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 The outdated machinery has not been replaced since 1992.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.

KP farmers for review of tobacco prices

Review of tobacco prices

By Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

biogas plants: from waste to energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some more facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

— Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some more facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

— Tahir Ali

Walnuts in malakand division

Growing nuts

There is a great potential for planting walnut trees in Malakand and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty, militancy, and floods-stricken farmers. “Around 5 big walnut trees grow in one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate.”

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

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Unaffordable Warmers

By Tahir Ali

Dry fruit –walnut, pistachio, chilghoza, peanuts and almond etc- and winter go hand in hand. While watching movies, reading books or newspapers or partying with friends, dry fruit are munched to warm the body.

Dry fruit are not only health-friendly but are also taken as gifts to friends and officials them in beautiful packets. But skyrocketing prices are making them an unaffordable luxury for the majority.

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

He said chilghoza (pine-nut) prices have surged to over Rs70,000 per 50kg (Rs1400) in the whole sale market and may be sold around Rs1500-1800 in the open market after the transportation charges, dealers’ commission, shopkeeper profit and imposition of various taxes taken into account,” said.

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

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

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

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

Malakand division accounts for 95 percent of provincial walnut yield. Walnut of different sizes, quality and colour are produced here which are marketed in whole form or only its flesh, taken out and packed, is sold in the market.

“Hundreds of tonnes of walnut, pine-nut and other dry fruit are produced in Dir and surrounding districts. Barawal, Dir Kohistan and Garam Chashma, Bamboret and Bony valleys in Chitral produce the best walnut and pine nut. The walnut from Nooristan Afghanistan also reaches the local market,” he said.

“But lack of official support, negligence of the concerned departments, continuous deforestation of the existing trees for getting ‘Dandansa’ and other purposes, non-cultivation of new ones and some ailments (stem-borer), ignorance of farmers and porcupine attacks have endangered this great asset,” he added

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

Mr Rehman was particularly unhappy over cutting the walnut tree for getting “Dandansa”. “The problem is for Dandansa you have to cut down the younger trees whose stem-cover and roots are the best Dandansa. Even though it is unlawful to get and sell Dandansa, it continues unabated,” he said.

Shah Abdar, a Swat based grower of walnut, said hundreds of tons of walnuts are grown in Bahrain, Kalam and other valleys of Swat adding that the potential of walnut in the area is far from being utilized.

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

The forest department, he said each year runs tree plantation campaigns but there is no progress on the ground.

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

It can have great financial benefits for the poverty/militancy/floods-stricken farmers.

“There are around 5 big walnut tree is one canal of land. Farming families usually own less cultivable but much more non-cultivable lands in Swat. If we take the average land per family at 50 canals and the family grows walnut trees on it, it can become millionaire within no time. Just leave the 300kg yield per tree, even if the per tree yield is just 50kg, it will earn the family around Rs2.5million at the current market rate,” he opined.

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

Experts say walnut helps improve memory, is useful for treating stomach, liver and kidney diseases, for cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure. It helps control cholesterol level, strengthens the walls of blood vessels and prevents diabetes and supports immune system.

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.

 

Curbing livestock smuggling

Curbing livestock smuggling

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/17/agriculture-and-technology-curbing-livestock-smuggling.html

TO curb smuggling and regulate export of animals to Afghanistan, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government plans to set up multi-departmental check-posts equipped with vigilance cameras, computers and digital permit readers at the entry points of the province and the tribal belt.

“To be manned by officials from livestock, police and other relevant departments and supervised by area commissioners, the check-posts will record data about movement of animals to and from the province which will be shared with the home department” says Director General of Livestock, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Sher Muhammad.

“Export of livestock will be allowed only via Torkham border in the Khyber Agency. The cattle for export from Punjab will be registered at the Attock Bridge, and issued a certificate. From there, the animals will be escorted by police in the settled area, and then by the political administration in the tribal belt, up to the Pakistan-Afghan border.

“This elaborate monitoring will check smuggling and facilitate legal exporters, preventing misuse of permits for export of animals and meat to Afghanistan,” says Dr Sher.

“The meat/animal permits for Fata will be issued on a daily basis by the livestock department on the recommendations of the relevant political administration. The permitted quota will have to be lifted the same day or else it will expire. Security forces will inform the livestock department of their meat or animal requirements to guard against misuse of their names,” he added.

Special cattle yards will be established to keep the impounded animals which will be subsequently auctioned. To ensure public cooperation, the government will reward those giving information about movement of animals through illegal routes, keeping their names confidential.

The DG said standard operation procedures with clear-cut definition of responsibilities have been issued to the concerned departments, and hopefully the check-posts would start functioning shortly.

Lack of a centralised export permit issuance system in Islamabad, weak coordination among stakeholders and lack of centrally-controlled computerised monitoring of the trade have made it difficult to check smuggling of animals and meat.

Export is a federal subject and its regulation requires close coordination between provincial and federal governments.

However, KP, despite being badly affected by animal exports and smuggling, is not taken on board on the issue of how many animals are to be exported and by which routes.

The installation of digital permit readers is a good decision, but it will not be possible to implement it unless the federal government issues machine readable export permits. Moreover, it requires huge funds and technical support from Nadra which at present is engaged in digitalisation of passports and arms licenses.

The provincial livestock department has submitted legislation on the technology which is likely to be taken up by the provincial assembly shortly.

Prices of animals and meat have surged by 30 to 50 per cent since last year with mutton selling at Rs500-600 and beef at Rs240-300.

A farmer said it was criminal that for the last few years, when the country itself faced shortage of animals and meat was being imported from India, the government had allowed export and smuggling of animals.

“The government has miserably failed to safeguard the interests of the poor consumers. Rather than exporting live animals to other countries, the government should export value-added products like meat, meat products and finished leather goods. The current temporary ban on exports of meat and animals should be extended for at least 10 years to augment the local livestock pool,” he said.

The federal commerce ministry had recently imposed ban on export of meat and live animals for three months, which still continues.

The government usually issues permits for around 0.25 million animals but around thrice the number are taken across the border due to loopholes in the existing system. While officials man the roads, smugglers use the unfrequented routes for smuggling animals.

The phenomenon not only brings about dearth of animals and raise meat prices locally, the leather industry also suffers as the availability of skins comes down.

The Pakistan Tanners Association has called for ban on export and strict control over smuggling of live animals. The leather industry, second largest value-added and export-oriented industry of the country after textiles, got over 17 million skins in 2006 but only eight million in 2010. Consequently, export of leather products has come down to $867 million in 2009 from 1.22 billion in 2007-08.

Apart from smuggling and export and death of around 2 million animals in the floods of this and last year, other factors responsible for the dearth of animals are: the failure to improve the reproductive efficiency, the lack of beef breeds and affordable livestock feed/ fodder and the insufficient curative and preventive facilities and the like.

To increase the livestock population in the country, provision of fodder and feed to farmers on affordable rates, expansion of animal health care system and beef breed development, animal-flattening programme and provision of soft loans to livestock farmers are needed. Cross-breeding of local and foreign cattle could also increase the weight of animals for upto 15-20 per cent.

Determining new tobacco prices

Setting price for new tobacco crop

By Tahir Ali

http://www.dawn.com/2011/10/10/setting-price-for-new-tobacco-crop.html

THE Pakistan Tobacco Board has initiated consultations with farmers to determine the cost of tobacco production and its procurement prices for the upcoming year.

Committees, comprising representatives from main tobacco companies, PTB, Agriculture Policy Institute, Crop Commissioner and growers, have been formed to assess and determine the cost of production (CoP) and the minimum tobacco price: the price for surplus tobacco above the purchase target of companies, and weighted average price (Wap) — the legally bound price for the annual tobacco purchase targets of the companies — for the coming year.

Secretary PTB Numan Bashir said that detailed discussions between growers and tobacco companies had been organised in Mansehra and the process was underway in Swabi these days. Surveys and interviews in the Virginia-tobacco-rich districts of Mardan, Buner and Swat will also be organised soon.

The PTB announces the minimum price for tobacco before the start of the cultivation season till December each year. It also calculates on quarterly basis the Wap on the basis of daily purchase reports submitted by tobacco companies.

For fixation of minimum prices, increase in CoP, the minimum and weighted average prices of tobacco the preceding year, rate of inflation, global crop trends and increases in prices of other agricultural commodities and raw materials are taken into account. But farmers say they have never been paid fair prices.

A segment of farmers say: “Apart from the fact that farmers were not given sufficient time to prepare for the meetings, the exclusion of genuine farmers’ representatives and presence of the cronies of tobacco companies in the committees,( who are not even tobacco growers as was the case in Swabi), the CoP meetings were of no benefit to farmers,” said Asfand Yar Khan, a farmer from Swabi.

“Then the production cost spelled out by farmers is not accepted and is reduced. The illiterate farmers cannot fill the complex CoP sheets themselves and are filled by the PTB officials or representatives of tobacco companies. The farmers just put their thumb impressions over these forms while hardly a few could sign them, though without knowing the contents,” he said.

“Our cost of production has increased but the companies are not ready, and the PTB is not forcing them, to offer proportionate increase in prices. A hectare of tobacco crop fetched me Rs3,24,500 last season while my expenses stood at Rs300,000. Per kg price of tobacco was in the range of Rs100-112 last year though it should have been over Rs160,” Khan said.

“The hybrid seeds supplied by tobacco firms, against the claims, have decreased the yield from 3,200 kg per hectare to 2,100kg per hectare. Companies ask us to shorten the stem and enlarge leaves but as farmers are mostly untrained, they are unable to use NPK instead of nitrate, and because of volatile weather, the yield falls considerably. This explains why farmers opt for non-recommended varieties (NRVs) that have more yield and mature early and facilitates maize cultivation in time.

As per MLO 487, farmers should be informed about official Mp and Wap before the end of October but it is delayed till December to their detriment,” he argued.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in December last year had unanimously criticised the alleged exploitation of growers by tobacco companies. Abdul Akbar Khan, mover of the resolution, had said that the PTB fixed prices in collaboration with companies without considering the growers’ point of view.

Another farmer Abdur Raziq from Swabi, says delayed payment by firms exposes growers to financial difficulties. “I had purchased tobacco from farmers on deferred payment and sold it to a company but it hasn’t paid my dues so far. But what could I say when farmers’ arrears outstanding since Ramazan are yet to be paid,” he informed.

Mr Bashir, PTB secretary, agreed that since prices of various inputs like wood, fertiliser, pesticides, labour etc. have jumped up, prices of tobacco should also be increased.

“We are assessing the production cost. Hopefully, prices will register significant raise as per expectations of the growers. Last year, Wap was Rs112.64 per kg. Companies even offered up to Rs125 for both recommended tobacco and NRVs. As per law, no one can purchase tobacco at less than the Wap,” he said.

“To solve the problem of NRVs, the PTB is importing new high yielding and early maturing tobacco seeds from Brazil this year.
These will fulfill the basic demand of farmers. The seeds would be tested in the tobacco research stations and if found compatible with our environment, would be distributed free of cost among farmers from next year,” Mr Bashir said.

Regarding favouritism in appointment of farmers as CoP committee members, he said the PTB supervised the appointment and working of committees and was there to ensure that merit was not compromised in the entire process.

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.”

Growing mushroom in tobacco barns

Author: Jose A. Fadul. I took this picture of ...

Image via Wikipedia

Growing mushroom in tobacco barns

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn May 2, 2011

MUSHROOM can be cultivated anywhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but it is more convenient to sow it in areas where tobacco is grown.

Thousands of tobacco barns lie mostly unused from October to June every year which can be used for cultivation of mushroom.

The timing for the use of tobacco barns is ideal for two reasons: first, they are vacant and can be used without any damage to the next crop. Second, the crop requires temperature between 22-27 degrees Celsius and humidity of around 80 per cent, which prevail during that period.

The Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB) has also started a project for cul- tivation of mushroom which will be promoted among farmers from next year.

“Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have lagged far behind their counterparts in Punjab. The latter are earning more money from their modernised and efficient farming practices and for utilising their agriculture infrastructure to the maximum. For example tobacco farmers in Punjab grow cucumber and green chillies in winter and earn a lot of money. Unfortunately, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers are either too ignorant or poor and not interested in doing that. They can earn a lot by opting to mushroom cultivation in their barns during the interval,” said a PTB official.

“We will provide technical support, guidance and spawn initially for growing mushroom to tap the potential and enable tobacco growers to increase their income,” he said.

“The PTB will provide seed to the farmers for the first time and then they will be asked to develop the spawns themselves for their use. Farmers will also be provided training and guidance on how to grow the plant, ” he added.

Farmers are generally ignorant about mushroom seeds and know-how to grow oyster or button variety. Guidance on the crop and provision of its spawns (seeds) to farmers could attract multitude of farmers to the sector.

The ingredients needed for the crop are easier to get. Mushroom spawn, two kg quality substrate (wheat straw) and two per cent lime, a plastic bag and clean water are all that is needed for growing mushroom.

Mushroom requires little space, consumes little time, does not need hard work and can be grown even by women and children.

It requires small investment. Its seed in a bag costs around Rs30 which grows in three months. An ordinary barn can provide around 30-50 bags, and with this investment a farmer can earn Rs1000-Rs1500 per bag.

Mushrooms have both nutritional and medicinal values. Being a good food for patients of heart disease, blood pressure and eyesight, mushroom can be used as a diet for common man and in soup.

It can also be marketed to save foreign exchange spent on import of canned mushroom.

Mushroom has been found to have greatly augmented milking capacity of livestock in the province. Its residues are also a major organic fertiliser.

The fungus apart from being a major organic food, is a rich source of protein and can be used as a substitute for protein-providing foods such as meat which is increasingly becoming costlier and unaffordable for the middle-class.

While growing mushrooms, sufficient amount of water, oxygen and darkness is needed. Sterilisation of the compost before spawning is another prerequisite which prevents it from poisoning.

The spawning process completes within 40-45 days. After a week, production starts which continues for three months. In case of button variety, the compost is ready within a month while the oyster`s compost takes a week for germination. This spawning component can also be used as seeds and a spawn bag gives 25 bags of mushroom seeds.

Marketing of the commodity is another problem. The farmers have no access to and information about the buyers. There are many buyers in the market but irregularity in supplies spoils things. Recently a five-star hotel showed interest in mushroom purchase agreement but it wanted regular supplies and good quality.

This can be sorted out by ensuring coordination between growers and purchasers on the one hand and the farmers on the other.

“By developing mushrooms farmers` and buyers` database, the problem of marketing the produce can be solved to the advantage of the stakeholders. We are hopeful that big chain restaurants will themselves contact the producers for the commodity,” the official said.

“Purchase centres can be opened in the districts where information can be provided to the stakeholders on the demand and supply situation of the commodity in the market to facilitate business,” the official added.

USAID-funded Swat hotel package

Call to review compensation package for Swat hotels

DAWN January 10, 2011

 

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/10/call-to-review-compensation-package-for-swat-hotels-2.html

WILL the US-funded compensation programme for Swat’s militancy-hit hotels help revive the local hotel industry while its representatives are questioning the flawed mode of grant distribution?

The lack of coordination between the industry and the Firms Project and the controversy over the categorisation of hotels through an “incorrect survey” may not serve the purpose for which the funds are being provided, complain hoteliers. The USAID media advisor says the project managers are ready to review the survey if there are still some reservations over it.

Zahid Khan, president of All Swat Hotels Association (Asha), welcomes the $4.5 million help for the Swat hotel industry but thinks that the programme would not revive the tourism industry.

He criticises the survey and categorisation of hotels. “The categorisation is the basis of distribution of money and hotel accessories. The categories A (3 star hotel), B (2 star) and C (1 star) will be provided Rs0.65million, Rs0.3million and Rs0.11 million in cash respectively as compensation. Each hotel will also get accessories worth Rs1mn, Rs0.85mn and Rs0.51mn in that order. But the categorisation of hotels by the Firms Project was flawed as many hotels have been assessed wrongly. It has been conducted on the basis of favouritism. And the coming phase of offering hotel paraphernalia is also flawed,” Khan complained.

“A brick and a cement bag, for example, that cost Rs9 and Rs300 in the market have been projected at Rs27 and Rs690 respectively. The prices should be brought down and the hoteliers should be asked to take their dues,” he said.

Also, it seems that hotels have been categorised on the basis of number of rooms and status of the building and not on the basis of losses suffered by each of them because of militancy and floods.

Mr Khan added that though the programme was started with around $4.5 million, much of the money was allegedly being used for the security, transportation, remuneration and other expenses of the project staff.

“Initially the hotel association was taken on board but was kept aloof from the survey. We have sent our views to the Firm Project but our reservations have not been addressed. The survey needs to be reviewed for fair distribution of the compensation amount. There should have been close coordination between the surveyor and the association,” he added.

Media advisor of USAID Shahzad Badar said hotels were categorised in line with the Pakistan Hotels and Restaurants Act of 1976 and other relevant laws/directories.

Asha had provided a list of 22 hotels which in their opinion were neglected, misclassified or incorrectly rated. All hotels were accounted for, necessary corrections were made and subsequent working grants were issued to them, he said. “On September 16, 2010, we provided the hotel association with complete responses and justification for each.

However, hotels owned by government, hotels converted to other businesses during the census period and those who didn’t participate in the census were left out as they didn’t meet the requirements. Some of the hotels were occupied by the army and the surveyors were not allowed to collect complete census data of these hotels,” he said.

He said the question of favouritism by the surveyor didn’t arise as the survey was completed before the grants programme was even designed or known.

“The Firms Project had kept the hotel association abreast of the survey and resultant grants to hotels. Asha had promised its support for the successful implementation of the programme. The president and office bearers of Asha participated in various programme activities from May to December 2010,” he said.

“The Firms Project is mandated to work with the provincial government and is taking their guidance on the best means of restoring the hotel industry in Swat and bringing revenue back to the area,” he said.

As to the ‘inflated’ security, lodging, transportation and remuneration expenses of the project personnel, Mr Badar said Firms Project had been implemented in accordance with the scope of work and budget approved by the USAID.

“The operational cost, including transportation and remuneration expenses of staff and their security arrangements, was kept at reasonable rates so that the bulk of money could be spent directly on revitalising tourism in Swat,” he added.

Mr Badar, however, failed to specify as to how much of the money was estimated to be consumed by the project’s staff and how much would be left for the hotels.

As far as prices of items in the survey forms are concerned, he said, the average costs on these include transportation costs for hotels located in Swat Valley including Kalam. These are for the purpose of estimation only.

The actual cost of each item and their transportation cost will vary from hotel to hotel based on their distance from the location of vendor’s shop,” he added.

He agreed to review the survey if there were any reservations on inclusion or rating of hotels. “The Firms Project intends to update the hotels census/survey soon to include all such genuine hotels that were left out in the first phase due to their unwillingness at that time or due to an oversight on the part of surveyors and to capture post-flood updated information of Swat hotels,” he clarified.

According to an estimate, the tourism industry in Swat suffered a loss of Rs8 billion in last nine years in various tourism dependent sectors like hotel, transport etc.

Revival of tourism in Swat is pivotal to rehabilitation of people there as millions directly or indirectly depend upon the sector but it requires robust funding to build the tourism infrastructure and improve law and order.

With the government hotels and motels, like the Malam Jabba PTDC hotel, in the area also destroyed or deserted, these also should have been restored but these have been left out of the project.

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

 
Dawn January 3, 2011

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/03/early-recovery-project-for-malakand-farmers.html

A
$10 million early recovery of agriculture and livestock programme has
been launched in the Malakand division for the benefit of farmers
affected by floods and militancy.

The programme, initiated in October 2010 and to be completed by
October 2011, is being implemented and monitored by the Provincial
Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) with
the Italy’s debt swap grant.

According to a PRRSA official, the programme is improving the lives and incomes of the households in the target areas.

“Within three months, the programme has helped restore and increase
community-government liaison, revitalised village organisations (VOs)
in the project area, restored and strengthened inputs supply chain,
increased the number of farmers in model farm services centre (MFSC) by
about 159 per cent from 1,588 to 3,959,” he said.

“In two batches of the programme for revival of commercial poultry
farms, three female and seven male farmers, earned about Rs12million by
investing Rs10 million.

In maize crop, one Sheerin from Miandam, Swat, increased per acre
yield by about 163 per cent enhancing earning from Rs48,000 to over
Rs1,28,000. In pea crop, Gulshan and Ali Rehman of Miandam increased
their incomes from Rs13,700 to Rs75,000 and from Rs11,800 to Rs53,000,”
the official added.

“For the first half of the project which ends in March 2011, we had
a target of forming or revising 60 VOs, but we have formed 90 bodies so
far. We intended to provide, inter alia, maize, pea and onion seeds to
6,600, 2,700, and 2,000 farmers respectively. We have given seeds of
these crops to 3,200, 2,700, and 660 farmers in that order already. We
provided 235 tons of wheat seeds out of 300 tons and gave 1,300 tons of
fertilisers to farmers of our 3,000 target,” he added.

“In the livestock sector, the project intended to provide 12,500
poultry units to women farmers but instead 4,600 were provided with the
poultry. As against the plan to vaccinate 13,500 animals, 15,000 were
vaccinated. Establishment of 50 water conservation ponds in the area is
also in progress,” he said.

“In the forestry sector, against the target for setting up of 17
private forest nurseries, 22 were opened. The 2.1 million of the forest
plant production target has also been met.

Working on 81,000 olive trees against the target of 200,000 has been
done. However, community plantation has been carried out at only 84
hectares against the targeted 2,200 hectares,” the source said.

“We will be giving 400,000 fruit plants and 10,000 and 500
hand/power sprayers to farmers and opening 20 private fish farms in the
area. Some 50 farmers’ field schools and 12 each agriculture/livestock
extension workers training centres would also be set up. We would also
be rehabilitating 100km long irrigation channels. Ten biogas plants
will also be installed,” he informed.

By providing farm inputs, agricultural technology, poultry and
livestock to the affected farmers in selected parts of Malakand
division – Kabal, Matta, Charbagh, Khwaza Khela tehsils of Swat and Dok
Dara union council in Upper Dir- ERALP, the project aims at restoring
food security of the area people at household level, help recover the
pre-crisis level of agriculture production and improve the
capacity/incomes of the poor families, especially of women, landless
and vulnerable people through income generation activities,
reforestation, orchard management and rehabilitation of irrigation
system in the area.

“By improving their incomes through delivery of better tools,
inputs, knowledge and market access, not only their poverty can be
reduced but the problems of food security and food inflation can be
solved,” added a farmer Naeem.

Ms Sara Rezoagli, an official of the Italian embassy, has promised
that the project could be extended after reviewing its financial
aspects and recommendations of technical experts.

Agriculture was badly affected by years of militancy and the devastating flash floods in July last year in the region.

The post-militancy damage needs assessment report had estimated
Rs2.2 billion losses for fruits and Rs2.8bn for vegetables in the area.
It also revealed that 75 per cent of the livestock population has been
lost in the region.

The DNA had envisaged Rs22 billion for rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock and irrigation sectors in the area. .

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of MFSC, Swat, was sceptical of
any positive impact of the programme. “VOs might have been formed but
most were already functioning at village levels and didn’t comprise
farmers necessarily. I cannot confirm or deny whether any inputs,
support and training has been given to VOs in other areas but the VO in
my village Dagai, Kabal, has not been given anything during the last
few months,” he said.

“PRRSA in June last year had distributed maize and pea seeds besides
providing wheat seeds and fertilisers through the extension department
and MFSCs. The extension department officials also worked better. I am
at a loss to understand as to why the good process of working through
the extension department and the MFSCs was given up and new independent
methodology was adopted for this project,” he maintained.

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Early recovery project for Malakand farmers

Early recovery project for Malakand farmers


Dawn January 3, 2011

By Tahir Ali Khan

http://www.dawn.com/2011/01/03/early-recovery-project-for-malakand-farmers.html

A $10 million early recovery of agriculture and livestock programme has been launched in the Malakand division for the benefit of farmers affected by floods and militancy.

The programme, initiated in October 2010 and to be completed by October 2011, is being implemented and monitored by the Provincial Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) with the Italy’s debt swap grant.

According to a PRRSA official, the programme is improving the lives and incomes of the households in the target areas.

“Within three months, the programme has helped restore and increase community-government liaison, revitalised village organisations (VOs) in the project area, restored and strengthened inputs supply chain, increased the number of farmers in model farm services centre (MFSC) by about 159 per cent from 1,588 to 3,959,” he said.

“In two batches of the programme for revival of commercial poultry farms, three female and seven male farmers, earned about Rs12million by investing Rs10 million.

In maize crop, one Sheerin from Miandam, Swat, increased per acre yield by about 163 per cent enhancing earning from Rs48,000 to over Rs1,28,000. In pea crop, Gulshan and Ali Rehman of Miandam increased their incomes from Rs13,700 to Rs75,000 and from Rs11,800 to Rs53,000,” the official added.

“For the first half of the project which ends in March 2011, we had a target of forming or revising 60 VOs, but we have formed 90 bodies so far. We intended to provide, inter alia, maize, pea and onion seeds to 6,600, 2,700, and 2,000 farmers respectively. We have given seeds of these crops to 3,200, 2,700, and 660 farmers in that order already. We provided 235 tons of wheat seeds out of 300 tons and gave 1,300 tons of fertilisers to farmers of our 3,000 target,” he added.

“In the livestock sector, the project intended to provide 12,500 poultry units to women farmers but instead 4,600 were provided with the poultry. As against the plan to vaccinate 13,500 animals, 15,000 were vaccinated. Establishment of 50 water conservation ponds in the area is also in progress,” he said.

“In the forestry sector, against the target for setting up of 17 private forest nurseries, 22 were opened. The 2.1 million of the forest plant production target has also been met.

Working on 81,000 olive trees against the target of 200,000 has been done. However, community plantation has been carried out at only 84 hectares against the targeted 2,200 hectares,” the source said.

“We will be giving 400,000 fruit plants and 10,000 and 500 hand/power sprayers to farmers and opening 20 private fish farms in the area. Some 50 farmers’ field schools and 12 each agriculture/livestock extension workers training centres would also be set up. We would also be rehabilitating 100km long irrigation channels. Ten biogas plants will also be installed,” he informed.

By providing farm inputs, agricultural technology, poultry and livestock to the affected farmers in selected parts of Malakand division – Kabal, Matta, Charbagh, Khwaza Khela tehsils of Swat and Dok Dara union council in Upper Dir- ERALP, the project aims at restoring food security of the area people at household level, help recover the pre-crisis level of agriculture production and improve the capacity/incomes of the poor families, especially of women, landless and vulnerable people through income generation activities, reforestation, orchard management and rehabilitation of irrigation system in the area.

“By improving their incomes through delivery of better tools, inputs, knowledge and market access, not only their poverty can be reduced but the problems of food security and food inflation can be solved,” added a farmer Naeem.

Ms Sara Rezoagli, an official of the Italian embassy, has promised that the project could be extended after reviewing its financial aspects and recommendations of technical experts.

Agriculture was badly affected by years of militancy and the devastating flash floods in July last year in the region.

The post-militancy damage needs assessment report had estimated Rs2.2 billion losses for fruits and Rs2.8bn for vegetables in the area. It also revealed that 75 per cent of the livestock population has been lost in the region.

The DNA had envisaged Rs22 billion for rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock and irrigation sectors in the area. .

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of MFSC, Swat, was sceptical of any positive impact of the programme. “VOs might have been formed but most were already functioning at village levels and didn’t comprise farmers necessarily. I cannot confirm or deny whether any inputs, support and training has been given to VOs in other areas but the VO in my village Dagai, Kabal, has not been given anything during the last few months,” he said.

“PRRSA in June last year had distributed maize and pea seeds besides providing wheat seeds and fertilisers through the extension department and MFSCs. The extension department officials also worked better. I am at a loss to understand as to why the good process of working through the extension department and the MFSCs was given up and new independent methodology was adopted for this project,” he maintained.

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Low Sugarcane to mills

Raw (unrefined, unbleached) sugar, bought at t...

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Mills facing cane shortage

Dec 13 2010

By Tahir Ali

IT is not a good sight that the yard of Asia’s biggest sugar mill –the Premier Sugar Mill, Mardan— and roads surrounding it, that would have mile-long queue of cane-carrying trolleys and trucks a few years ago, has only a few of them. The mill is  getting a paltry supply of cane.

Officials at the PSM say they increased the price of cane and ensured prompt payment, expecting that the two measures would improve cane supply position to the mill but the growers did not respond.

They maintain that the PSM increased cane price from support price of Rs125 to Rs240 per 40kg to receive better supplies.

Masood Khan, cane manager at the PSM, said increase in cane price had not boosted supply of cane to the mill as expected. “Farmers wanted prompt payment and good returns on the crop. We have increased the price and are paying them within three days. But still the supply is not enough to run the mill.

He said: “We are running the mill intermittently for 8-10 hours a day or even after a break of a day so that enough stock is accumulated for crushing.”

“Our cost of production per kilo has increased to Rs75-78, which means sugar should be sold at Rs80-85 per kg. However, the prices are coming down, making the position of mills unstable,” he added.

According to him, less supply of cane means intermittent running of mills, which increases cost of production, especially in the event of higher prices to farmers, high wages offered to employees, burgeoning fuel prices and various taxes.

“Conversely, gur has no such taxes and burdens. Why won’t it compete with us? Its prices have increased tremendously and it is sold around Rs80-90 a kilo. To enable us to compete with it, we must be given subsidised fuel, power and relief in taxes. Or else gur making should be banned altogether,” he argued.

Haji Niamat Shah, senior vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, Khyber Paktunkhwa, also said the government should announce a relief package and a rebate in taxes for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sugar industry.

Abdur Rasheed, another official at the PSM, said the mill would daily crush around 100,000 maunds of cane five years ago but it was crushing only 20 per cent of the quantity these days.

Welcoming increase in cane price, Shah hoped farmers would grow more cane next year. Increased price would ensure the pledged and continuous crushing at the mills producing more sugar, save jobs of thousands of mill employees, who are laid-off when mills are closed, and help reduce prices of sugar in the country,” he said.

The new price would appeal farmers who make gur through rented gur-ganees. “But I think those with their own gur-ganees will still feel like making gur from their crop,” he opined.

“The new price may not improve cane supply to mills but it speaks volumes of the government’s indifference and lack of information on the ground situation. Look at the price fixed by the government and the one offered by the mills,” said a farmer.

The estimated production of sugarcane in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1.3 million tons. It can produce up to 100,000 tons of sugar if farmers start bringing their crop to mills for crushing instead of making gur.

Ban on movement of gur to seven federally-administered tribal areas and their six provincial counter parts have caused a fall in its demand and as a result the prices have come down by about 20-30 per cent, but farmers are still going for it.

The gur-makers are alleged to have purchased standing crops from farmers and made advance payments to them for the gur they produce, according to a source. According to him, generator-run modern gur-ganees are consuming cane faster than in the past.

To get adequate supplies, the sugar millers will have to enter into contracts with farmers for purchasing their crop at fixed/better price, and a surety for prompt even advance payments before or after cultivation, but much earlier than harvesting.

There should also be a minimum price for certain fixed sugar-content, but farmers should receive a premium price for more sugar-content in their crop.

Investment in research for better varieties of sugarcane and improvement in per acre yield with better sugar recoveries is also required.

Pakistan is the sixth biggest sugarcane producer in the world but is ranks 15th both in cane and sugar yield.

Left in the lurch

Map showing the location of Nowshera District ...

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Left in the lurch?

Relief and reconstruction work has been ineffective due to corruption, shortage of funds, and skilled personnel

By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2010-weekly/nos-12-12-2010/pol1.htm#5

Shortage of resources, capacity constraints, lack of commitment or flawed priorities on part of the government seem to be the main hurdles in starting the reconstruction phase for the flood affectees in the country, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Millions of people countrywide made homeless by the floods and living in camps and make-shift homes have been left to face the vagaries of weather as winter has set in. Feeling neglected and disappointed, many have started rebuilding their shelters temporarily.

According to World Bank and Asia Development Bank Damage Needs Assessment (DNA) report, around 1.7 million households have lost their homes worth $1.59 billion in floods in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. If we take the low figure of 8 as an average household size, then around 13million people have lost their homes countrywide.

Floods inflicted a loss of around $10bn on Pakistan. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suffered $1.2 billion losses and requires $2.2 billion for flood reconstruction. Total reconstruction cost for all sectors is between $6.8 billion to $8.9 billion. The social sector, including the housing one, needs between $2.01bn $2.7bnn for the purpose.

The government plans to provide Rs100,000 to each flood-affected household for reconstruction of homes. An enormous Rs170bn and Rs30bn are required for the entire country and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively for the purpose.

Reconstruction of homes can continue but only with the generous support of local entrepreneurs and international community as the challenge is greater than the resources at hand and the degree of determination shown by decision-makers.

A Pakistan army team recently reached to a family in a village near Peshawar alongwith building material when it was reported that the locals had started rebuilding their houses on self-help basis. The team also promised to help build houses of other people soon. But not all people are that lucky. Most are waiting for the much needed first or second tranche of Rs20,000 as house compensation given through Watan cards.

Various local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have started building model housing schemes in the flood-hit zone but much more needs to be done by the government, the international community, the philanthropists and NGOs.

According to Adnan Khan, spokesman for Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the first home reconstruction tranche of Rs20,000 has been provided to 180,000 out of around 0.3mn households. “The flood affectees will get Rs20000 in the next installment too. But cheques for next tranche will be released as the PDMA receives money for the purpose,” he says.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has diverted Rs18bn this fiscal year for floods related expenditures but it still faces a shortfall of Rs107 billion for post-flood and militancy reconstruction projects during the next 18 months. Adnan says Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also needs Rs86 billion for Malakand reconstruction and rehabilitation and Rs234bn for post militancy reconstruction needs. “We need assistance from donors to provide the next installment of Rs20,000 to flood victims for construction of housing units,” Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, told the PDF meeting last month.

An official says on the condition of withholding his name that province have received nothing from the centre or the international community for the reconstruction phase as yet, making it difficult for it to start the phase in full swing. But with little fiscal gap available with the provincial government to allocate sufficient money in this head, the federal government and international community should come forward and provide the needed money.

Prolonged delay in the release of tranches for house reconstruction would waste the earlier money as people cannot be expected to keep the money for long. While the federal government has decided that the second installment of compensation would be paid under a unified formula, it cannot be justified as requirements and expenditures for building houses in the northern and southern parts of the country would not be the same.

Nepotism, political interference and corruption in the nomination of affectees for compensation have allegedly made verification (of affectees) difficult. Adnan, however, says, “The government has introduced complaint mechanism at the district level and anyone can contact local or provincial officials for the purpose.”

There are complaints that far off and militancy-prone areas have been neglected and the entire focus of the government and local and international NGOs has been on the easily accessible areas. Najamul Aleem Sayyed, who worked with a foreign NGO during floods in Nowshera, agreed that some areas like Mohib Banda were unbelievably the most favourite destinations of all aid agencies. “The problem is that relief agencies and the government departments have been concentrating on relief work at the easy-to-operate areas neglecting other areas,” he says. Zakhi Qabristan, Mughal Key, Mian Esa, Ali Muhammad and Meshaka are some of the areas whose residents claim they have been totally neglected.

Manzur Ahmad, a social worker from a worst affected area in Akbar Pura, is unhappy that his village had been totally neglected even though it lies at some distance from motorway.

“Our village was badly hit by floods. Nearly all homes were washed away. Our agriculture lands were damaged. But there is no support from the government and NGOs. There is no reconstruction. We still wait for issuance of Watan cards and house compensation. Provision of shelter is crucial at this stage. The people have built their homes temporality after they lost hope of any government action on the home rebuilding initiative,” he says.

Khalid Khan, district chief of Muslim Aid in Charsadda, says, of the 57,000 affected families in the city, 30,000 have been provided tents while the rest are going without them. “Shelter is the most urgent need at present. Livelihood restoration, quilts for women and children, and restoration of lands for farming are other vital needs. Our organisation intends to build a model village at Majoki where 55 families are still living in tents but have received little attention and relief support.”

“In this village a brave soul had saved 41 lives during floods before he was swept away by floods. His family has been given no financial support as yet,” Khan informs. The challenge is big but Pakistan has proven before that it can meet the challenge. In the reconstruction strategy of Kashmir earthquake, Rs175,000 were provided to the affected families in installments alongwith house designs and technical assistance. At the end of 2009, 95 percent of the destroyed houses were rebuilt with 97 percent of these according to the standards and hence safer.

But in the case of the 2008 Balochistan earthquake, the affectees were given one-time cash grant of Rs350,000 and Rs50,000 for completely and partially damaged houses respectively but without any technical assistance or required reconstruction standards. As a result, the rate and quality of reconstruction, according to UN-HABITAT engineers, is extremely poor there. The DNA also wants the reconstruction projects to be based on transparency, monitoring, and evaluation. While the Balochistan victims were given Rs350,000 for completely destroyed home, those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also deserve better package.

In most of the flood-hit areas, many people had built homes on lands near the rivers. Their lands have been eroded and they do not have the place to rebuild their homes. General Nadeem Ahmed, head of the National Disaster Management Authority, has “strong reservations” over the house reconstruction plan okayed by the government. The flood zoning policy must be strictly implemented. Construction of houses, hotels and shops near or on banks of the rivers should never be allowed.

The PDMA is supposed to deal with the crisis but it has only around 15 personnel in staff. At its present form, it is just a data collection, information dissemination, and coordination body. While it may suggest schemes, plans and strategies for reconstruction it has been kept out of the implementation and monitoring of these schemes. The result is obvious.

The PDMA should have offices in all tehsils and districts of the province. Its staff should also be increased commensurate with its responsibilities and functions. The badly-hit Malakand division inhabitants are in dire need of financial support as the area will soon become inaccessible for aid agencies. Relief and reconstruction work has been ineffective due to corruption, shortage of funds, resources, and personnel.

Sugar beet cultivation need of the hour

Encouraging sugar beet cultivation

By Tahir Ali
Monday, 08 Nov, 2010

DAWN.COM | Economic & Business | Encouraging sugar beet cultivation.

IN the wake of irrigation water shortage and declining cane yield, sugar beet cultivation offers a substitute as it requires less water, matures earlier, is less susceptible to diseases and gives higher per hectare sugar yield than cane, officials and farmers say.

Sugar beet is used as a vegetable and its pulp as animal fodder in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The crop also has helped run sugar mills that usually faced cane shortage when farmers preferred to make gur of the cane.

Sugar beet was an important cash crop in KP, especially in the districts of Mardan and Swabi in the past but the crop has suffered for lack of incentives.

There are no official figures available on sugar beet acreage and yield in KP, but sources say it has come down to around a few thousand acres as against hundreds of thousands in the past.

“In not so distant past, the sugar-mills in Khazana, Charsadda, Takht Bhai and Mardan were crushing sugar beet. But the first three mills have now stopped crushing beet. Only Mardan Sugar Mill is crushing the crop and providing sugar beet seeds to farmers,” said Haji Niamat Shah Roghani, senior vice-president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, KP.

With high cost of per acre yield, closure of beet-processing plants coupled with low returns by mills, farmers gradually lost interest in sowing beat. It is time the government encourages millers to increase beet price to attract farmers to grow the crop.

The sugar millers are reluctant to invest in beet processing plants because of non-availability of raw material, fuel shortage and lack of expertise and technology. There is a need for the government to offer incentives to the mills.

“The federal government must waive all duties and taxes on sugar made from beet. This would enable mills to pay lucrative prices to the farmers for their crop, said Shah.

“Agriculture research institute in KP should develop quality beet seeds for different climate areas of the province. Increase in acreage and per hectare yield of beat will result in more sugar yield and increase farmers’ income. It can also provide livelihood to thousands of daily wage earners who are laid off after cane crushing season is over as beet crushing soon starts after cane.

If billions of rupees can be spent on sugar imports, why not a few hundred millions on reviving the sugar beet crop,” he asked.

‘There is a need to devise a sugar beet development policy with incentives like duty-free import of both new and second hand sugar beet plants, provision of beet seeds, easy access to soft loans and tax exemptions.”

The government should encourage farmers to first sow beet on trial basis by offering them free farm-inputs and crop insurance to build their confidence in the crop,” he said.

The National Sugar Policy 2009 says sugar production from beet would be encouraged as a small and medium enterprise activity. “This shall be given incentive through fiscal measures under supervision of ministry of agriculture (Minfa).”

The provincial governments should encourage the requisite technology shift for the existing mills from cane to beet and consider setting up new sugar beet mills,” it reads.

“Because of non-availability of bagasse, the processing of beet is economical together with sugarcane but not alone. It has high cost of sugar production that would further raise sugar prices by Rs5-6 per kg. The cost can be reduced if local coal is used for the purpose. Again, Pakistan would have to raise cultivation and productivity of sugar beet to ensure its consistent supply to mills and increase crushing capacity of sugar mills up to 2,000-2,500 tons. The costs can also be compensated through its by-products – beet pulp and molasses,” opined Shah.

“Minfa has already suggested that Pakistan should enter into the area of production of industrial alcohol and gasohol. Converting molasses into industrial alcohol is what needs to be done sooner rather than later” said the official.

Sugarcane is high delta crop that requires about 15 million acres feet of water. If it is replaced by sugar beet, it would save half of that water. Sugar beet is useful for being a low delta crop and occupies land for 4-5 months as against 10-14 months by sugarcane.

Paramedics: Neglected, still

Neglected, still

By Tahir Ali

(The News, July11, 2010)

Paramedics play an important role in therapeutic, preventive, and rehabilitative fields in medical care in the country but they have been neglected by successive governments. They are still waiting for a uniform service structure that has been given to doctors and nurses but denied to them.

Sharafatullah Yousafzai, Senior Vice President of All Pakistan Paramedical Staff Federation (APPSF) says, “While there is Pakistan Medical and Dental Council for doctors, Pakistan Nursing Council for Nurses, and Pakistan Tib Council for hakims, etc, there should be one for paramedics. The draft for paramedics’ council was proposed and discussed initially in 1988 but it has not been presented to the parliament as yet.”

Yousafzai points out that “after a long delay, the government now wants to establish allied health professional council, and not paramedics’ council, so that doctors and nursing staff could be accommodated on administrative/decision-making posts, which is a great injustice to us.”

For lack of uniformed pay structure, paramedics work in different pay scales in different parts of the country. “For example, sanitary inspectors are working in BPS-6, BPS-12, and BPS-16 in different hospitals having the same qualification. “Paramedics are being unjustly treated. For example, in the 1960s paramedics and nurses were recruited in BS-5. Nurses are working in BS-16 and can go up to BPS-20. But paramedics still work in BPS-9 with the same or even higher qualification. While a separate directorate, council and board have been established for nurses, we have been denied all these. We are not against their benefits but wish that we are also treated at par with them,” adds Yousafzai.

“Paramedics appointed as dispensers, radiographers, operation theatre technicians, lab-technicians, dental technicians and paramedical tutors used to retire in the same pay scale till the recent past. Their service structures have been approved in the four provinces except in federal institutions, but these have not been implemented fully. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has implemented the service structure but only partially. We demand that the structure is implemented in its entirety so as to provide opportunities of promotion to paramedics upto the scale of 20,” he says.

“The female medical technicians and LHVs and male dispensers/technicians are practically running the government dispensaries in dangerous and far away rural settings,” says Yousafzai. “There are at present around 110,000 class three paramedics in the country. The strength is insufficient and it should be tripled.”

Shahid Jan Khatak, General Secretary APPSF, says the absence of council has led to a mushroom growth of substandard private paramedical institutes, irregularity in duration of courses, and absence of standardisation in curricula and examinations. “Today, when a democratic government is there, it is hoped that the council would be established by the government sooner rather than later,” hopes Khatak.

Paramedics at the federal level, however, still wait for the approval of their service structure. “The national commission for service structure of health professionals at the federal level was constituted in 2005. While its recommendations were implemented in case of doctors and nurses, those about paramedics still await implementation,” complains Khatak.

Sirajuddin Burki, Central President APPSF, says the importance of paramedical staff has tremendously increased and it is essential for them now to acquire modern education, “The paramedical staff should be provided opportunities of higher education, leading to PhD, in and outside the country so that they could improve on their performance,” says Burki.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is leading in that it has four colleges for all categories, though their standard is also on the decline for some time now. In other provinces, however, there is no such structure. The training colleges, both in public and private sector in federal area and provinces, have no uniform syllabus and have different duration of training, while those in the private sector are mostly without hospital attachment, proper teaching staff, and registration,” Burki adds. According to him, paramedics have been neglected in the projects and training meant for capacity building of health professionals while doctors and nurses benefited.

“A few years ago, around $300m were provided by the Japanese government for providing training to health professionals. At that time too, paramedics were simply ignored. The money lapsed without having been utilised,” says Burki.

Paramedics are exposed to Hepatitis B and C, cancer, tuberculosis, jaundice and other dangerous viral and infectious diseases while working in hazardous conditions in X-ray laboratories, operation theatre, emergency and wards, etc. “Doctors sign the reports prepared by the paramedics. But paramedics have been denied allowances though these are available to the nursing staff,” he adds. Akbar Ali Khoso, General Secretary APPSF Sindh, and Abdus Samad Raisani, President APPSF Balochistan, say they would continue their peaceful struggle for paramedics’ council, risk allowance, and higher education for paramedics.

The spokesman of the health ministry, Qazi Abdus Saboor, says a lot of work has been done on the issue of paramedics’ council and the service structure for federal government’s health institutions. “A summary has been prepared for it and it may be approved any time soon. All the important demands of the paramedics have been incorporated in it,” he claims.

On the issue of demanding higher education for paramedics, he says there are many such institutes working in the country that are providing education to them. But he adds that “the number is insufficient and there should be at least one paramedical institute and nursing school in each district of the country.” Saboor says risk allowance is only given to those working in emergencies and was not meant for all. “With the introduction of danger-free machines and standardised operating procedures, health hazards to health technicians have decreased considerably.”

(tahir_katlang@yahoo.com)

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