KP’s agriculture budget: Business as usual


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KP budget glued to traditional approach

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn 20-06-11

Officials had claimed that next year`s agriculture budget of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be innovative, allocate sufficient funds and offer out-of-box solutions. But an analysis of the annual development programme shows it to be `business as usual`.

The overall meagre size of the ADP for the sector coupled with small apportionment of funds for various schemes shows it is a new budget with the old approach. It is characterised by meagre funding and staggered allocation of funds that delays completion of the projects for years. It is an overstretched plan of action that has negligible results at the end of the day.

The sector needs strong commitment of the authorities because the livelihood of around 70 per cent population of the province depends on it directly or indirectly.

The annual strategy aims at doing much with the little amount made available. With en bloc allocation to projects becoming impossible, delays in completion of projects become inevitable.

For example, for the project for distribution of cultivable land amongst landless farmers and agriculture graduates, which has a total outlay of Rs200 million, only Rs10 million has been earmarked for the next year. It will take years for the project to complete.

Again, only Rs1 million have been set aside for the Rs10 million rehabilitation of germ-plasma unit in Hazara division. And for development of olive orchards in wasteland, another good intervention, only Rs10m out of the total outlay of Rs60m have been approved for the year. For new schemes worth Rs716m in the agriculture research, only Rs109m have been provided.

Achai conservation and development programme estimated to cost Rs222m gets a meagre Rs42m. While Rs141 had been spent on it in the last fiscal, why the remaining amount is not allocated to complete the vital project?

The ADP addresses only marginally most of the serious problems like outdated farming techniques, inefficient extension and research outfits, low per hectare yield, lack of value addition, wastage of produce, shortage of irrigation water and the like.

The annual roadmap for agriculture for 2011-12 has been prepared in the light of provincial agriculture policy 2005, horticulture policy 2009 and the floods reconstruction priorities, a senior official said.

The agriculture budget has 71 projects including Rs849m for 47 ongoing and Rs505m for 24 new schemes.

The allocation to agriculture and its allied sectors has been increased from Rs1.175bn in the outgoing year to Rs1.355bn for new fiscal but its share has fallen from 1.70 per cent to 1.59 per cent of the overall ADP.

The livestock sector, for the first time, has been allocated Rs0.60bn or 44 per cent of the agriculture budget.

According to the province`s white paper 2011-12, this year`s budgetary allocations reflect higher priority to income generating sectors of the economy, including agriculture.

Agriculture can easily attain the status of big industry in the province if proper care and patronage is given to it, says the white paper.

To ensure efficient implementation and timely completion of the schemes the present strategy of spreading out resources too thin delays projects with cost over-runs.

In the agriculture sector, only six of the 84 projects were completed in 2010-11. And the problem of low utilisation of funds is another pressing problem that hinders timely completion of projects.

According to the white paper, in the preceding year, out of the total budget 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 could be spent till May 2011.

Viewed in this backdrop, the amount to be spent on agriculture may be much less than allocated in the ADP.

The size of foreign assistance in the new ADP is over Rs16bn for 39 projects but there is no project for the agriculture sector in it like the previous year. Only six per cent farmers in the province have access to agriculture credit.

Last year, the government had announced revival of cooperative bank which was to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women but actually only Rs200m was released.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, the annual roadmap of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has something for each agriculture sub-sector: agriculture extension schemes (Rs0.11bn), agriculture mechanisation (Rs0.16bn), on farm water management (Rs0.15bn) agriculture research (Rs0.24bn), livestock extension (Rs0.24bn), agriculture planning (Rs0.02bn), livestock research (Rs0.27bn) and soil conservation schemes Rs0.05bn.

Besides these, projects for backyard farming and livestock rearing, value addition of fruits and vegetables, rehabilitation of flood disaster lands with plantation of new fruit orchards, olive cultivation initiative, poverty alleviation through improved rural poultry production and conservation of the Achai cattle breeds have been proposed.

Furthermore, a project on micro-propagation/tissue culture has also been proposed to produce millions of plants sooner than routinely possible.

Innovative farm schemes needed

Investing in innovative farm schemes

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn, 06-06-2011

THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will present its first budget this week after the devolution of the federal agricultural departments to the provinces. The question arises: what difference will it make?

Though officials of the provincial agriculture department are confident that their development strategy reflects out of the box thinking, farmers have very little hope that it would be any different from the past. Thy say the traditional approach will prevail.

Minister for Agriculture Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Arbab Ayub Jan declined to share any details about the allocations and targets for the next year’s ADP for agriculture but said the budget would be non-conventional in its priorities and plans.

“Several new interventions have been proposed. Allocations have been approved for all of the schemes we had suggested. This has been done for the first time and we hope it would help develop farming in the province,” he said.

Ahmad Said, Chief Planning Officer of the agriculture department, said “We have suggested various innovative schemes, the details of which, I cannot share as yet. I am hopeful this year’s comprehensive ADP with several innovative steps would ensure expansion and development of agriculture. The special focus is on revival of farming in the 12 flood-hit districts,” he said.

Farmers have their own concerns. “The problems are so huge that only a revolutionary ADP, with innovative steps and enormous investments can tackle them. But there is little likelihood that any such plan will be included in the annual agriculture roadmap,” opines Naimat Shah Roghani, a farmers’ leader from Mardan.

High prices of various farm inputs have increased cost of production manifold.

“The government should extend direct subsidies on the farm inputs like seeds, fertiliser, tractors, power, diesel and tube-wells,” he said.

The agriculture sector has received meagre funds in successive ADPs despite its huge significance as the primary source of livelihood for around 70 per cent provincial population.

While the allocation for agriculture sector was increased by about 45 per cent this fiscal year over the preceding year, it came down from 2.4 per cent of last year’s core ADP to 1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58bn.

Irrigation budget was 4.3 per cent of the core provincial ADP last year. Though its allocation went up by about 70 per cent, it decreased to about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this fiscal year.

Roghani said at least five per cent of the ADP should be allocated for agricultural development, which should be gradually increased to 10 per cent in the coming years.

Only about 20 per cent farmers use quality seeds and modern agriculture technology, for which agricultural research, engineering and extension directorates should be strengthened.

“For better coordination between the farmers and government and to facilitate the directorates of agricultural research and agricultural extension and to bridge the gap between farmers and research, the government should revive the erstwhile outreach directorate in the department of agriculture,” said Muhammad Khalid, an agronomist from Mardan.

“The outreach directorate reached out to the farmers at their doorstep with new farming technologies and improved seed varieties, but became dormant in 1995. Its revival is necessary to address the critical problem of coordination between farmers and agriculture researchers,” he said.

“Soil testing laboratories should be opened in all the districts and tehsils. If modern farming technology and techniques are provided to farmers, it will change their farming from subsistence to commercial/modernised one,” he added.

KP needs to bring under cultivation about 1.6 million acres of cultivable wasteland. If possible, it should distribute the state-lands at nominal rates amongst landless farmers.

This requires water for irrigation which can be met by building small dams for conserving floods/rain water for future use. Wastage of water can be minimised by lining the water-courses and canals and its efficiency increased by adopting the sprinkle and drip irrigation.

And fruit orchards could be set up in areas not suitable for food or cash crops.

Backyard or household farming can also increase people’s incomes. The government, however, will have to provide seeds of vegetable, fruit plants and animal progeny to the poor households.

Tunnel farming technique needs to be extended. For this, the government should provide the technology along with guidance and financial support to the poor farmers.

As prices of chemical fertiliser are gradually becoming unaffordable, the government can support the use of green-manure or other organic fertiliser.

According to Roghani, access to market and improved marketing is vital for increasing the incomes of farmers. At present these markets function only in two districts. More markets should be set up across the province.

Livestock sector continues to be provided with meagre budget. There should be some special programme for the livestock farmers, especially women, who should be given free animal offsprings and poultry initially.

Around 60 per cent area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is suitable for olive cultivation. If an olive plantation project is launched and farmers get plants and technical support from the government, oil import bill could be reduced.

Modern laser technology could be used for land levelling. Mechanised farming is vital to increase per acre yield; for small landholdings, common facilities need to be provided.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa needs more farm credit facilities. It accounted for only 3.4 per cent of the country’s agriculture credit of Rs233bn in 2009. Only six per cent farmers here have access to farm credit against 21 per cent in rest of the country.

“Interest on agriculture loans needs to be decreased and its process simplified,” Roghani said.

The government and private sector should establish agricultural machinery pools and input centres at villages where farmers could get these things on subsidy and deferred payment, apart from guidance.

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