Dawn-KP budget 2014-15

Progressive taxation of farm incomes

By Tahir Ali

Published Jun 23, 2014 06:11am

http://www.dawn.com/news/1114457/progressive-taxation-of-farm-incomes
The Rs404.8bn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa balanced budget for 2014-15, with a Rs139.8bn annual development programme, is aimed at addressing economic, social and industrial woes of the impoverished province, but falls short of business expectations.
“It is a status-quo budget devoid of any change, vision and reform agenda, and neglects the potential sectors. KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise — there is 14.8pc unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Emergency steps are needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units and improvement in law and order and technical and IT education. But there is no proper roadmap for these areas.
“The government has failed to give new mineral, industrial, hydro, oil/gas and tourism policies reflective of its agenda for change,” says KP Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zahidullah Shinwari.
The new budget is bigger by Rs69bn than the current budget of Rs344bn, while the ADP is higher by Rs21bn over this fiscal’s Rs118bn.
Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12bn from federal tax assignments, Rs12bn in net hydro profit, Rs32.27bn as NHP arrears, Rs29.26bn from oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29bn as war on terror grant and Rs35.35bn as foreign assistance etc.
KP’s own revenue receipts are estimated at Rs29bn (up by 70 per cent against the current year) and include Rs19.45bn in tax receipts and non-tax revenue of Rs9.3bn. This includes Rs12bn as GST on services. The province also earns Rs2.85bn from its own power plants.
The budget suggests insufficient measures to check the current expenditure which has reached around 70 per cent of the total budgeted outlay.
The finance minister promised to provide 15,000 more jobs in the public sector, but admitted that joblessness cannot be eliminated by the government alone. Without support of the private sector, and for that matter, economic growth, the problem cannot be solved.
There seems to be a genuine attempt to raise provincial revenues. The PTI-led KP government has proposed a progressive tax on agriculture income, as well as land tax and property tax. The KP revenue authority will conduct a proper survey to determine the property tax.
It intends to raise fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments etc. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions, including medical, engineering and law colleges.
The finance minister says the province is replete with abundant human and natural resources, but its population is living in poverty and backwardness owing to unfair distribution of resources, flawed planning, joblessness, illiteracy, corruption, nepotism, weak accountability system and lack of good governance. He vowed to root out these evils.
Prepared under the ‘Integrated Development Strategy’, the budget aims at good governance, responsive social services delivery, economic prosperity, peace, economic growth and job creation, improved transparency and accountability, enhanced fiscal space and gender equity.
The minister said the private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects in partnership with the public sector.
However, important sectors have been allocated higher but yet paltry sums: Rs3.4bn for power sector against Rs1.4bn in the current year; Rs4.7bn against Rs3.28bn for irrigation and Rs1.58bn against Rs1.53bn for agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy as 70 per cent people in KP are dependent on it for their survival.
A Board of Investment and Trade has been formed to ensure an investment- friendly environment and for economic revival. The KP oil and gas authority has been constituted for better use of existing resources and for exploring new ones. But the impact of the two bodies is still not yet visible.
The finance minister says KP’s industrial sector is hit by lawlessness, energy crisis, limited market, high cost of production, dilapidated infrastructure and inadequate technical knowhow.
For this, technical education is to be promoted and has been allocated Rs3.7bn.
A self-reliance scheme with a Rs2.7bn rolling fund has been proposed to give interest- free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth.
He said the mineral sector could be used for poverty alleviation but earmarked only Rs0.62cbn for the sector.
The government intends to set up a stock exchange in Peshawar and is seeking support of the federal government in this regard.
Several austerity measures have been proposed to bring down expenditure. No treatment/training abroad, no new cars and no new posts are to be allowed unless approved by the chief minister. The construction of houses for officials and ministers on 20 marlas and 110 per cent raise in salaries of ministers, advisors etc. This is, however, being resented.
A sum of Rs7.9bn has been allocated for a pro-poor initiative under which various welfare programmes such as health insurance and provincial youth technical education etc will be launched. A Rs6bn special relief package programme for giving subsidised edible items to the poor has been proposed in the budget.
Various hydro and alternate energy projects being launched include the construction of 350 small dams.
Published in Dawn, Economic & Business, June 23rd, 2014

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ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE AS IT WAS SENT TO DAWN
KP budget 2014<br
By Tahir Ali
The Rs404.8bn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa balanced budget for 2014-15 with Rs139.8bn annual development programme addresses almost all the problems the province is faced with but gives only partial remedies to the economic, social and industrial woes of the impoverished province.
“The budget is a status-quo budget devoid of any change, vision and reform agenda and neglects the potential sectors. KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise –there is 14.8 percent unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against around 9.5 percent at national level. Province own revenues have remained stagnant. Real estate not taxed. Emergency steps were needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units, improvement in law and order, focus on technical and IT education but there is no proper roadmap for the areas. The government has failed to give a new mineral, industrial, hydel, oilg/gas and tourism policies reflective of its change agenda,” says the KP chamber of commerce and industry (Kpcci) president Zahidullah Shinwari.
Agonizing further is the fact that around 70 percent of the development funds lapsed in the current fiscal, he added.
The new budget is bigger by 69bn from the current year budget of Rs344bn while the ADP is higher by Rs21bn from this fiscal’s ADP of Rs118bn.
Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12bn federal tax assignments, Rs12bn net hydel profit plus Rs32.27bn as NHP arrears, Rs29.26bn oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29bn war on terror grant Rs35.35bn as foreign assistance besides some others sources.
KP’s own revenue receipts are estimated at Rs29bn (up by 70 per cent against the current year) include Rs19.45bn tax receipts and non tax receipts of Rs9.3bn. Rs12bn as GST on services which rose by 100 per cent is inclusive of tax receipts. The province also earns Rs2.85bn from own power plants.
The PORs target may be easily met in next fiscal and the years to come as new power plants get operational and sales tax collection targets is met for being easy,
Unlike other provinces, the budget has been divided into welfare, administrative and development sections but it is insignificant as welfare and administrative is the current budget having an outlay of Rs265bn while development budget is Rs139.8bn with Rs100bn local and Rs39bn foreign component.
The budget suggests insufficient measures to check current expenditure which has reached around 70 per cent of the total budget.
The expansion of the public sector must be a matter of concern for the subsequent government. The rising pay and pension bill of Rs176.5bn (66 percent of total current expenditure of Rs265bn) will squeeze space for development budget in future if not tackled. Industrialisation and Private sector
The finance minister promised to provide 15000 more jobs in public sector but he agreed that joblessness cannot be eliminated by government alone. Without support of private sector and for that matter economic growth, the problem couldn’t be achieved.
There seems to be a genuine attempt this time round to raise the provincial revenues locally and reduce dependence on federal and foreign funds. The PTI-led KP government has proposed a progressive tax on agriculture income, land tax and a progressive property tax.
KP has established KP revenue authority. This year a proper survey will be conducted to properly determine property tax.
It intends to raise the ratio of provincial taxes and fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments, agriculture income and salaries.
The rise in taxes/fees is expected to hit the consumers ultimately for it will be passed on to them. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions including medical, engineering and law colleges.
The minister said KP is replete with abundant human and natural resources but its population is living under poverty and backwardness for unfair distribution of resources, flawed planning, joblessness, illiteracy, corruption, nepotism, weak accountability system and lack of good governance and vowed to root out these evils.
Prepared under the “Integrated Development Strategy”, the budget aims at good governance, responsive social services delivery, economic prosperity, peace, economic growth and job creation, improved transparency and accountability, enhanced fiscal space, gender equity and donor harmonization.
The minister said public private partnership act has been approved. The private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects.
Education has proved to be its biggest priority. However, important economic sectors have been allocated paltry sums: Rs3.4bn for power sector against Rs1.4bn in current year, Rs4.7bn against Rs3.28bn for irrigation and agriculture Rs1.58bn against Rs1.53bn in current year. The detailed expenditure report for the current year reveals that vital social and economic sectors of the ADP like social welfare, education, agriculture, energy/power and industries had been allocated Rs0.6bn, Rs24bn, Rs1.53bn, Rs2.2bn and Rs4.4bn respectively but actual utilisation remained at Rs.2bn, Rs3.72bn, Rs0.63bn, Rs0.65bn and Rs1bn could be utilised in this fiscal in that order.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy as 70 per cent people in KP are dependent over it for their survival but only Rs1.5bn has been allocated for the sector. The poverty and inability of farmers to use enough quality inputs to raise their produce but the government comes up with only loans on easy terms for them.
A Board of investment and trade has been formed to ensure investment friendly environment and for economic revival. KP oil and gas authority has been constituted for better use of existing resources and to explore new ones but its impact is still not discernable.
To bring down poverty and accountability, the government has promulgated the right to information law and established a commission for access to information, access to services’ commission and conflict of interest commission, ihtesab commission, a complaint cell in CM secretariat. And a public procurement regulatory authority established to make the procurement system of hiring of services, goods and construction transparent and corruption free and introduced the market rate system instead of the composite scheduled rates to ensure transparency in development schemes.
The minister said KP industrial sector is hit by lawlessness, energy crisis, limited market, high cost of production, dilapidated infrastructure and lack of technical knowhow.
For this technical education is to be promoted which has been allocated Rs3.7bn. Technical University will be established.
Under the self-reliance scheme with a Rs2.7bn rolling fund has been proposed to give interest free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth on their personal guarantee.
He said the mineral sector could be used for poverty alleviation but then only allocated Rs0.62cbn in ADP for the sector.
The government intends to set up stock exchange in Peshawar to support the progress of industry and trade sectors and wishes the federal government to take further measures in this regard.
The government proposed ‘several austerity measures’ to bring down expenditure. No foreign treatment/training, no new cars and no posts to be allowed unless approved by CM. But he didn’t specify what happened to similar measures in the current budget. The minister said the government has formed committees for monetization and economy which are working with far reaching consequences, though he failed to identify any.
The construction of houses for officials and ministers on 20 marlas and 110 per cent raise in salaries of minister, advisors etc however is being resented.
Rs7.9bn has been allocated for a pro-poor initiative under which various welfare programs, such as health insurance, long-term loan for development of industries, and provincial youth technical education scheme etc would be launched. Rs6bn more allocated for a special relief package program for giving subsidized edible items to the poor.
Various hydel and alternate energy projects being launched. Rs7bn have been allocated to construct 350 small dams. 400 megawatts of electricity will be produced through gas whose cheap energy will be given to industries.

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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 


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.

   

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.

Grappling with devolved responsibilities

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KP to directly procure wheat next year

Direct wheat procurement from growers
By Tahir Ali

Dawn, Nov 21, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/11/21/direct-wheat-procurement-from-growers.html

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced that it will directly purchase wheat from growers this year instead of buying the grain from other sources. And the provincial food department’s procurement drive will be financed by the Bank of Khyber.

The direct procurement is expected to save around Rs6,000 per ton and could help cut provincial government’s expenditure by Rs2.5 billion in the procurement target of 0.4 million tons.

While acknowledging the sharp rise in cost of production, the Agriculture Planning Institute (API) has recommended a wheat support price of Rs11.50 per 40kg for the coming season.

This recommendation has been forwarded to the federal cabinet for approval. But approval of provincial chief ministers would also be needed for the price raise as the ministry of food and agriculture stands devolved after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

Whether the chief ministers would approve the proposal or not is yet to be learnt, because of its impact on urban consumers.

As the elections due in t one and a half years, the government may find itself in a fix to take an early decision. It wants to please the growers by increasing the wheat support price but also knows that the increase would fuel food inflation and may result in public backlash. This explains the delay in taking the decision on the issue.

The high prices of farm inputs have raised the cost of production. The API, keeping this fact in mind, has also stressed the government to withdraw taxes and duties on agricultural inputs.

Small growers have been complaining of negligence and malpractices in the procurement system. “Officials purchase of the commodity from middlemen but the growers have numerous complaints. The procurement centres discourage and compel growers to approach their agents,” a farmer complained.

“Because of delays in assessing the crop, that expose the produce to thieves and vagaries of weather (as it is mostly kept lying in the open at procurement centres), and frequent wrong assessment and rejection of their wheat quality/variety, farmers usually prefer to sell their produce to private buyers for quick deal at four to five per cent lower rates,” he said.

The middlemen, who usually work as cartel, often reduce demand that results in price crash.

In the past, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa has never been able to achieve its wheat procurement target owing to shortage of finances, wheat procurement centres, storage facilities and extensive role of the middlemen in the process. The procurement system needs to be revamped.

“The government should enter into pre-sowing wheat purchase deals with farmers. It should announce the list of wheat procurement centres and increase the number of such centres. Interests of small growers should be safeguarded during the procurement of the crop, especially of those from the floods/militancy hit areas,” says a farmer.

…………………………………

 Original text of the article

New wheat support price and the new procurement system

By Tahir Ali

With the advent of the wheat-sowing season in the country, farmers are demanding an increase in the wheat support price but the question is should it be increased and if yes to what extent, or should the old support price remain unchanged in the coming year?

Farmers argue that cost of production has swelled in the wake of rising cost of agriculture inputs on account of growing energy prices, eradication of subsidies and imposition of general sales tax.

Though an suitable raise in official wheat price is their right, it needs to be remembered that any exorbitant increase, like the one in 2008, when the wheat price was raised from Rs625 to Rs950 per 40kg all at once, would make life miserable for the majority population, hit hard by floods and terrorism-hit slump on one side and the rising inflation and poverty on the other.

The agriculture planning institute (API), the former agriculture pricing commission, while acknowledging the sharp rise in the cost of production, has recommended a wheat support price of Rs1150 Per 40kg for the coming season.

This recommendation has been sent to the federal cabinet for approval. But approval of the provincial chief ministers would also be required for to raise the support price as the ministry of food and agriculture and federal committee on agriculture, which would initiate and complete the process, stand devolved after the 18th constitutional amendment.

The question is: Will the provincial governments give their consent to the suggestion, thereby directing the public wrath towards themselves and totally absolving the federal government of any blame? Whether the chief ministers would approve of the suggestion or reject it, it is yet not clear as yet.

Whatever decision the government wants will have to be taken soon as it will directly impact the wheat acreage and eventually the food security situation in the country in the coming year.

But with elections due in less than two years, the government finds itself in a fix: it wants to please farmers by raising the wheat support price but also knows that the raise would increase food inflation and public unrest, which could provide further fuel to the anti-government campaign. It explains the delay in taking a decision on the issue.

It is writing on the wall that the government would raise the price eventually as it can’t displease the powerful landlords- PPP’s traditional strength- who are to massively benefit from the move and because the poor have no organised and powerful lobby to thwart the attempt and safeguard their interests in the power corridors.

Constituency-based politics, experts argue, has forced the government not to take any decision that could annoy the feudal class where a majority of the government elite come from.

Higher wheat support price in general benefits the big farmers at the cost of higher food inflation, higher interest rate, lower investment in other sectors and lower growth, they argue.

Pakistan is the only country in the world to have subjected agriculture inputs to general sales tax, which increases cost of production, believed to have climbed by about 200 per cent in recent years, and brought commission agents and dealers under sales tax which eventually mean high prices for consumers. The API has also stressed the government to withdraw taxes and duties on agricultural inputs.

Annual average wheat production in the country is 24 million tons. It means farmers pocketed around Rs98 billion additionally each year during the last three years from wheat alone if even half that produce was sold by them. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers grow one million ton wheat each year. By this analysis, the farmers here have earned around Rs10bn in this head annually.

Hundreds of billions of rupees have been transferred to the rural economy on account of hike in major crops during the last three years. This is a big amount and the state of life of millions of farmers should have improved but the opposite is the case.

Big landlords, constituting only 10-12 per cent of all farmers, might have benefited but smaller and poor farmers, forming over 85 per cent of the farmers, usually fail to take advantage from the raised price as they have no resources and contacts in the right quarters to carry and sell their outputs at the procurement centres.

Small farmers have been complaining of negligence and malpractices in the procurement system. “Officials purchase the commodity from middlemen but numerous defects are pointed out when small growers approach the procurement centres; they are discouraged and compelled to approach the agents,” a farmer complained.

“For delays in assessing the crop, which exposes the produce to thieves and vagaries of weather as it mostly lies in the open at the procurement centres, and frequent wrong assessment and rejection of their wheat output, farmers usually prefer to sell their produce to private buyers for easy and swift deal though on four to five per cent lower rates,” he said.

In the wake of lacklustre procurement campaign, the agriculture commission mafia that usually work as cartel reduce demand, resulting in price crash and the poor farmers either have to sell it at lower prices or consume it themselves.

Ironically the agriculture department has no role in the procurement of wheat and the work is performed by the food department in all provinces which obviously neither has neither direct connections nor sufficient information on the farmers.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced it would directly purchase wheat from growers this year rather than from other sources.

The Bank of Khyber has agreed to finance the procurement drive by the provincial food department for this year.

Lesser direct procurement exert great financial burden on provincial exchequer on purchase and transportation from other provinces.

Direct procurement saves around Rs 6000 per ton and could help save KP around Rs2.5bn if the procurement target of 0.4 million tons is reached and over Rs20bn if it procures all of its 3.5mn tons requirements from the open market.

In the past, KP has never been able to achieve its wheat procurement target for shortage of finances, wheat procurement centres and storage facilities and extensive role of the middlemen in the process.

The procurement system needs to be revamped.

 “The government should enter into pre-sowing wheat purchase contracts with farmers. It should announce the list of wheat procurement centres and increase the procurement centres. Interests of small growers should be safeguarded during the procurement, especially those from the floods/militancy hit areas,” he added.

Small farmers getting little bank credit

Small farmers denied access to bank credit

By Tahir Ali

October 31, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/31/small-farmers-denied-access-to-bank-credit.html

SMALL farmers have very limited access to agriculture credit in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The worst-hit are the growers in the far-flung hilly and tribal areas.

They continue to rely on informal sector for their needs for credit that keeps them in a vicious debt-cycle and poverty trap.

The province accounts for only around four per cent of national agriculture credit disbursement. Whereas only six per cent of farmers in the province have access to agriculture credit against 21 per cent for the country.

Various easy credit schemes, support price mechanism and subsidy regimes in the past were designed for small and medium size farmers, but only big landlords ended up as its beneficiaries.

Small farmers got a raw deal in the existing 2005 agriculture policy as they could not provide collaterals for loans. Long credit approval and disbursement process, high mark-up and fewer lending branches are responsible for low agriculture credit in KP.

“The formalities for any agriculture loan require lengthy documentation that take around two to four months to complete,” said a bank manager when asked on the process of lending farm loans.

He suggested that small farmers should be given loans on personal guarantees. Group-based credit schemes are being followed by small banks but need to be taken up by main banks to improve credit disbursement ratio. Crop as well as life insurance is the best way to minimise the risk of farming community against losses and of banks against non-repayment.

Shahid Khan, a Mardan-based farmer, held banks responsible for low level of agriculture credit in the province.

“The banks avoid lending to farmers for fear of default. Much has been said about one-window operation but no bank has as yet come out with a fast track mechanism for credit disbursement. The banks must simplify their agriculture loaning system. Mobile credit officers should reach farmers at their doorsteps for credit delivery,” he said.

Last year, the government had promised Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers from bank but only Rs200 million was released. This year too, only Rs400 million was expected.

A borrower can avail a maximum unsecured financing up to Rs500,000 from banks as per prudential regulations. Also, under the revolving credit scheme, banks provide finance for farming on the basis of revolving limits for a period of three years with one-time documentation.

Borrowers are required to clear the entire amount of loan (including markup) in the agreed time. Agricultural credit under the scheme can be availed against personal surety but it is seldom allowed.

Under agricultural passbook system, banks are bound to allocate 70 per cent of their loans to subsistence farmers.

Globally, various innovative lending techniques like group based lending (the Grameen model), self-help groups (Indian model), solidarity group (Latin America model), community based organisation (also called village banking) have been successfully applied, which have made lending affordable and easily accessible to small farmers, helping them to improve farm productivity.

In group-based lending, small groups of farmers are formed by lenders involving 5-10 members having identical needs.

Collateral is generally not required and 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 is signed by the members.

A group coordinator acts as a facilitator of the group and agent of the bank. The bank ensures 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 consensus, in case he fails to deliver.

Group members ensure that the bank receives timely repayments from the borrowers. If a borrower dies, liability lies with the remaining group members. However, life insurance could safeguard the interests of both the borrowers and lenders.

Eligibility criteria for borrowers are: not more than 12.5 acres land (tenant or lessee) or 40 sheep, computerised national identity card, residence in the village and membership in the village organisation. The minimum credit limit is Rs20,000 and maximum Rs200,000.

Farm loans are repayable as per production cycle of crops. For non-crop activities like livestock farming, repayment period is three to five years.

 

Agriculture research low in priorities

                   Stuck in time
Agriculture research remains low on the priority list of
the authorities concerned
By Tahir Ali

http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/oct2011-weekly/nos-09-10-2011/pol1.htm#2

Agriculture research in Pakistan in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular is being undermined by scant funds, negligence by the government and private sector, and some procedural hitches.

Agriculture research expenditure in Pakistan is just 0.3 percent of its gross domestic product while it is 2, 0.5 and 0.4 percent in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively. In 2002, research expenditure in China and India was $2.6bn and $1.4bn but it was only $0.17bn in Pakistan. It is much less than the average international expenditure of $10bn for that period. And this meagre allocation too is on the decline for many years in actual terms.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, agriculture research has received only Rs0.24bn while livestock research Rs0.27bn, just around 0.3 per cent of this year total ADP of Rs 85bn. And almost 90 percent of this meagre amount is consumed by establishment/operation and management expenses while expenditure on operational research is restricted from 3 to 10 percent.

In terms of expenditure per research scientist too, Pakistan just spends $0.05mn on its each scientist while Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh spend around $0.35mn, $0.1mn and $0.09mn in this head. For a population of one million, United Kingdom has 1400, the United States has around 2400, India has 64 but Pakistan has only 44 scientists. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with around 25mn population has only five PhDs for this number.

Institutional autonomy and increased flexibility with accountability for research institutes, robust role for private sector, special focus on small-scale farmers and marginal areas, conservation of the natural resources and ecosystems, recruitment of scientists/workers on merit, career structure for scientists, review of mandate of institutions and their rationalization, mechanism to constantly consult the relevant stakeholders for setting up research agenda,  establishment of research coordination fund, operational funds for research-extension linkage and endowment fund for agriculture research and development are some of the steps needed to be taken.

There is an acute shortage of research personnel in the provincial agriculture research directorate. The shortage of senior researchers is particularly serious which, according to an official of the ministry of agriculture, can be disastrous for the directorate, agriculture and for the people in the province.

“Many researchers are performing their duties under compulsion but waste no time when they get an offer from private companies which pay them hefty amounts. Most of the officers are performing their duties in the same scales for the last 30 years despite being qualified,” said the official, on the condition of anonymity.

He said while the researchers at the Pakistan agriculture research council get regular opportunities for promotion, the ones in the province retire in their initial grades despite being as much qualified.

Links between universities and agricultural research institutes and farmers and extension agencies improve performance. But there is still huge room for better coordination between universities, research institutes, and farmers’ and non governmental organisations.

Agricultural education and research is controlled by agriculture universities worldwide. But these were looked after by the KP government till 1986 and then under the USAID funded project for transformation and integration of provincial agricultural network (TIPAN), these were handed over to the Agricultural University Peshawar as agriculture research system (ARS). But in 2006, it has been again given to the government department.

The decision has, experts say, has deprived the research sector and agriculture of plentiful financial resources, technical and material support and close liaison with foreign universities and other research bodies available to university-supervised ARS in the province.

According to Muhammad Khalid, an agriculture expert, the ARS worked pretty well before it was disbanded. “1980s was the golden period for agriculture development as funds, transport, equipments, machinery and foreign trainings were available for research. Most of the technologies being cherished by the province were built then. The research sector should be given back to Agriculture University and the entire extension directorate be left at its disposal to help it transfer the technology to farmers,” he said.

“Scientists respect their teachers and thus coordination would be better and work speedier. Again, it will minimise corruption in project formulation and implementation as university professors and technocrats are usually honest. Universities also have close collaboration with foreign universities and, therefore, get research grants, projects, and technology more for their good reputation and credibility than the government/department which are suspected by international aid agencies. This cannot be denied at least for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where out of a total of Rs16bn of foreign funded projects in the ADP, there is no single project for agriculture,” Khalid argued.

This is due for another reason. Provinces account for 50 percent of agriculture scientists but 18 percent of PhDs against agriculture universities which account for 23 percent agriculture scientists without PhD and 50 percent with PhD. Out of 350 Punjab’s agriculture PhDs, around 270 are from universities while around 90 percent in Sindh are from universities. There are around 130 agricultural scientists having doctor of philosophy in one or the other disciplines of agriculture. Of these, 90 are working in the agriculture university Peshawar while the rest are at institutes.

Twenty five new varieties of different crops, fruits and vegetables were developed during year 2003 while 17 during year 2004 but in subsequent years the pace of development remained sluggish on these fronts.

When another official was asked had that trend subsided after the 2006 decision, he, wishing anonymity, claimed research work had continued and new seeds and technologies had been introduced but also conceded that financial resources at the disposal of researchers had considerably decreased, impacting research work and even maintenance of the precious machinery and technology obtained during the TIPAN had become a major headache for the sector.

The earlier official, however, said rather than association with universities, it is commitment, leadership and internal working of the people in it that matter most.

“ARS, no doubt expedited work, improved fund availability and performance of the sector. But the research staff of the department was not dealt at par with their research fellows in universities. We were neglected in foreign training, education and other benefits as professors had the upper hand in decisions. The reason, thereof, was that the merger was not complete but half in nature for opposition in provincial assembly. So, administratively the department was given to university but for financial needs it was dependent upon the government,” an official said.

However, he conditionally endorsed the handing over of agriculture and its related sector to university. “There should be complete merger. The department officials should be given opportunities for promotion, education and better grades like those available to university professors. If this is ensured, there cannot be any better mechanism for agricultural development,” he said.

National and provincial agriculture research system in Pakistan is multi-departmental like agriculture research institutes Tarnab or single commodity oriented ones like cereal crops research institute, Pirsabak. In all there are six federal and 13 provincial research institutes which are assisted in research work by 13 agriculture/veterinary sciences universities.

The now defunct federal ministry of food and agriculture and that of science and technology and Pakistan atomic energy commission each have four agriculture research establishments while water and power development authority had two such bodies.

 

review of Eralp

Map showing the location of Swat District (hig...

Swat where Eralp is being implemented

Lag in agriculture recovery
By Tahir Ali

BECAUSE of slow utilisation of funds, the Rs800 million project for early recovery of agriculture and livestock in Swat and Upper Dir has been extended for another year up to March 2012.To utilise the rest of the Rs500 million fund and to extend the project to the Malakand division, the provincial Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (Parrsa) has committed another Rs200 million.

The project has received a mixed response from officials and farmers. While the project director Sanaullah Khan and some farmers from Swat were all praise for it, others criticised the alleged favouritism in choosing target areas and distribution of agricultural inputs etc. The project is financed by Italian government.

Mr Khan said: “Restoration and enhancement of agriculture and livestock in the area, formation and revival of the 127 male and 24 female organisations in villages, community empowerment, establishment of linkage between communities and government/service providers are the achievements of Eralp. Besides, capacity building of stake holders and development of private nurseries, fish farming and diversification of livelihood options are some of the notable achievements of the project so far,” he said.

“Swat farmers harvest wheat crops during July. According to a survey in 27 of the 32 UCs in the area, per hectare yield has jumped by 266 per cent to four tons per hectare from 1.5 tons/ha in 2009. Quality inputs were provided to farmers in appropriate quantities at proper time besides provision of technical guidance,” he said.

The Eralp during last year distributed 63 tons of maize, 24 tons of peas, 235 tons of wheat, 640 tons of onion and around 10 tons of pulses seeds along with fertiliser among growers. Another 51 tons of DAP and 436 tons of urea were also provided to them. About 0.296mn plants out of the target of 0.4mn were distributed to establish new orchards. And 10 poultry farms were set up and around 5,500 poultry units were provided to poor households in 32 union councils of Charbagh, Kabal, Khwazakhela and Matta tehsils of Swat and Dokdarra UC in Upper Dir.

In the livestock sector, against the 13,000 animal vaccination target, 48,000 were vaccinated. In the forestry sector, the target of 2.1 million plants reforestation has been crossed. Top working on 0.1mn olive trees against the target of 0.2mn was done. Block tree plantation has been done at 2,200 hectares against the target of 1,500 hectares.

About 25 farmers’ field schools are being constructed and 156 agriculture and 177 livestock extension workers were trained.

Out of a plantation target of 7,305 hectares in Swat, 5450 hectares have been achieved. Work on four trout fish farms worth Rs1.92mn has been completed or is in progress. On seven spurs work is complete and on others it is under progress. Work on 60 water channels worth Rs58.35mn is either completed, or is awaiting approval, it adds.

In the next phase, 10,000 hand compression sprayers and 500 power sprayers would be provided to farmers. Similarly, 10 biogas plants would be installed and 20 private fish farms opened in the area.

Khan claimed that short duration of the project, 2010 floods, insufficient availability of certified seeds, and restricted
movement of project staff were some of snags in the implementation of the project.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of association for protection of farmers and tillers’ rights district Swat, said farmers in the area had been devastated by militancy and floods and therefore needed support. “But what the Eralp offered was peanuts,” he says.

“Most of the work was done on the basis of nepotism and favouritism. For example out of 13 UCs in Matta, work was done only in two UCs -Sambhat and Arkuk- while the other areas stood totally neglected,” he adds.

As to allegations of nepotism and favouritism, Mr Sanaullah rejected them and said uniformity of coverage had been ensured in the project area.

Mr Jabbar rejected the project’s figures for wheat and said floods, non-availability and cost of inputs had in fact decreased wheat yield in the area.

“There is a need to establish genuine VOs and to allocate more money for reconstruction of the destroyed agriculture, irrigation and communication infrastructure and rehabilitation of farmers,” said Sahib Zaman, another farmer from Matta
Swat.

The upper Swat areas like Kalam, Uthror etc and other districts in Malakand division have been totally neglected. It seems some easily accessible areas have been focused at the cost of others. Sanaullah said that Eralp was working in the predefined
area as agreed with the donors at the designing stage.

“The Upper Swat area and other districts of Malakand Division were out of the project’s sphere that is why there were no project activities there. But if the donors/government provided us the requisite funds, the project could be extended.

Happily, the promised Rs200million would be utilised for the purpose,” an official said.

””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””’

Here is the original text of the article as it was sent to the paper.

Analysis of one year working of Eralp

By Tahir Ali

On the back of low utilisation of funds during the stipulated time and in realisation of its positive impact upon lives of farmers, the Rs800 million Italian government funded early recovery of agriculture and livestock project (Eralp) being implemented in of Swat by the provincial rehabilitation, reconstruction and settlement authority (PaRRSA) has been extended for another year and the project amount is being increased.

To spend the remaining Rs500mn project money and considering its progress, Eralp that was to finish by March this year, has been granted one year extension till March 2012 and PaRRSA has committed Rs200mn to spread its coverage to the entire Malakand division, sources said.

For the first year of Eralp, officials and farmers in the area have different claims on its effectiveness. While Sanaullah Khan, the project director, and Tariq Khan and Sher Bahadur, farmers from Swat, were all praise for the project, other farmers were critical of alleged nepotism and favouritism in the process of determination of target areas and the distribution of agricultural inputs and other benefits under the project.

Mr Khan said: “Restoration and enhancement of agriculture and livestock in the area, formation/revival of the 127 village male and 24 women organizations in the area, community empowerment, establishment of linkage between communities and government/service providers, capacity building of the stake holders, sense of ownership, accountability and transparency, environmental development through block community plantation/soil conservation and development of private nurseries, fish farming and diversification of livelihood options are some of the notable Eralp achievements thus far,” he said.

“Swat farmers harvest their wheat crops during July. According to a survey in 27 off 32 UCs in the area, per hectare yield has jumped by 266 per cent to 4 tons/ha from 1.5 tons/ha in 2009. This was inevitable as quality inputs were provided to farmers in appropriate quantities at proper time besides provision of technical guidance,” he stressed.

Official brief on the performance of Eralp during last year, says 63 tons of maize, 24 tons of peas, 235 tons of wheat, 640 tons of onion and around 10 tons of pulses seeds were distributed along with fertilizer. Separately, another 51 tons of DAP and 436 tons of urea were also provided to farmers. About 0.296mn plants out of the target of 0.4mn were also distributed to establish new orchards. And 10 poultry farms were established and around 5500 poultry units of chicks were provided to poor households in 32 union councils of Charbagh, Kabal, Khwazakhela and Matta tehsils of Swat and Dokdarra UC in Upper Dir.

In the livestock sector, against the 13000 animal vaccination target, 48000 were vaccinated. In the forestry sector, the target of 2.1 million plants reforestation has been crossed. Top working on 0.1mn olive trees against the target of 0.2mn was done. Block tree plantation has been done at 2200 hectares against the target of 1500 hectares.

25 farmers’ field schools are being constructed and 156 agriculture and 177 livestock extension workers were trained. 3 out of 20 private fish farms have been established and support to 2 fish farms out of 4 has been provided.

In the next phase, 10,000 hand compression sprayers and 500 power sprayers would be provided to farmers. Similarly, 10 biogas plants would be installed and 20 private fish farms opened in the area. And animal feed of around 3000 tons and over 40,000 molasses blocks would also be distributed, the documents reads.

“Out of a Swat plantation target of 7305 hectares, 5450 has been achieved. Work on 4 trout fish farms worth Rs1.92mn has been completed or is in progress. And work on 7 spurs has been completed, is in progress on 4 and on 16 the sanction is awaited. Again, work on 60 water channels worth Rs58.35mn is either completed, in progress or awaiting nod, it adds.

Khan agreed that short duration of the project, 2010 floods, insufficient availability of certified seeds, and restricted movement of project staff were some of the problems of the project.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, president of association for protection of farmers and tillers’ rights district Swat, said farmers in the area had been devastated by militancy and floods and therefore needed support.

“But what the Eralp offered was peanuts. What impact could the delivery of a package comprising two/three bags of fertiliser, 50 kg of seed and some other items to a small number of farmers have on the recovery of agriculture in the area which has hundreds of thousands of growers,” he says.

“But even these inputs were also not given to genuine farmers as no real farmers or village organisations were formed. My area still has none. Most of the work was done on the basis of nepotism and favouritism only in two UCs -Sambhat and Arkuk- off 13 UCs in Matta and other areas stand totally neglected,” he adds.

Mr Jabbar rejected the project’s figures for wheat and said floods and non availability and costliness of inputs had in fact decreased wheat yield in the areas.

Mr Sanaullah said Eralp adhered to its claim of increased outputs: “Since the project approach is participatory, these activities can be cross-checked with the 151 VOs/WOs as these VOs along with government line departments are partners in the project”.

“There is a need to establish genuine VOs and to allocate more money for reconstruction of the destroyed agriculture, irrigation and communication infrastructure and rehabilitation of farmers,” said Sahib Zaman, another farmer from Matta Swat.

As to allegations of nepotism and favouritism, Mr Sanaullah rejected them as baseless and said that decision on appointments, determination of areas, distribution of inputs and other project activities were taken strictly on merit by a broad based committee (comprising donors, establishment department and PaRRSA) as per government policy of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The upper Swat areas like Kalam, Uthror etc and other districts in Malakand division have been totally neglected. It seems some easily accessible areas have been focused at the cost of others. Sanaullah, however, said Eralp was working in the predefined area as agreed with the donors at the designing stage and uniformity of coverage had been ensured in the project area.

“The Upper Swat area and other districts of Malakand Division were out of the project’s sphere, so there were no project activities there. But if the donors/government provided us the requisite funds, the project could be extended. Happily, the promised Rs200mn would be utilised for the purpose,” an official said.

Unaffordable soil testing

Unaffordable soil testing

The private sector should also set up its own soil testing laboratories in farming areas to supplement the work of the public sector. – File photo

“I AM 70 and have never used the soil testing technology so far,” says Niaz Muhammad, a Swat-based farmer. “Such technologies are only for big farmers of the plains and not for the poor growers of remote areas,”
he says.

Most farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have remained deprived of the enormous benefits of soil testing technology due to apparent failure of the government to sponsor it in the province. Many farmers still do not know why this technology is
essential and how it is beneficial because of the limited outreach of the programme.

The reason is simple: the concerned department officials do not contact farmers at their doorsteps. The outcome is low per acre yield. Nutrient depletion and land degradation are the major factors for low agricultural productivity.

Addition of toxic and harmful substances to the soil in significant quantities contaminates it and disturbs its chemical composition. This is generally caused by application of chemical industrial wastes and excessive or inappropriate use of fertilisers and pesticides.

The soil in any country, based on its composition, has been divided into eight categories. The first has the least limitations for agricultural use and can give high yield of crop with proper management. Categories II and III have relatively more limitations for farm use and need better management. The problems are severer in category IV soil which, though capable of producing a few marginal crops, has little ability for improvement. Soils from categories V to VII are not suited to arable farming but can be used for rangeland or forestry. Soil of category VIII is barren.

Application of suitable fertiliser and pesticides to the soil, at appropriate time and in proper way and quantity increases its productivity by 30-50 per cent. The soil testing technology helps determine the kinds of chemical input the soil needs to improve its output.

“In agriculture offices in some districts and research stations on different crops – for example, the tobacco research stations, sugar/cereal crops research institutes – there are soil testing laboratories where soil samples are examined, analysed and the results conveyed to farmers suggesting the requirements of the land under their use. The growers are also helped and guided how to improve its fertility,” said an official.

“It is with the help of this technology that farmers are able to control the degradation and improve physical properties of land to increase yield and ensure prosperity for the farmers,” he added, emphasising the need to increase the number of soil testing laboratories across the province to facilitate the growers.

Sabir Ali Khan, another farmer from Swabi, says that after repeated poor yields, he had a chance to get the soil tested in a laboratory which diagnosed its deficiencies and enabled him to take measures to increase its productivity.

Farmers often opt to use or reject a particular technology on the basis of their interest, experience, the cost of the product and their financial position. They usually oppose new technologies and strategies but once their utility is established, they adopt it. But this requires expertise, contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking here.

Small farmers lack resources to approach the research and extension systems. The department with its aversion to participatory approach i.e. working together with farmers in the target area, has also left them in the lurch.

Average per hectare yield of wheat in KP is much less than the national average. In 2007-08, the national average yield per hectare was 2,585kg for the country while for KP it was 1471kg. Average sugarcane yield by progressive farmers is around 40 tons per acre while ordinary farmers still have per acre yield of around 16-20 tons. Per acre yield of maize in central Punjab has gone up to 4,600 kg, whereas it is generally between 700-1,200kg in KP.

“Soil testing laboratories should be established in all district and tehsils of the province with the use of geographical information system for assessment and mapping of soil fertility.

Soil testing laboratories had been promised at the model farm services centres in all districts but these
are yet to be provided in most of the districts.

The private sector should also set up its own soil testing laboratories in farming areas to supplement the work of the public sector.

Under performing sugar crops research institute

I took photo with Canon camera.

Image via Wikipedia

Sugarcane research in a shambles
By Tahir Ali Khan
August 29, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/29/agriculture-and-technology-sugarcane-research-in-a-shambles.html

KHYBER Pakhtunkhwa’s Sugar Crop Research Institute in Mardan is handicapped for paucity of funds, shortage of research staff and meagre seed production capacity, according to its officials.

“About 80 per cent of our limited budget is consumed by wage-bill and the rest is spent mainly on land preparation, cultivation and harvesting at the SCRI and two other research stations at Harichand and Dargai. There is virtually nothing left for research and development work,” said Sartaj Ali, farm manager at the SCRI.

While there are no funds for purchasing new equipment and machinery, load-shedding and low voltage often damage the precious equipment installed in early 1990s.

The institute is spread over 96 acres. One-third of the 70 acres available for cultivation is kept fallow while the rest is under cane cultivation. “But only 15 acres are under seed multiplication that produce around 440 tons of quality cane-seeds. This is clearly insufficient for the province. And in its subsidiary, Harichand farm too, 10 of 20 acres available for cane-seed multiplication remains unused for want of funds,” he said.

“The SCRI has developed 22 cane varieties so far. Some of these varieties have increased yield and income of farmers.

“Sugarcane farmers in 75 per cent areas grow CP77/400, a seed variety developed by SCRI. Sugarcane requires abundant water, more than required by rice crop. So we have developed SPSG-394, Mardan 92, and NCO310 as well for water stress areas. Most of these varieties have 12 per cent of sugar recovery ratio, the highest at world level,” he added.

“We are trying to bridge the huge gap between yields of farmers, institute and progressive farmers. While our average yield at the SCRI is about 32-36 tons, progressive farmers obtain around 40 tons per acre while per acre yield of common farmers is not more than 16-20 tons,” he said. “Their efforts in this regard have failed due to weak extension service and liaison with farmers as a result of shortage of staff and resources at our end and ignorance and lack of cooperation and coordination at the farmers’ side,” he added.

The staff shortage has also undermined the research work at the SCRI. Lack of service structure and opportunities for promotion as well as poor remuneration have discouraged many a talented people to join as research officers and encouraged the existing ones to leave for lucrative offers elsewhere.

“Over half of the 20 research officers’ slots are lying vacant. Country-wise, the situation is even worse. Over 260 of the 350 research officers in the SCRIs countrywide have left. Another problem is that 60 per cent of the existing research officers, recruited in 1973-74, are retiring in the next three to four years. There is no replacement for them in sight, he said.

Responding to a question on the causes of low cane yield, Ali said: “Most farmers resort to intercropping of wheat and cane which reduces output. Most of the farmers use less than the recommended four tons seed per acre, resulting in less plant population. They also do not use enough fertiliser and pesticides. Moreover, they still grow old varieties and delay cultivation and harvesting of cane for better prices.

Regular watering, inconsistent rains and abundant poplar trees around field also reduce yield and cause termites problems as well. Another issue is that of small landholding. Land fragmentation reduces cropped areas and compels farmers to do inter-cropping and makes commercial and mechanised farming impossible,” he added.

“Farmers should grow early cane varieties (CP72/2086, CP80/1827, Mardan93 and CP85/1491) as these mature in September/October and provide better sugar recovery (12 per cent) and price, an opportunity to cultivate wheat in time and save ratoons from frost and cold,” he added.

According to him, globally, education, research and extension are looked after by the universities. “In Pakistan too from 1982 till 2006, research work was the responsibility of universities. This expedited the process of sanctioning the project. But in 2006-07, during the previous MMA government, research was handed over to the department, not a good decision,” he said.

“The agriculture department has launched Rs30 million project for sugarcane seed production through chip buds, chip nodes and standardisation of technology in KP but it needs to be speedily and effectively implemented.”

Potato growers’ woes

Potato cultivars

Image via Wikipedia

Frustrated potato growers of Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/08/08/frustrated-potato-growers-of-swat.html

WHILE potato growers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from the huge losses caused by the floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes.

Most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored but the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the crop from Kalam and other upper Swat areas difficult, costly and unaffordable for growers.

Officials claimed that the reconstruction work would be finished within a year but the pace of work indicates it may take much longer for the actual completion. If the monsoon this year triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may become impossible.

Shah Abdar, president of model farm services centre, upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows quality potato in abundance. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers.” he said.

“Large size, good quality and taste are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents reap most of the profits. Average per hectare yield of the crop in KP and the country is 12 and 17 metric tons respectively but it is around 20MT in Swat,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project but communication problems are diminishing its impact.

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam, Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sack of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even more. An acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

Going by the current market price, an acre’s harvest can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers. In the international market it could fetch $7,000 or Rs0.59mn (average price of $500 per metric ton).

To fetch a good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. However, it too has its related problems. “The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence need to be used within weeks but nevertheless provide us the growers good returns. The more the delay, the lesser the price at the market,” says Gul.

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

“Inadequate storage, processing facilities and the manipulation of the market by middlemen results in price volatility as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by proper bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” another farmer Bakht Biland Khan, said.

Limited grading and labelling of the produce, absence of regulated local potato purchase along export facilitation centres and market information system are the other major problems faced by potato growers.

Despite favourable climatic conditions for the three potato crops, KP has a meagre share in countrywide potato yield. Its output was about 0.12 million tons from 10,000 hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.The main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat with seeds obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20 per cent potato is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities. A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 per cent reduction in post-harvest losses cane save Rs6 billion.

Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the world market. Despite having export potential worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

Lack of credit facilities is the main snag for small growers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were unable to buy standardised seed from the market as banks denied or delayed credit facilities.

………………

Original text of the article.

Dejected Swat potato growers

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

 

While potato farmers in upper Swat had not yet recovered from massive losses for the impacts of floods and militancy, the dilapidated communication infrastructure in the area is adding to their woes this season once again.

 

Though most of the bridges destroyed by last year’s deluge have been temporarily restored, the road from Madyan to Kalam, the potential potato growing strip, is yet to be rebuilt. This has made transportation of the potato produce from Kalam and other upper Swat areas highly difficult and costly, almost unaffordable for farmers.

 

Officials claim the reconstruction work would finish within a year but the pace and volume of the work suggests it may take three to four years to complete. And if this year’s rainy season triggers floods again, access to upper Swat may virtually come to a standstill.

 

Shah Abdar, the president of model farm services centre upper Swat, says the hilly cold terrain grows abundant quality potato. “In areas which are accessible, the commodity fetches handsome returns to the farmers. In the past, farmers in far off villages would bring their produce to the market using camels and donkeys but that has also become unfeasible as onward transportation from upper Swat is expensive beyond affordability, for transportation charges have quadrupled of late,” he said.

“There is vast potential for the crop. Large size and good taste and quality are the hallmarks of Swat potato but the middlemen and commission agents have reaped most of the profits. Average yield per hectare is 12 and 17 metric tons in KP and the country respectively but is around 20MT in Swat. But, for marketing snags, farmers prefer to grow only for their own needs and avoid commercial farming,” he added.

According to him, Kalam potato farmers had greatly benefited from the support and guidance offered by the Switzerland-funded Kalam integrated development project and farmers but communication problems are diminishing its impact now.

 

Tor Gul, another potato farmer from Miandam Swat, said the seeds-production ratio for potato was up to 1:10. “It means that one sac of potato seeds weighing 90kg produces about 900kg of potato and even beyond. And, an acre of potato crop yields around 360 maunds (14MT) in Swat,” he said.

 

Going by the current market price, it can fetch up to Rs0.36 million for farmers which is a hefty price by any standard.  And in the international market it could fetch $7000 or Rs0.59mn (on the basis of price of $500 per metric ton).

 

To fetch good price, the farmers in some areas like Miandam harvest their crop before maturity. But it too has its related problems.

 

“The potatoes so harvested are small, decay quickly and hence needs to be used within weeks but nevertheless they provide us good returns. The more there is delay, the lesser is the price at the market,” says Tor Gul.

 

Elsewhere overproduction, rather than under production, is the problem.

 

“The combination of inadequate storage and processing facilities and middlemen manoeuvres lead to volatility in prices as not all excess production can be stored or processed for consumption during the off season. Sometimes there is surplus production and supply that crashes prices at the market hitting the farmers and then there is limited supply that hits the common man with price increase. This can be avoided by bulk storage facility, regulated marketing system and efficient delivery of potato in the market,” Bakht Biland Khan, another farmer, said.

 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Swat in particular has not been able to exploit the potato potential. Escalated cost of production, non-availability of quality potato seeds, poor post-harvest handling and lack of value addition and of modern plants of potato by-products in the province are hindering the process.

 

Besides, limited grading and labelling of produce, the absence of regulated local potato purchase centres, potato export facilitation centres and market information system are the other woes of potato growers.

 

Despite being tax-free zone and hub of industries, the lack of potato processing units, one that could produce potato chips or frozen French fries, is amazing to the say the least.

 

A multinational company, according to a report, had agreed to install a potato chips unit in Swat but the facility is no where seen thus far.

 

Despite having favourable climatic conditions for all the three potato crops, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has meagre share in country-wide potato yield. It yielded about 0.12 million tons from 10 thousand hectares in 2010 against 3.4 million tons from 149,000 hectares in the country.

Main potato producing areas in KP are Nowshera, Dir, Mansehra, Upper Swat, Chitral and Mardan. Potato crop is sown both in summer and winter in Swat. Seeds in obtained from Punjab.

An estimated 20% of potato quality is wasted post harvest primarily due to improper handling and lack of proper cold storage facilities.  A survey report by a foreign agency has estimated that about 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses means savings of Rs6 billion.

 

Potato has large potential for the province and the country. Potatoes are sold at around $500 per metric ton in the global market. Despite having potential of exports worth $1bn, Pakistan’s total potato exports were just $50 million in 2009.

 

The lack of credit facilities are one of the main problems for small farmers. In some areas of Chitral this year, potato farmers were reportedly unable to buy standardised seed from the market for the banks denied or delayed credit facility to them.

The provincial horticulture policy says nonexistence of producers and marketing associations and market committees, non-exploration of new markets, and traditional outdated delivery systems of horticulture produce as the biggest constraints of the sector.

It recommends setting up of agriculture producers markets and market information systems at the district level and urges for quality grades for vegetables and to establish training institute for productivity and quality enhancement with funding from the export development fund.

The government should provide tax holidays for the first five years to encourage processing industries and ensure launch of specials schemes for development of modern horticulture enterprises in private sector in the province.

Improving agriculture extension system

Improving farm extension services

farm extensionA highly minute per cent of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use modern technology when it comes to agriculture. – File photo

ONLY about 20 per cent of farmers in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa use modern technology in agriculture. This is because either most of them have no money, or if some of them have, they are ignorant and not inclined to use it.

The agriculture extension services staff has not made growers aware of the advantages of the modern farming technology or motivated them to use it.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous developments and various technologies are used for ploughing, sowing, harvesting and packing crops. But most of our local farmers are still stuck to traditional ways of agriculture, resulting in low yields, wastage of assets like water and 30-40 per cent loss of farm-produce.

Farmers either reject or adopt innovations on the basis of their awareness, interest, experience, product cost and their financial position. They are usually too conservative, ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies and strategies, but once the utility of the system is established, they quickly adopt it. But it requires expertise, profuse contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking.

Instead of following a proactive approach in its interaction with growers, the agriculture extension officials primarily wait for them to come to it with their problems to get them solved. One wonders why this can’t be the other way round i.e. the directorate staff reaches the farmers at their doorsteps to do the required job.

“Agricultural extension department is mandated to provide research technology to farmers, convey growers’ feedback to agricultural researchers and keeps them abreast of the field problems for further improvement in their research work. It is supposed to contact and train farmers, check sale of fake fertiliser and pesticides, collect data and prepare reports on crops and extension materials for farmers, supporting donors and dealers.

But the extension directorate has given up these functions. Its officials now seldom visit fields and farmers. There is no interaction and liaison with farmers to know their problems and needs,” said Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president of Anjuman-i- Kashtkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to him, till the recent past, officers regularly visited farmers and fields. There were daily farmer-specific radio and TV programmes, agriculture extension shows and melas and film shows at village levels, and spraying and pruning of orchards by extension officials.

Fruit plants were also provided to farmers but there is nothing of this sort these days,” he complains.

The extension service has suffered both from insufficient capacity and commitment as well as paucity of staff. Out of 2,654 personnel of the department in 2004, there were only 38 technical officials while field staff numbered 2,129 who had to cater to the agriculture needs of around 1.4mn farms in the province.

When an official had to attend 527 farmers on an average, how could extension duties like making frequent contacts with farmers and checking of pesticides and fertiliser dealers for quality be satisfactorily carried out?

Though there is no direct evaluation of the extension impact – it is indirectly judged from crop yields and cash returns to farmers etc.. There is no authentic data to show as to whether high prices of farm produce have benefited growers more or the middlemen and commission agents?

In 2007-08, model farm services centres were developed for extension purposes but these bodies are now dormant in most of the districts. There is no separate statutory law to govern its functions under which they could be registered.

The department needs to invest on strengthening its information technology section as its website is not updated and still displays figures of 2006 on achievements of agriculture extension services.

The lack of service structure and chances for promotion is discouraging new talent to join the directorate and the existing ones are also leaving their services.

There is a need to establish genuine farmers organisations at village level as community participation is generally better at micro level.

The government and private sector should establish agricultural machinery pools and inputs centres at villages where farmers could get these things and also guidance on subsidised or deferred payment.

******************************

Here is the original script of the article

Improving extension ystem

By Tahir Ali Khan

Agriculture development in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, besides other problems, is also suffering from weak agriculture extension system that has hindered mechanised farming and perpetuated low per acre yield -607kgs as against the national average of 1040kg per acre.

The work of the directorate general of agriculture extension -to disseminate latest agriculture technology and techniques to farmers- is made difficult by apparently scant commitment of the former and the latter’s inability or disinclination to modernise their farming.

The challenge facing the extension department is two-pronged: One, to make the research scientists to develop new varieties and techniques; two, how that is to be made available to farmers and to motivate them to use it. Newly discovered agriculture technologies and techniques come to nothing if these aren’t promptly transferred to farmers -the end users.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous developments and various technologies are used for ploughing, sowing, harvesting and packing the crops but most of the local farmers still use the old-fashioned ways of agriculture resulting in low yields, wastage of agriculture assets like water, around 30-40 per cent loss of on farm-produce and therefore less incomes for them.

Only about 20 per cent farmers use modern agriculture technology. This is because either most have no money to buy and, if they have one, no knowledge or inclination to use the modern farming techniques and services as extension staff fails to motivate them.

Farmers either reject or adopt the innovations on the basis of their awareness, interest, experience, the cost of the product and their own financial position. Though farmers are usually too conservative, ignorant and poor to adopt new technologies and strategies but once their utility is established, they quickly adopt it. But it requires expertise, profuse contacts and sufficient strength of extension personnel, which unfortunately are lacking.

 

The current extension service does not suit the requirements of modern age and has weaknesses both in structure as well as methodology: poor use of electronic and print media for transmission of messages, lack of expertise of front-line extension workers, scanty staff strength and thus poor mobility, resource constraints and inadequate opportunities for training and national and international exposure for farmers and officials, and weak linkages between line departments and farmers and educational institutions, and so on.

 

Rather than following a proactive approach in its interaction with growers, the agriculture extension primarily waits for them to come to it with their problems to get them solved. One wonders why this can’t be the other way round i.e. the directorate reaches to farmers at their doorsteps itself rather than the former case.

 

Small farmers have limited access to extension officials and they lack resources, courage and urgency to approach the research and extension systems and are kept from technology adoption their poverty and ignorance.

 

With agriculture having been mostly left to the provinces under the 18th amendment, there can be no better time for major overhauling of the extension system to ensure more efficient extension. This obviously requires substantial increase in resources for the directorate and renewed commitment on part of its staff.

 “Agricultural extension is mandated to provide research technology to farmers, conveys farmers’ feedback to agricultural researchers and keeps them abreast of field problems for further improvement of their research work. It is supposed to contact and train farmers, check the sale of fake fertiliser and pesticides, collect data and prepare reports on crops and extension materials for farmers, supporting donors and dealers. But extension directorate has given up these functions. Its officers and officials now seldom visit fields and farmers. There is no interaction and liaison with farmers to know their problems and needs,” said Haji Niamat Shah, the vice president of Anjumani Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to him, till the recent past, officers would regularly visit farmers and fields. There were daily farmer-specific radio and TV programmes, agriculture extension shows and melas and film shows at village levels, and orchards and spraying and pruning of orchards by extension officials and fruit plants provided to farmers but there is nothing of the sort these days,” he argued.

Extension has suffered both from insufficient capacity and commitment as well as paucity of staff. The extension personnel mostly lack the requisite communication skills and don’t utilise print and electronic media and other resources like mobile, telephone or internet profusely for the purpose.

For example, the directorate, apparently, has not made any special effort to identify and project the areas where foreign donor assistance or large scale public or private sector is direly needed. It is not surprising then that in the agriculture sector there is no foreign funded project in the budget. And it is understandable that most of the farmers still don’t know how and why soil testing is essential and beneficial, what to think of utilising this and other new discoveries for their advantage.

And out of 2654 personnel of the department in 2004, there were only 38 technical officials while field staff numbered 2129 who have to cater to the agriculture needs of around 1.4mn farms in the province. When an official had to attend 527 farmers on average, how can extension duties like making frequent contacts with farmers and checking of pesticides and fertiliser dealers for quality can be satisfactorily done?

Though there is no direct evaluation of the extension impact -it is indirectly judged from crop yields and cash returns to the farmers etc., there is however no authentic data available to show as to whether high prices of agriculture produce have benefited farmers more or the middlemen and commission agents?

In 2007-08, model farm services centres were enthusiastically developed for extension purposes but the bodies were neglected afterwards and these are now dormant in most of the districts. These bodies still have no separate statutory laws to govern its functions and under which it could be registered.

The department needs to invest on strengthening its information technology section as its website is not updated and still displays figures of 2006 on achievements of agriculture extension services.

Female farmers would happily attend trainings and receive inputs and services if these are arranged through female extension workers.

Acknowledging the failure of the extension system, the government rightly intends to revive the erstwhile outreach directorate in the province. The sooner this is done, the better.

The lack of service structure and chances for promotion is discouraging new talent to join the directorate and the existing ones are also leaving their services.

There is a need to establish but genuine farmers organizations at village level as community participation is generally better at micro level.

 

Close partnership between the public extension system and the work of participatory NGOs will surely maximize coverage to the farmers. An agricultural T.V. Channel can be opened to corroborate the efforts of the research and extension system in transfer of technologies to the farming community.

 

There are two separate extension departments for agriculture and livestock which is unwarranted since it is costly and expose farmers to frequent visits of narrow specialists. Instead, there should be multi-commodity focused extension where different technical specialists may offer advice to farmers at their doorstep simultaneously.

The government and private sector should establish agricultural machinery pools and inputs centres at villages where farmers could get these things and guidance on subsidized or deferred payment.*******************************************

Snags in commercialisation of KP’s Livestock sector

A boy herding sheep in India.

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture in budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Bakau agriculture 1

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When it comes down to food

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

By Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowering female farmers

Empowering female farmers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn July 11, 2011

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

marketing of Swat onion

Red onions

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Depressed onion prices in Swat

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn- July 4, 2011

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Olive project being launced

Olives

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Khyber Pakhtunkhwa project for olive plantation

By Tahir Ali Khan

June 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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