different ratios. In Peshawar, for example, labourers get 1/10th of the produce as remuneration. In other areas, they are hired on daily wages ranging between Rs250-300 plus meals and stay,” said Khan.

An official of the KP agriculture ministry said government farms and big private farms hired reaper machines for harvesting but it was predominantly done by hands.

“Small landholdings, poverty and illiteracy of farmers in KP have rendered mechanised harvesting difficult and farmers either reap the crop themselves or hire labourers. But the shortage of trained harvesters is adding to their woes,” he said.

Mechanical harvesting is faster and reduces post-harvest losses by a great margin, said the official.

“A farmer with five acres hires labour for manual crop cutting, which costs him 13-14 maunds (over Rs18,000 at the rate of Rs1312/50kg) and takes 7-10 days. And if he goes for mechanised harvesting, it will take him 10 hours and cost him only around Rs10,000 (at the maximum rate of Rs1,000 per hour rent of the harvesting machine),” he argued.

According to farmers, labourers work in groups, visit the fields or hujrah of farmers and make deals with them. These harvesters usually are known in the area and can be contacted on cell phones.

Women harvesters are usually paid less than their male counterparts. A farmer Safdar Ali said a woman in his village single-handedly reaped his crop over five jarib at1/10 the share of the yield

Land under wheat cultivation increased from 0.724 million hectares last year to 0.758mh this year but continuing drought in the province in the critical period of grain formation, especially in the southern zone, hit the crop badly.

Farmers from DIK, Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi say the wheat crop in irrigated lands is healthy but over 50 per cent of the crop in rain-fed areas, that forms 55 per cent of the total wheat acreage in KP, has been lost.

Sabz Ali Shah, a farmer in Mardan, said his five jarib (2.5 acres) of non-irrigated land could produce only 12 maunds of wheat against the output of 60-80 maunds in previous years.

Another farmer Gul Raj Akbar said eight wheat harvesters took two days to cut his crop on six canals at the rate of 1.3 maund/jarib. “The yield was 25 maunds of which the labourers got around two maunds (100kg). Divide this amongst eight labourers and each got only six kg a day. Is it justified for the hard work they do,” he asked.

A farmer Manzur Haider, however, said, five labourers reaped his crop at 10 jarib (five acres) in less than three days and got 14 maunds in return at the rate of 1.4 maunds per jarib harvested.

“More than the lack of rain, the sale and use of substandard DAP has also damaged the crop. And while the prices of DAP and urea have more than doubled in the last two years, wheat support price has been marginally increased from Rs950 to Rs1050 per 40kg,” he added.

Mr Zaman said Swat crop would have been even larger had better seeds been provided to growers and lands hit by floods reclaimed by provincial authority.

On affordable and accessible agriculture credit

A small beginning
Banks must simplify and re-structure their lending mechanism
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2011-weekly/nos-04-12-2011/pol1.htm#3

Financial help of farmers is necessary for the modernisation of farming and farmers’ prosperity. But small farmers who, according to some estimates, constitute 85 percent of the total 6.6 million farmers in the country, have negligible share in the agriculture credit disbursed in the country in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular. Those residing in the far-flung hilly and tribal areas are particularly affected by it.

Financial exclusion of the small farmers who have little resources to approach the research and extension systems, coupled with their illiteracy and poverty, keep away from commercial farming and expose themselves to low productivity, eventually adding to severe financial hardships.

They, in turn, have to rely on informal sector for their credit needs offered at higher rates, leaving them in a vicious debt-cycle and poverty trap.

Acknowledging that agricultural credit disbursement was worse in KP, the SBP launched some agriculture-credit schemes as part of its financial inclusion programme for KP but credit disbursement ratio couldn’t improve.

Countrywide, less than 2 million farmers of the total 6.6 million, get agriculture credit facility. The situation in KP, which accounts for less than 4 percent of the national agriculture credit disbursement and where over 90 percent are characterised as small farmers, is particularly dismal. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounted for Rs 7.9bn or only 3.4 percent of the total agriculture credit of Rs233bn in 2009. Only six percent of farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have access to agriculture credit against 21 percent for the country.

Various easy credit schemes, support price mechanism and subsidy regimes in the past were designed for small and medium scale farmers, but they scarcely benefited from the schemes and big landlords were the main beneficiaries.

One of the main reasons of small farmers’ financial exclusion is their inability to be bankable — to be able to provide collateral (the explicit or implicit guarantee against the possible risk associated with the loan) to banks as most of them are tenants, who don’t have any property registered in their names or own land below the required level.

Plenty of these farmers, especially those in villages, are also influenced and kept from applying for credit by the Riba-element, a necessary part of credit but avoided by most on religious grounds.

Small farmers have been practically neglected in the existing provincial agriculture policy developed in 2005. The policy has, however, yet to be updated to focus them despite several announcements.

As per the prudential regulations for agriculture financing, banks are required to ensure disbursement of working capital/short term loans within seven days but it is usually delayed. “The entire formalities for any agriculture loan require lengthy documentation and procedure and take around two to four months to get the loan,” says a bank manager on condition of anonymity, when asked about the process of loan delivery.

“Small farmers should be given loans on personal guarantee. Group-based credit schemes are being followed by small banks but needs to be taken up by the main private banks as well to improve credit disbursement ratio in the country. Crop and life insurance is the best way to decrease the risk of farming community against losses and of banks against non-repayment,” he adds.

Some farmers hold the banks responsible for low agriculture credit in the province. “The banks are risk-averse. They avoid lending loans to farmers for fear of default. Much has been said of the one-window operation but no bank as yet has come out with a fast track mechanism for credit disbursement. The banks must simplify and re-structure their agriculture lending mechanism and mobile credit officers should reach farmers at their doorsteps to boost credit delivery,” says Shahid Khan, a farmer in Mardan.

Last year, the KP government revived the erstwhile cooperative bank and promised to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers from the bank but practically just Rs200mn were released. This year too, Rs400mn will be released. How can credit ratio be improved with this? 

Under agricultural loans scheme through the passbook system, banks are bound to allocate 70 percent of their loans to subsistence farmers but whether the law is followed is not clear.

In group-based lending, developed by the SBP, small farmer groups are formed by the lenders involving 5-10 members having identical needs and registered with the former. Collateral is generally not used and is replaced by personal guarantee —-a joint liability agreement/undertaking — takes its place wherein each member takes the responsibility of the outstanding debt of all group members. In case of any change in the group, a fresh guarantee would be signed by the members.

A group coordinator acts as facilitator of the group and agent of the bank. The bank ensure that group coordinator is executing the assigned tasks as prescribed like liaison with members, arrangement of meetings, etc, and if need be replace him, with the consensus of the group, in case he fails to deliver. Group members ensure that the bank receives timely repayments from individual borrower/group members. But if a borrower dies, liability lies to remaining group members. However life insurance is urged to safeguard the interests of both the borrowers and lenders.

Everyone who owns or is a tenant or lessee over up to12.5 acres of land or have more than 40 sheep, has computerised national identity card, residence in the village and membership in the village organisation, is eligible for crop or non-crop loans in the scheme. 

Though globally 12.5 acres of land is the threshold of subsistence farming but in Pakistan one having that much land is considered a rich person given the phenomenon of small land holding in the country. According to an estimate, cultivated land per person in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stands at just at 0.2 acres. The benchmark needs to be brought down for bank credit if small farmers are to be benefited.

Repayment schedule for farm loans may be set as per production cycle of crops and for non-crop activities, like livestock farm establishment, it should be three to five years.

 

https://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com 


KP farmers for review of tobacco prices

Review of tobacco prices

By Tahir Ali

TOBACCO growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hope to get a ‘fair’ support price for their crop following a positive response from both the federal and provincial governments to their call for a review of an earlier decision of the Pakistan Tobacco Board in this regard.

First, it was the KP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti who recently had called a special meeting of all stakeholders — tobacco growers, dealers, companies and the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) — to resolve the grievances of farmers about
the support price for their crop.

And now, following legal action and agitation by the growers, a high-powered committee sent by the federal government is talking to them to asses the cost of production (CoP) of the crop that earns billions for the federal government.

Farmers said Federal Minister for Food Security and Research Israrullah Khan Zehri had sent the committee headed by Director-General National Agriculture Research Council Dr Muhammad Sharif to suggest a new support price for tobacco, if needed.

The committee was given a warm welcome by tobacco growers in Swabi. “ It met and interviewed tobacco growers here and would do the same in Mardan, Charsadda and Mansehra,” a farmer said.

“We hope the committee will assess the actual cost of production and recommend a fair tobacco support price and the federal ministry of commerce will notify the new price for this season,” said Liaqat Yousafzai, general secretary of the Kashtkar Coordination Council.

When contacted, Dr Sharif said the CoP assessment process would continue for 10 days in various tobacco-growing districts and views of growers would be sought.

“The terms of reference of our committee are to assess the actual per kg cost of production and identify factors for stated low tobacco support price. Later on the basis of the data collected and empirical evidence, the committee would present its
findings and recommendations to the federal government,” he said.

Mr Sharif said “farmers have told us that CoP for tobacco has increased while they are receiving very low support price. We are collecting data. It will be analysed and hopefully the committee will put forward its report to the chairman Pakistan
Agriculture Research Council after six days.”

The committee doesn’t intend to take views of national and multinational tobacco companies and tobacco dealers on the CoP. But, according to a source, tobacco companies also plan to prepare a counter-report which they will present to the
government.

Mr Yousafzai said farmers in Swabi had informed the committee members that while their average CoP was around Rs240/kg, the PTB had fixed the minimum price at Rs117/kg. “We want to be paid as per the CoP and the minimum price must be fixed taking into account the increase in the minimum and weighted average prices last year, rate of inflation, global tobacco prices, surge in prices of other crops and raw materials and our profit margin,” he said.

Four months ago, the PTB had fixed minimum price of tobacco at Rs117/kg but the growers had rejected it. Later they challenged it in the Peshawar High Court and also started agitation against it.

Asked why the earlier price should be revised, Mr Yousafzai said it had to be. “The Rs117/kg price is very low, unrealistic and illegal as it was announced when the PTB had neither a chairman nor sufficient members, which was a mandatory legal
requirement. The last PTB Chairman had retired one and a half years ago and since then the board was run by its secretary.

We had challenged the lacuna in the court and its decision has come. This is why the committee was sent,” Mr Yousafzai added.

“The PTB is the root cause of all of farmers’ woes. It’s an open secret that some PTB officials have formed tobacco companies. They make sure that tobacco prices are fixed to benefit them. The committee report, we are hopeful, would expose the mutual connections between tobacco companies and some PTB officials,” he added.

Another farmer from Swabi alleged that “some PTB and commerce ministry officials own unregistered tobacco firms and were conniving with the powerful tobacco companies against growers.”

A farmer from Mardan complained that now 29 members have been appointed in the PTB on political basis mostly from Sindh.

Mr Yousafzai, who is also a member of the KP Chief Minister’s committee on tobacco, says “the committee has recommended disbandment of the PTB, awarding crop status to tobacco, and handing over it to the province after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.”

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly in December 2010 had, through a resolution, resented the alleged exploitation of growers by tobacco companies.

Increasing walnuts production in Malakand

………plantation………………
Growing nuts
There is a great potential for planting walnut trees in Malakand and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2011-weekly/nos-25-12-2011/pol1.htm#5

The Malakand Division, according to one estimate, accounts for roughly 95 percent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s walnut yield. Walnut of different sizes, quality, and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or its flesh taken out and packed, and is sold in the market. What is being done to increase the yield of dry fruits after the militancy days are over?

In Dir, these days per kilogramme prices of different qualities of walnuts range between Rs100-250 for whole and Rs400-700 for walnut flesh, of pistachio between Rs600-800, of almond Rs150-400 and chilghoza being the costliest of all with Rs1400, according to Saeedur Rehman, a dry fruit dealer in Dir.

Rehman says chilghoza (pine-nut) prices have surged to over Rs70,000 per 50kg (Rs1400) in the whole sale market and it may be sold around for Rs1500-1800 in the open market after adding the transportation charges, dealers’ commission, shopkeepers’ profit and imposition of various taxes.”

Contrary to the general impression, he says, militancy hadn’t badly impacted on the dry fruit production and businesses and opined that prices have come down as compared to last year.

“Prices of whole walnut were around Rs13-14000-50kg last year but this year these have come down to Rs11-12000. It is because there was bumper production this year. While we still have last year’s stock, the produce for this year has arrived in the market.” He believes, “There is no hope for the price-surge as the market is sluggish at the moment. The government needs to make arrangements for purchasing and exporting the commodity. I am sure the country would earn a lot of money in the global dry fruit market by exporting this quality commodity.”

He says, “The price of walnut, a Dir speciality, ranges between Rs5000-12000 per 50kg while that of its pure flesh ranges between Rs22000-35000-50kg. Walnut from Barawal and Bamboret are liked for their big size and taste. The brighter the fleshy part, the higher the price. And the cooler the area where it is produced, the better the taste and quality of the walnut,” he adds.

The sale of the walnut flesh fetches more income for the dealers. That is why people in Dir, rather than selling standing walnut trees or the whole fruit with cover, have started taking out its flesh and packing and selling it. A 50kg sac of whole walnut produces around 22-25kg pure fruit which fetches around Rs22000-35000 in the market, much higher than the whole fruit prices.

The importance of the walnuts cannot be overstated. Dry fruits and winters go hand in hand. While watching movies, reading books or newspapers or partying with friends, dry fruits help warm the body. Dry fruit are not only health-friendly but are also taken as gifts to friends and officials in beautiful packing. But skyrocketing prices are making them an unaffordable luxury for the majority.

Hundreds of tonnes of walnut, pine-nut and other dry fruit are produced in Dir and surrounding districts. Barawal, Dir Kohistan and Garam Chashma, Bamboret and Bony valleys in Chitral produce the best walnut and pine nut. The walnut from Nooristan Afghanistan also reaches the local market.” Experts say walnut helps improve memory, is useful for treating stomach, liver and kidney diseases, for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. It helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes and supports immune system.

Lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, and non-cultivation of new ones have badly affected the produce.

The government should provide technical advice and support to grow more walnut trees as these are depleting and about 90 per cent of the potential in the area is yet to be utilised.

Rehman was particularly unhappy over cutting walnut trees for getting “dandansa”. “The problem is for dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best.

Shah Abdar, a Swat-based grower of walnut, says hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat, adding that the potential of walnut in the area is not being explored.

Swat is the ideal place for walnut. It usually grows on mountain ridges, in the gorges and river-banks and thus doesn’t impact the already less cultivable land. Walnut could be the greatest source of income for the area people. But despite being the main asset along with fruit, vegetable and livestock, the number of walnut trees has been on the decline and only about 5 to 10 percent of the area in Swat suitable for walnut is utilised..

“The reason for this is absence of personal ownership. The trees so cultivated are often destroyed by the people as there is no sufficient care and security for them. The government and non-governmental organisations need to provide expert advice, walnut plantlets /seeds, and insecticides to farmers to grow more trees. It is only then that the problem will be solved once and for all. In the hope of huge returns, they will do whatever is possible to keep it safe and healthy,” Shah argues.

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty, militancy, and floods-stricken farmers. “Around 5 big walnut trees grow in one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become 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.”

“Though main roads in the area have been repaired to some extent, the link roads to far flung areas are still inaccessible. It leaves the poor people with no choice but to sell their standing walnut trees to dealers on meagre prices, thus incurring losses,” according to him.

Untapped potential of dry fruityield and export

trade
Nuts case Dry fruits
processing, value-addition and exports can earn billions in foreign exchange
By Tahir Ali

Pakistan produces abundant quality dry fruits like almonds, figs, pistachio, walnuts, pine nuts, dates, raisins, dry apricots and peanuts. But its dry fruits exports have been far less for lack of standardised packaging, grading and value-addition and some other policy constraints.

Mechanised grading and packaging has started but, for lack of cool chain system, an estimated 30-50 per cent of the total fruit production is still lost during harvesting, transportation, preservation and storage. Total annual loss of dry fruits in term of rupees is estimated at Rs60 billion.

Dry fruits exports in the last five years, according to Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, were 505,124 metric tonnes. Total dry fruits exported were 81,387 MT in 2005-06 which rose to 99,936MT next year but then dropped to 92,082MT in 2007-08. These, however, rose to 110,885MT in 2008-09 and then to 120,834 the next year.

“The government has taken numerous steps to increase dry fruit exports by encouraging the private sector to develop dry fruits processing units in northern areas of Pakistan, developing of solar processing units, initiating projects for processing and drying of dates in Turbat, Khairpur and DI Khan and sending delegations of exporters to international food fares and exhibitions and potential markets of food items,” he had told the Senate in May last year.

Under the medium term development framework, Pakistan targeted fruit exports of $238 million in 2010 and it reached up to $290 million. These can be increased even further.

But absence of farm-to-market roads, outdated post-harvest techniques for unskilled labour, poverty and ignorance of producers, non-market oriented production, and lack of quality certifications are making it difficult to improve the quality and quantity of exports.

An integrated ‘Cool Chain System’ project worth over Rs13 billion, being envisioned under the national trade corridor improvement programme that aims at 10 per cent reduction in post-harvest losses, is likely to save Rs6 billion annually. But any export development initiative will not bear any fruit unless linkages of stakeholders with international markets are established and close collaboration between the public and private sectors are ensured.

Negligence of the government to tap the real potential of this treasure of Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that out of dozens of projects of the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC), which are either in operation, near execution or being considered for launching, not a single one is meant for the dry fruit development in the country.

Pakistan’s fruit production is mostly organic and, therefore, acceptable to the world. But non-compliance to the international standards and inability of Pakistan’s 58 trade missions in 43 countries worldwide that are supposed to work for promoting Pakistani exports in close collaboration with trade development authority (TDAP) and PHDEC appear to have restricted its exports and appeal for international consumers.

Dry fruit development also could not find any place in the 12 projects the TDAP intends to launch for improvement of different fruits in the country. Dry fruits such as fig, raisin, pistachio, dry apricot and pine nuts etc face insect infestation at some stage of their storage and transportation. Food Irradiation Technology (FIT) not only saves them from insect infestation but also increases their shelf life. FIT also helps dry fruit exporters meet international quarantine requirements.

Though the federal government had granted approval for the technology in 1996, FIT could not deliver optimum benefits for lack of irradiation facilities in the country.

Pakistan’s fruit exports will get a fillip once its products are produced and prepared in compliance with certain export-related certifications such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), Global Good Agriculture Practices (GGAP), British Retailer’s Consortium (BRC), Monitoring of Maximum Residues Limits (MRL) and Fair-trade Labelling Organisations (FLO).

With the world becoming increasingly sensitive to food quality issues, Pakistan’s fresh fruit export industry will have to ensure compliance with international standards and certification mainly focused on food safety, traceability, residues of different agrochemicals, lack of good agricultural practices, reduction of post-harvest diseases and pests and issues pertaining to safety of food packaging materials.

The TDAP and PHDEC should open its regional liaison offices in the dry fruit specific KP, federally/provincial administered tribal and northern areas. The government also needs to open common facility centres, dry fruit collection points, processing plants, product testing laboratories and guidance and counselling centres in the production areas.

There is, regrettably, not a single mention of dry fruit in the current KP’s horticulture policy 2009 as if dry fruits are not part of the sector and as if not produced in the province. Coordination between the TDAP and PHDEC and the Chambers of Agriculture and Chambers of Commerce and Industry should also be improved. The facilitation division in the TDAP needs to have closer cooperation with exporters. A few training institutes for dry fruit productivity/quality enhancement with funding from the export development fund also need to be established.

Cold weather and black marketing by dealers leads to increase in prices of dry fruits as winter comes. Per kilogramme prices of different qualities of walnuts at present are between Rs120-350 for whole and Rs400-1000 for its kernel, of pistachio between Rs600-1500, of almond Rs150-500 and its kernel at Rs400-900, of fig Rs300-600, dry dates Rs100-250, peanut Rs 160-180 and of chilghoza Rs1500-2400 in the open market in different parts of the country.

Despite extensive search and contacts, the exact figure of countrywide production of dry fruits could not be ascertained. Based on an average consumption of dry fruits at nominal one kilogramme per person per month, total annual consumption comes to 2040 million kgs or 2 million metric tonnes.

However, Siraj Muhammad, Deputy Director Information of the Agriculture Ministry Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, says the province produced 13000 tonnes of walnuts, 11500 tonnes of dates, 19000 tonnes of apricot and 25000 tonnes of other dry fruits. Pine nut is Pakistan’s characteristic dry fruit. Several parts of KP, Balochistan, federally-administered tribal and northern areas have plenty of pine trees which could be further increased.

According to an estimate, the total production of pine nut in the country is estimated at 21,000 tonnes. With the current price of Rs70,000 per 50kg (Rs1.75mn per tonne) in the wholesale market, the production is worth over Rs36 billion per year. It could earn plenty of foreign exchange for the country provided the commodity is produced on mass commercial scale.

Walnut production is around 20,000 tonnes per year — mostly produced in KP and Azad Kashmir. With a price of Rs12000 per 50kg (Rs0.3mn per tonne), walnut’s total income is Rs6 billion. That could increase to hundreds of billions of rupees as, according to locals from Malakand division, over 90 per cent potential of the area for walnut and other dry fruits still remains to be utilised.

The horticulture export, according to the national trade policy, was to be made into an industry to enable it to qualify for institutional credit and relief in taxation. The government should announce a rebate in duties and a dry fruit specific export finance scheme for dry fruit exporters. It should provide support to fruit exporters to open their retail outlets in foreign countries. Pakistan International Airline also needs to bring down it freight charges for exporters.

devolution of agriculture: impact on KP

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/mar2012-weekly/nos-04-03-2012/pol1.htm#9

In the process
More steps need to be taken to complete the process of agricultural devolution to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
By Tahir Ali

As ordained by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the longstanding highly centralised agriculture sector was last year devolved to provinces. It goes without saying that this devolution has increased the responsibilities of the provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They must come to grips with their financial and capacity constraints to deliver on this front as agriculture accounts for livelihood of around 70 percent of people in the country.

Increased powers require capacity enhancement and efficiency on the part of provinces but apparently facing budgetary and capacity constraints, shortage of personnel, lack of sufficient technology, the new beneficiaries seem ill-prepared to look after the devolved subjects.

What are the financial implications and how the province is coping with them? What has it done to increase the capacity of its employees to cope with the new responsibilities?

While acknowledging that problems of capacity constraints are there, officials, nevertheless, claim that KP’s agriculture department is fully capable to cope with the increased responsibilities and functions following the devolution of agriculture ministry to the province.

Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Israr Muhammad, says the province has sufficient resources and personnel to perform the new roles. “We have made elaborate arrangements for the purpose. By fulfilling the longstanding demand of the employees for service structure, we have promulgated the 4-tier formula for the officials serving in the agriculture extension, research and livestock sub-sectors. Again, different sections of the department have been allocated sufficient budgets to train their officials so that they could better perform the devolved functions. The department has correlated its targets with the outcomes of provincial agriculture policy and provincial horticulture policy.”

“While the provincial soil conservation directorate can fully address the devolved functions regarding soil survey of Pakistan, another post of director marketing has been created to look after the devolved agriculture products’ grading and marketing responsibilities,” he adds.

To a question as to what were the financial implications of the devolution for the province, Mr Muhammad says, “We have had to own only a few personnel of the soil survey of Pakistan (SSoP), which was handed over to Punjab but it decided to take only the employees and assets within its territory. Accordingly, we have sent the case of these officials to the inter-provincial coordination (IPC) division Islamabad through the provincial IPC department and the decision is awaited. They will be adjusted as and when the decision is conveyed,” he says.

“There is no shortage of money. The ANP-led government has increased the agriculture budget and it has promised to look after all our financial needs in the wake of ongoing and new projects,” he informs.

He says of the three PSDP projects that were left to the provinces to look after them — the national programme for improvement of water courses, programme for high efficiency irrigation and the crop maximisation project — KP has allocated Rs355million, Rs120mn and Rs170mn for them respectively from its own resources for the current fiscal. The money is sufficient for the year and the provincial government has assured us of financial allocation if need be.”

But the problems remain to be addressed. The PODB has been wound up and its functions devolved to provinces. “If any province or donor agency and foreign country wish to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for developing oilseeds or olive or any other agriculture crop, it will still have to seek approval of federal entities like PARC or ministries like economic affairs division and ministry of commerce,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.

“Had the provinces been fully empowered in this respect, agriculture would have greatly benefited. The provinces also need improved seeds and other services from foreign countries. They either need to be empowered or a facilitation centre needs to be setup for the purpose at provincial or federal level,” he says adding, “The resourceful tea/tobacco research institutes and PARC, etc, have been retained at the centre and only the financially weaker attached departments with only liabilities and no incomes have been handed over to provinces.”

The landmark 18th          amendment had devolved 12 functions and attached departments of the now defunct federal ministry of food, agriculture and livestock (MINFAL) to provinces or other federal ministries.

The devolved functions include those of plant protection; economic studies for framing agriculture policies; farm management/ research for planning; project formulation and evaluation; crops forecast and crop insurance; marketing intelligence; agriculture commodity, market and laboratory research; soil survey and preparing comprehensive inventory of soil resources; production of special crops like UT olive; standardisation of agriculture machinery; economic planning and coordination with regard to cooperatives; socio-economic studies for framing agriculture research policies; and high level manpower training for agriculture research.

As for the attached departments of MINFAL, the agriculture grading and marketing department, agriculture policy institute, department of plant protection, directorate general of food and agriculture, federal seeds certification and registration department, SSoP, Pakistan agriculture research council (PARC) and national agriculture research council, Pakistan central cotton committee, Pakistan oilseeds development boards (PODB) were devolved to provinces, adjusted in other federal ministries or wound up. For example SSoP was handed almost entirely to Punjab.”

The above devolution of functions and attached departments was affected according to the notification of June, 2011. But recently, another entity with the name of federal food security and research division (FFSRD) has been formed which will cater to all the functions of the former MINFAL to ensure food security and coordinate research in the country. The FFSRD is gradually obtaining back all the attached departments that had been handed over to other federal ministries. The export of agriculture items that had been handed over to the ministry of commerce will be reverted back to the new ministry.

   

biogas plants: from waste to energy

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2012-weekly/nos-08-04-2012/pol1.htm#7

From waste to energy
Installation of bio-gas plants can help meet shortage of gas in rural areas
By Tahir Ali

Despite huge potential and benefits, biogas technology has not been given due attention in Pakistan. With inflation, energy shortage aggravating with each passing day, there is a renewed interest in the technology as this type of gas can be used both for cooking and power generation and its residue as fertilizer and it can also decrease domestic fuel budget, deforestation and pressure on national power grid. It can also contribute towards sustenance of ecosystem and conservation of biodiversity in the country.

Over 4000 biogas plants were installed in Pakistan by the government between 1974 and 1987. But later, it withdrew the financial support which reduced the growth rate of this technology. Only 6,000 plants were installed till 2006. But the potential is even bigger.

There are currently around 47 million big animals in Pakistan. A medium size animal produces around 10 kg of dung per day. Even if its 50 percent is collected, the availability of dung comes to 233 million kg a day that can produce around 12 million cubic meters of biogas a day. Estimates say since 0.4m gas could suffice the cooking needs of a million Pakistanis, the fuel requirement of over 20 percent of them could be met only from biogas. It will also produce 19 million tons of bio-fertilizer per year, which can boost agricultural productivity.

Biogas plants are popular in Pakistan’s neighbourhood and even developed countries. There are almost two million bio-gas plants in India and the facilities have been built even in UK and US through official patronage. Around 89 such plants in the US are consuming 13 per cent or 95000 tons of waste to produce about 2500 mega watt of electricity that suffices for 2.3mn households.

In Nepal, where around 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas with no electricity, over the past 20 years, the biogas sector partnership, an NGO, has installed around 210,000 biogas plants to provide biogas for cooking and lighting. Each plant is estimated to have reduced Nepal’s carbon emissions by around 4.7 tonnes a year.

According to a United Nations report, cattle are responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming — more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation put together. Their environmental impact could be minimised by converting their manure into a renewable source of energy.

The environmental protection agency (EPA) estimates that cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of powerful greenhouse gas, methane, per year into the atmosphere. The University of Texas, Austin, estimates that by using around one billion tonnes of manure produced annually in the United States for power/gas generation could also help eliminate 99 million tonnes of net greenhouse gas emissions there.

As per Pakistan Centre for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) report, a family size biogas plant annually produces energy equivalent to 10056Kg wood, 22200 Kg animal dung, 1104 lit kerosene oil, 540 kg L.P.G or 9000 Kwh of electricity.

From waste to energy
Installation of bio-gas plants can help meet shortage of gas in rural areas
By Tahir Ali

Despite huge potential and benefits, biogas technology has not been given due attention in Pakistan. With inflation, energy shortage aggravating with each passing day, there is a renewed interest in the technology as this type of gas can be used both for cooking and power generation and its residue as fertilizer and it can also decrease domestic fuel budget, deforestation and pressure on national power grid. It can also contribute towards sustenance of ecosystem and conservation of biodiversity in the country.

Over 4000 biogas plants were installed in Pakistan by the government between 1974 and 1987. But later, it withdrew the financial support which reduced the growth rate of this technology. Only 6,000 plants were installed till 2006. But the potential is even bigger.

There are currently around 47 million big animals in Pakistan. A medium size animal produces around 10 kg of dung per day. Even if its 50 percent is collected, the availability of dung comes to 233 million kg a day that can produce around 12 million cubic meters of biogas a day. Estimates say since 0.4m gas could suffice the cooking needs of a million Pakistanis, the fuel requirement of over 20 percent of them could be met only from biogas. It will also produce 19 million tons of bio-fertilizer per year, which can boost agricultural productivity.

Biogas plants are popular in Pakistan’s neighbourhood and even developed countries. There are almost two million bio-gas plants in India and the facilities have been built even in UK and US through official patronage. Around 89 such plants in the US are consuming 13 per cent or 95000 tons of waste to produce about 2500 mega watt of electricity that suffices for 2.3mn households.

In Nepal, where around 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas with no electricity, over the past 20 years, the biogas sector partnership, an NGO, has installed around 210,000 biogas plants to provide biogas for cooking and lighting. Each plant is estimated to have reduced Nepal’s carbon emissions by around 4.7 tonnes a year.

According to a United Nations report, cattle are responsible for 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming — more than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation put together. Their environmental impact could be minimised by converting their manure into a renewable source of energy.

The environmental protection agency (EPA) estimates that cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of powerful greenhouse gas, methane, per year into the atmosphere. The University of Texas, Austin, estimates that by using around one billion tonnes of manure produced annually in the United States for power/gas generation could also help eliminate 99 million tonnes of net greenhouse gas emissions there.

As per Pakistan Centre for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) report, a family size biogas plant annually produces energy equivalent to 10056Kg wood, 22200 Kg animal dung, 1104 lit kerosene oil, 540 kg L.P.G or 9000 Kwh of electricity.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa too, despite having one million camels, 6mn cattle, 2mn buffaloes and over 12mn sheep and goats, has failed to utilise the waste of these animals for launching of bio gas plants on a big scale.

In the cattle breeding and dairy farm in Charsadda, a bio gas plant has been in operation but the innovative technology has not been disseminated on a mass scale in the province.

Under the project “development and promotion of biogas technology for meeting domestic fuel needs of rural areas and production of bio-fertilizer”, PCRET plans to install 368 biogas plants in rural areas of the country by June this year.  

The government of Italy in November last year decided to provide Rs50 million to set up 436 biogas plants in six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Abbottabad, Haripur and Mansehra.

Launched in 2008 with a target of 2500 such plants, PCRET has already installed over 2100 family size biogas plants in different parts of the country.

Earlier, based on a feasibility study, a programme implementation plan for domestic biogas of Pakistan was finalised with the support of rural support programmes network, NGOs and farmers’ organisations and is implemented by Pakistan biogas development enterprise. The construction of 30,000 biogas installations in 4 years will be supported in four provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a total investment of Rs2.7bn. Rs244mn would be disbursed as investment rebate support to the households who spend on the technology.

However, the potential is too enormous to be satisfied with this number. Animal waste is usually wasted. In Landhi Karachi alone, around 0.35mn cattle-heads are kept in a 3km area that produce thousands of tons of waste but 80-90 of it is thrown in the sea. A Canadian firm Highmark Renewables with the help of KESC plans to establish world’s biggest biogas plant at a cost of around $70 million that would produce up to 30 mega watt of power and 400 tons of residue bio fertiliser.

 

Some more facts

Any farmer having at least three animals can establish this plant with a one-time investment of Rs40,000 to 50,000

Gas produced in a small bio-digester which contains about 20 kg of dung should be enough to meet the fuel requirement of a small family. Based on these calculations, a bio-digester for any number of animals can be designed. However, the plant must be water/gas-tight. Enough manure and water must be added to it every day.

Firewood, dung and crop residues are major sources of energy for rural and low-income urban households. In 1992, firewood provided fuel to about 60 percent of rural and low income families followed by dung in dry form at around 18pc.

Only 4pc of Pakistan’s total area is covered by forest with only 5pc area protected. To control deforestation, adoption of biogas is the best technology and option in Pakistan.

It seems strange as to why biogas plants have not been installed to reduce the speed and scale of deforestation, especially in the forest-rich Malakand and Hazara divisions. 

Around 70 percent population in KP lives in the rural areas. Most farmers have two or more cattle whose dung mixed with an equal proportion of water can be used to produce biogas. Any farmer having at least three animals can establish this plant with a one-time investment of Rs40,000 to 50,000.

If individual farmers are not ready or cannot afford the expenses, a few families with domestic animals could jointly install such a plant in their neighbourhood. And by selling the gas to families that cannot contribute manure daily for having no animals, the maintenance expenditure, if any, could be financed with this money.

The government needs to give more attention and funds to spread this technology to the countryside. Media should also create awareness among the rural community and NGOs and foreign investors should be encouraged to spread it.

A typical biogas plant consists of a digester where the anaerobic fermentation takes place, a gasholder for collecting the biogas, the input-output units for feeding the influent and storing the effluent respectively, and a gas distribution system.

 

— Tahir Ali

 too, despite having one million camels, 6mn cattle, 2mn buffaloes and over 12mn sheep and goats, has failed to utilise the waste of these animals for launching of bio gas plants on a big scale.

In the cattle breeding and dairy farm in Charsadda, a bio gas plant has been in operation but the innovative technology has not been disseminated on a mass scale in the province.

Under the project “development and promotion of biogas technology for meeting domestic fuel needs of rural areas and production of bio-fertilizer”, PCRET plans to install 368 biogas plants in rural areas of the country by June this year.  

The government of Italy in November last year decided to provide Rs50 million to set up 436 biogas plants in six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Abbottabad, Haripur and Mansehra.

Launched in 2008 with a target of 2500 such plants, PCRET has already installed over 2100 family size biogas plants in different parts of the country.

Earlier, based on a feasibility study, a programme implementation plan for domestic biogas of Pakistan was finalised with the support of rural support programmes network, NGOs and farmers’ organisations and is implemented by Pakistan biogas development enterprise. The construction of 30,000 biogas installations in 4 years will be supported in four provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a total investment of Rs2.7bn. Rs244mn would be disbursed as investment rebate support to the households who spend on the technology.

However, the potential is too enormous to be satisfied with this number. Animal waste is usually wasted. In Landhi Karachi alone, around 0.35mn cattle-heads are kept in a 3km area that produce thousands of tons of waste but 80-90 of it is thrown in the sea. A Canadian firm Highmark Renewables with the help of KESC plans to establish world’s biggest biogas plant at a cost of around $70 million that would produce up to 30 mega watt of power and 400 tons of residue bio fertiliser.

 

Some more facts

Any farmer having at least three animals can establish this plant with a one-time investment of Rs40,000 to 50,000

Gas produced in a small bio-digester which contains about 20 kg of dung should be enough to meet the fuel requirement of a small family. Based on these calculations, a bio-digester for any number of animals can be designed. However, the plant must be water/gas-tight. Enough manure and water must be added to it every day.

Firewood, dung and crop residues are major sources of energy for rural and low-income urban households. In 1992, firewood provided fuel to about 60 percent of rural and low income families followed by dung in dry form at around 18pc.

Only 4pc of Pakistan’s total area is covered by forest with only 5pc area protected. To control deforestation, adoption of biogas is the best technology and option in Pakistan.

It seems strange as to why biogas plants have not been installed to reduce the speed and scale of deforestation, especially in the forest-rich Malakand and Hazara divisions. 

Around 70 percent population in KP lives in the rural areas. Most farmers have two or more cattle whose dung mixed with an equal proportion of water can be used to produce biogas. Any farmer having at least three animals can establish this plant with a one-time investment of Rs40,000 to 50,000.

If individual farmers are not ready or cannot afford the expenses, a few families with domestic animals could jointly install such a plant in their neighbourhood. And by selling the gas to families that cannot contribute manure daily for having no animals, the maintenance expenditure, if any, could be financed with this money.

The government needs to give more attention and funds to spread this technology to the countryside. Media should also create awareness among the rural community and NGOs and foreign investors should be encouraged to spread it.

A typical biogas plant consists of a digester where the anaerobic fermentation takes place, a gasholder for collecting the biogas, the input-output units for feeding the influent and storing the effluent respectively, and a gas distribution system.

 

— Tahir Ali

Lower than estimated wheat crop in KP

be Lower than estimated wheat crop in KP
By Tahir Ali | From InpaperMagzine | 30th April, 2012

http://dawn.com/2012/04/30/lower-than-estimated-wheat-crop-in-kp/

WHEAT harvest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may be lower this year than expected earlier because of inhospitable weather, officials and farmers say.

An official of the Directorate-General of Agriculture Extension in KP said wheat acreage in the province had increased from 724,500 hectares last year to 758,350 hectares this year but the crop has suffered badly in rain-fed areas. The raid-fed areas contributes around 55 per cent of the provincial wheat output. The continued drought mainly in southern districts has diminished the prospects of a bumper crop.

Though wheat crop cultivated on irrigated lands in both the central, southern and northern districts is expected to be healthy, the crop in the fertile but rain-fed lands is feared to have been reduced by about 50-60 per cent for lack of rains during September to January.

“The southern rain-fed districts of Tank, Kohat, Karak, Laki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan together with Haripur, Dir lower, Buner etc, did not receive any rainfall at the time of sowing. Little moisture in the soil also affected the germination at the start.

Later, occasional showers were received but at the time of flowering and grain-filling stages the weather remained almost dry for a long period. As a result the grain could not develop well and it is either not there or is too small. Hence lower crop yield is expected from the rain-fed areas of the province,” said the official.

“In the irrigated area, the crop is very promising and high yield is expected. However, in the last week of April rains throughout the province and storms in some parts, damaged crops including wheat. In Peshawar the crop was damaged due to hailstorm in Sarband, Achini, Sango Llandai, Nodeha,” he added.

When asked as to whether other factors like use of low quality seeds and less fertiliser have also affected the crop, the official said there was no shortage of such commodities. The department had obtained thousands of tons of quality seeds from registered growers or purchased them from Punjab Seeds’ Corporation and supplied these to the farmers in time.

An official of the agriculture department in Laki Marwat, predominantly a rain-fed district, said though the farmers had cultivated the crop on vast track of land, lack of rain had hit the crop and reduced the output by a big margin.
“Around 60 per cent of wheat crop on over 16,000 hectares in the district has no or small/dry grain. Around nine per cent of the wheat crop on irrigated land is also affected by water shortage. While generally a grain sprouts 10-12 plants when there is plentiful water, this year a grain has sprouted up only one plant in the district for lack of rains in the critical germination period,” he said.

The recent spell of rain is of no use for the crop as it has already matured. The rain instead can harm the crop if followed by winds, he added.

An official of the agriculture department in DIK and a farmer said the abnormal winds following rain in February this year had also damaged the crop to some extent. But the drought had little impact on the crop this year, he added.

A farmer from Mardan said that while the grain was healthy in the canal-fed lands, there were reports of small grains and weak/little stems from the rain-fed areas in the district.

Gushy winds after the recent downpour also damaged the mature crop as it shook and moved its roots. “While the rain reduced mercury that delayed maturity of the grains, the winds levelled down wheat plants in some areas. If rains continue, the fallen grain may fall prey to stem-rot disease for excess of water,” the farmer said.

“Little wheat crop means food shortage and food inflation. I am worried how farmers will pay their agricultural debts, and feed their families when they get low yield, said Ahmad Khan, a farmer.

The land under wheat cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1/5th of the 2.75 million hectare total cultivable land in the province. It usually has a share of around four per cent in countrywide wheat yield. It could be increased by bringing the vast fertile land in southern districts lying uncultivated for want of irrigation water.

The low acreage and less yield per acre than the rest of the country leaves the province dependent for over two-thirds of its wheat needs of over three million tons on purchases from Passco and Punjab.

The government apart from bringing more land under cultivation can increase per acre yield by ensuring mechanised farming and providing better seeds.

It should ensure provision of seeds and fertiliser to farmers on subsidised rates. Access of farmers to agricultural loans needs to ensured with the help of banks and NGOs.

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