Agriculture in budget of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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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

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.

Low priority to farm modernization

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KP’s low priority to farm modernisation

By Tahir Ali Khan

THE majority of farmers in Khyber Paktunkhwa is using the age-old technique — a pair of bullocks — for ploughing its fields, instead of tractors.

Only about 20 per cent farmers use modern agriculture technology in the province. This is because either most of them have no resources to buy the services or have no knowledge or inclination to use the modern farming techniques.

Agriculture worldwide has undergone tremendous transformation and latest technologies are used for ploughing fields and sowing, harvesting and crop packing but KP farmers, especially the majority poor/small ones, still continue with outdated ways, resulting in low crop yields, and wastage of agriculture assets like water and low incomes.

Farmers usually don’t benefit from provincial government’s research endeavours and innovative technology for lack of coordination between the line departments, and the growers and the line departments.

A senior official in the Agriculture Department agrees that problems such as lack of mechanised farming, low per acre yield, inputs availability constraints etc., are also suffering from weak agriculture extension for lack of coordination between farmers and the government.

“Our researchers need to develop seeds varieties for the different climatic zones in the province that could increase both under-cultivation land and production. But there are two challenges in this connection. One is for the research scientists to develop new varieties and techniques and the second is how that is to be made available to farmers so that they could use them,” he said.

“Even if researchers fulfil their responsibilities but their products are not available to farmers or they are not inclined to use them, the problem will remain unresolved. Extension department needs to make latest research and development products and farming techniques available to farmers as soon as possible,” he added.

“It is strange the farmers still prefer outdating farming techniques that result in poor per acre yield and therefore the incidence of poverty is increasing amongst small farmers,” he said.

Mechanised farming is urgently needed to increase per acre yield but the small landholding is the hurdle. The research directorate in collaboration with local industry could solve this problem by evolving miniature engineering machinery and technology. To facilitate the directorates of agricultural research and agricultural extension in their endeavours to benefit the farmers and to bridge the gap between farmers and research, the government should revive the erstwhile outreach directorate in the ministry of agriculture.

The outreach directorate will surely reach out to the farmers with new technologies. It had done pretty good job till 1995 when it was wrapped up. Its revival is necessary to address the critical problem of coordination between farmers and agriculture researchers.

The next provincial Annual Development Programme has a new project for strengthening of outreach activities, but meagre allocation is a cause of concern.

The project was allocated Rs50 million but only Rs15 would be spent under the ADP. It means there cannot be any meaningful practical changes at least for some years to come.

Agriculture cannot be developed in the province by taking half-hearted routine measures. It, instead, requires some innovative, out of box, targeted and emergency plans to develop the sector on which around 70 per cent of provincial population depends.

An official informed that the provincial government intended to revive the outreach directorate. “The terms of reference of the directorate have been prepared and necessary allocations have been made in the next budget for this purpose,” he informed.

“This would surely expedite services, improve coordination between the stakeholders and bridge the gap between farmers and research thereby facilitating and benefiting the farmers enormously. It will regularly update the policy makers on the requirements of the farmers and will also inform the latter on any invented/imported technology or technique sooner rather than later,” he hoped.

Besides the above shortcomings, some other problems are also hampering agriculture development in the province.

In the recent past the agriculture extension directorate was being run without a full-time head.

Also, there is an acute shortage of research personnel in the directorate. The shortage of senior research officers is particularly serious.

“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. 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.”

“Most of the officers are performing their duties in the same scales for 30 years despite being qualified. In a situation when the officers and officials retire in the same scale they were inducted in and they are paid comparatively far less than their research counterparts in the private sector, it is not strange if most of the existing officials too are opting for retirement, ex-Pakistan leave or leaving their service in search of better future,” conceded the official.

The government should offer incentives to attract competent people to the sector and should also announce a service structure and comprehensive relief package for the existing ones to arrest the trend of flight of human capital from the directorate.

Improving marketing in Malakand

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Linking growers with corporate buyers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn April 18, 2011

Initiatives to improve horticulture output and marketing links of local farmers with local and foreign firms have been launched in Malakand division under the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement programme.

The area, especially Swat, produces quality vegetables and fruits. It accounts for 34 per cent of plums, 95 per cent of walnuts and 82 per cent of provincial apple yield.

It also accounts for 64 and over 50 per cent of the provincial production of vegetables and fruits respectively. But farmers do not fully benefit from their crops for lack of finances, expertise and marketing linkages.

Shakil Qadir Khan, Director General of Parrsa, said his organisation was trying to help improve quality and value addition, standardise packaging and create modern marketing practices for the produce.

“We are not only providing advice, cash and in kind support to develop quality of indigenous fruits and vegetables but also helping growers find new markets for their products by creating liaison between them and local and multinational companies,” he said.

Last year, Pepsi-Cola Pakistan made a potato purchase deal of 350 tons with Swat farmers. But because of the devastating floods and resultant losses to potato crop and damage to communication network, the company could lift only 35 tons of the crop and that too by helicopters. Once linkages are established, these will be promoted and extended to other crops creating opportunities for modernisation of agriculture and increasing income of local farmers considerably.”

Khan said another $12 million package for agriculture was to be launched soon. “We have also approached various local firms and multinationals for the purchase of Swat apples, peaches, and apricots. If they agree, they are welcome. If they disapprove, we would request them to come and guide local farmers to produce quality fruits acceptable to them. We would provide them financial support for the purpose. The companies can send their experts for development of horticulture.

This will be a public-private partnership financed by Parrsa. Norway has expressed its desire to purchase local peaches but the fruit will have to be ISO certified.

Apple growers and market men were encouraged to shift to attractive paper-packaging instead wooden crates. The application improved sales tremendously,” Khan said.

Citing another intervention, he said, Swat produced approximately 60 tons of trout fish in its 22 farms which was mostly consumed locally. Last July`s floods ravaged most of these hatcheries.

“Parrsa plans to provide marketing support to fish hatcheries to sell their produce to big food-chain restaurants both within and without the country. Trout decomposes fast when taken out of water. However, there are means to keep the fish fresh and transport it to farthest areas without fear of decomposition. Using the required technology and giving a new brand name like Swat/Kalam trout to the species in the market, the number of hatcheries in Swat could be increased to 200 in a year`s time,” he hoped.

In the first phase, Parrsa would arrange for the technology and provide information and financial support to fish farmers. “Later they would manage it themselves. If farmers are introduced to new technology, services and strategies and they know their utility, they would manage it next year themselves.”

Agriculture neglected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’ budget

Farming neglected in K-Pakhtunkhwa

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN, Monday, 28 Jun, 2010)

WITH the provincial revenue going up enormously following the landmark Seventh NFC Award, it was believed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province would allocate sufficient funds for the development of farming sector, but no step was taken in this direction.

The meagre allocations to agriculture and its related sectors in fiscal budget 2010-11 indicate that development of agriculture lies far below in the list of priorities of the provincial government.

The annual development programme has been doubled and the provincial share in the ADP increased from Rs32 billion to Rs58 billion. Allocations for education, health and communication sectors have been increased by about 67, 80 and 64 per cent respectively as against the previous year to 17, 11 and 14 per cent of the ADP, the agriculture and its related sectors have not been given their due share in the budget.

Though allocation for agriculture in the provincial budget has been increased by about 45 per cent to Rs1.11 billion this year from Rs796 million in the outgoing fiscal, it has virtually come down if compared with the percentage to the total outlay of ADP.

Whereas the outgoing year’s allocation was 2.4 per cent of the core provincial ADP, it makes 1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58 billion.

Irrigation budget was Rs1.4 billion or 4.3 per cent of the core provincial ADP in the outgoing year. Though its share in ADP has been increased by about 70 per cent to Rs2.4 billion, it has decreased by about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this year.

The budget for irrigation sector has been increased by about 70 per cent but it is insufficient considering the fact that the province needs to increase its irrigation infrastructure which at present cannot utilise the three million acre feet of water of its share that flows into, and is used by other provinces free of cost.

This year’s budget aims at economic revival and growth, according to the white paper, but the allocations do not reflect the ambitions.

Promotion of agriculture is the most effective tool for eradication of poverty and terrorism. This necessitates more funds for this sector. But the budgetary outlay for this sector reflects lack of vision and commitment on the part of the government.

Traditional methods, paltry allocations and weak commitments would do no good to the sector. The government will have to opt for out of box solutions and enthusiastic pursuit to develop it.

About 80 per cent farmers have no access to quality seeds, modern farm technology and increase in acreage and per acre yield which is necessary in the present circumstances, but the budget has either dealt the issues marginally or neglected them altogether.

The budget speech disclosed that the government would establish model farm services centres but there were no details. Obviously, financial constraints and small membership of the bodies have restricted their efficacy.

The most positive news for farmers in the provincial budget is the revival of cooperative bank and its subservient bodies from this fiscal year. According to Humayun Khan, the government would provide on billion rupees as seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their income.

Another positive point is the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme. The BKPAP has the potential to solve some basic problems of farmers but a meagre allocation, limited outreach and the political-orientation may reduce its impact.

According to Khan, under the programme, 1700 village organisations were formed, 1567 farmers were provided quality seeds free of cost, another 3,500 were trained and 1,535 model demonstrations plots were arranged in the outgoing fiscal.

The government wants to form 1,800 new village organisations, 2,600 farmers would be provided loans and another 4,000 with seeds this year. A sum of Rs501 million have been earmarked for these purposes.

Livestock accounts for 50 per cent of provincial gross domestic product but it continues to be provided a meagre budget and is still being administered by the agriculture secretary.

According to Khan, this year’s budget is the outcome of the comprehensive development strategy, the first ever developmental roadmap of the province for the next seven years.

The CDS requires about Rs583 billion of which Rs346 billion are to come from foreign loans. The government wants to spend billions on agriculture under the CDS but the finance minister didn’t mention from where the funds would come.

There is neither any special plan for livestock farmers in rural areas nor any for horizontal and vertical crop maximization. Decreasing the role and impact of the middlemen in agri-businesses has also gone unnoticed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA have over 30 million wild olive trees. By making these trees productive, the province can produce about 75,000 tons of olive oil worth $1.5 billion annually. But this sector has remained untouched.

The province has introduced several high yielding research based seeds but their faulty distribution and delayed availability are causing problem. The budget speech didn’t address this issue at all.

According to Khan, the agriculture budget is meant for 84 projects worth Rs813 million for 57 on-going and Rs361 million for 27 new schemes in the sector.

The department would bring another 535 acres under cultivation this year. Sprinkler irrigation would be introduced in 9,000 acres. While another 5,000 hectares would be leveled through laser technology.

In irrigation sector, 64 projects- 42 ongoing and 21 new- will be completed which include construction of six small and medium dams, improvement of irrigation channel, construction of small ponds etc., which will help irrigate and bring around 50,000 acres under cultivation, but the question is are these goals realistic.

In the agriculture sector, only seven of the 64 projects and in the irrigation sector 11 out of 52 projects were completed in the outgoing fiscal.

Raising agricultural budget

Raising agricultural budget in KP

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN Monday, 14 Jun, 2010)

As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is expected to receive huge funds from the federal divisible pool next fiscal year, farmers hope that the provincial government will provide sufficient funds and start a rigorous programme for the uplift of agriculture.

Agriculture has traditionally received insufficient funds ranging from one to two per cent of the provincial annual development plan despite the fact that it accounts for over 20 per cent of provincial gross domestic product, provides employment to 45 per cent of the total labour force and about 80 per cent of the population is dependent on it for survival.

A high official in the agriculture department said he was happy with the size of agricultural development budget, but he did not reveal the exact allocation. Agriculture was allocated Rs800 million in outgoing fiscal year’s core provincial ADP of Rs32 billion. This year it is likely to be around Rs1 billion out of an expected Rs45 billion ADP.

“The government will ensure both quantitative and qualitative expansion of different sub-sectors of agriculture such as increasing per acre yield, land development, bringing more land under cultivation and developing the livestock sector and horticulture and so on,” he said.

The total outlay of the KP’s budget for 2010-11 is expected to be around Rs300 billion as compared to Rs214 billion last year. After about 80 per cent increase in its federal receipts due to the historic NFC award that increased its share, KP will receive about Rs160 billion this fiscal as compared to Rs90 billion in the outgoing fiscal. It will also receive Rs25 billion as net hydro profits. So its net receipts will come to about Rs200bn that would further increase in coming years.

While there will be no shortage of finances, what is required is a commitment on the part of the government departments to develop agriculture through efficient management and utilisation of available resources.

Ihsanullah Khan, president of the KP Chamber of Agriculture, said high prices of the various agricultural inputs, power and oil have made it extremely difficult for farmers to do farming. Farmers need cheap inputs more than any thing else. If not, agriculture would suffer tremendously in the province.

Farmers needed incentives. Subsidies on the agricultural machinery and accessories must be given and increased,” he said. Nimat Shah Vice-President of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP said

“Agriculture budget must reflect the ground realities. The province often faced financial crunch in the past. Sufficient funds should be allocated to facilitate farmers increase per acre yield and acreage of important crops, bring more land cultivation and augment the storage capacity for vegetables, grains, crops and fruits. All this require that at least five per cent of the net hydro profit arrears should be earmarked for agricultural development. The agriculture budget should now account for over five per cent of ADP which should be gradually increased to 10 per cent.”

KP has low per acre yield in wheat. The provision of quality seed is a requisite for improving the yield. “The budget should also have some allocation for developing seeds locally. Until that is done, high yielding seed varieties must be imported. Also, easy and timely availability of seeds and other inputs should also be arranged through improved distribution network. Abiana is double than in Punjab, it should be reduced,” he added.

The KP’s agriculture policy is targeting food security and poverty alleviation. But it is hardly possible with the existing low per acre yield, meagre acreage, inability of farmers to modernise farming.

KP has not been able to fully exploit its huge water potential due to insufficient budgetary allocations, shortage of water reservoirs and lack of physical infrastructure.

KP and the tribal belt have 25 million acres of land. Only 6.7 million acres of it is cultivable. But irrigated land is only 2.27MA while around 4.4MA still await irrigation facility. KP is a food deficient province.

To grow more food, it needs to bring more land under cultivation. But cultivable area forms just thirty percent of the total cultivable land in KP.

“Model Farm Services Centres (MFSC) are serving the farmers well. But financial constraints and poor membership numbers have restricted their efficacy. The government should give at least Rs10 million to each MFSC for purchase of inputs and machinery. More MFSCs would have to be opened besides increasing their members,” said a farmer.

KP usually gets meagre share in agriculture credit. The government should allocate Rs2-3 billion for interest free loans for farmers and SRSP’s services should be utilised for distribution of loan facility.

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