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.


Olive project being launced


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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.

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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