Sluggish wheat harvesting in KP

Issues in wheat harvesting
By Tahir Ali

http://dawn.com/2012/05/21/issues-in-wheat-harvesting/

THE unusually cold, rainy/cloudy and windy weather in April and May in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has delayed wheat harvesting in various stages across parts of the province.

The harvesting process has been completed in KP’s hot southern climatic zone (Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Lakki Marwat etc.,) last month and continues in the central zone (Peshawar, Charsadda and Mardan etc.). The crop in the northern zone (Swat, Dir etc) will mature later, farmers say.

According to Sahibzaman and Abdul Jabbar, farmers from Swat, and Nasir Khan, a farmer from Dir, wheat crop will be ready for harvesting in a fortnight in lower Swat and Dir areas but in upper/cooler parts of the districts will be ripe by end of next month where harvesting and threshing usually last till July.

Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary Chamber of Agriculture KP, said wheat harvesting in central zone would be over within a week or so.
“Harvesting in the area is usually completed by the end of April but this year the cold weather delayed maturity. The farmers also feared that the harvested crop lying in the fields for threshing, may get damaged in case it rains. The manual reaping of the crop takes a lot of time,” he said.

Mr Khan recalled that gone are the days when farmers would reap their crops through Ashar –where farmers would help
each other in harvesting and threshing.

“Farmers in KP now mostly get their crop harvested through labourers. The labourers and farmers share the crop in different ratios. In Peshawar, for example, labourers get 1/10th of the produce as remuneration. In other areas, they are hired on daily wages ranging between Rs250-300 plus meals and stay,” said Khan.

An official of the KP agriculture ministry said government farms and big private farms hired reaper machines for harvesting but it was predominantly done by hands.

“Small landholdings, poverty and illiteracy of farmers in KP have rendered mechanised harvesting difficult and farmers either reap the crop themselves or hire labourers. But the shortage of trained harvesters is adding to their woes,” he said.

Mechanical harvesting is faster and reduces post-harvest losses by a great margin, said the official.

“A farmer with five acres hires labour for manual crop cutting, which costs him 13-14 maunds (over Rs18,000 at the rate of Rs1312/50kg) and takes 7-10 days. And if he goes for mechanised harvesting, it will take him 10 hours and cost him only around Rs10,000 (at the maximum rate of Rs1,000 per hour rent of the harvesting machine),” he argued.

According to farmers, labourers work in groups, visit the fields or hujrah of farmers and make deals with them. These harvesters usually are known in the area and can be contacted on cell phones.

Women harvesters are usually paid less than their male counterparts. A farmer Safdar Ali said a woman in his village single-handedly reaped his crop over five jarib at1/10 the share of the yield

Land under wheat cultivation increased from 0.724 million hectares last year to 0.758mh this year but continuing drought in the province in the critical period of grain formation, especially in the southern zone, hit the crop badly.

Farmers from DIK, Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi say the wheat crop in irrigated lands is healthy but over 50 per cent of the crop in rain-fed areas, that forms 55 per cent of the total wheat acreage in KP, has been lost.

Sabz Ali Shah, a farmer in Mardan, said his five jarib (2.5 acres) of non-irrigated land could produce only 12 maunds of wheat against the output of 60-80 maunds in previous years.

Another farmer Gul Raj Akbar said eight wheat harvesters took two days to cut his crop on six canals at the rate of 1.3 maund/jarib. “The yield was 25 maunds of which the labourers got around two maunds (100kg). Divide this amongst eight labourers and each got only six kg a day. Is it justified for the hard work they do,” he asked.

A farmer Manzur Haider, however, said, five labourers reaped his crop at 10 jarib (five acres) in less than three days and got 14 maunds in return at the rate of 1.4 maunds per jarib harvested.

“More than the lack of rain, the sale and use of substandard DAP has also damaged the crop. And while the prices of DAP and urea have more than doubled in the last two years, wheat support price has been marginally increased from Rs950 to Rs1050 per 40kg,” he added.

Mr Zaman said Swat crop would have been even larger had better seeds been provided to growers and lands hit by floods reclaimed by provincial authority.

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On affordable and accessible agriculture credit

A small beginning
Banks must simplify and re-structure their lending mechanism
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/dec2011-weekly/nos-04-12-2011/pol1.htm#3

Financial help of farmers is necessary for the modernisation of farming and farmers’ prosperity. But small farmers who, according to some estimates, constitute 85 percent of the total 6.6 million farmers in the country, have negligible share in the agriculture credit disbursed in the country in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular. Those residing in the far-flung hilly and tribal areas are particularly affected by it.

Financial exclusion of the small farmers who have little resources to approach the research and extension systems, coupled with their illiteracy and poverty, keep away from commercial farming and expose themselves to low productivity, eventually adding to severe financial hardships.

They, in turn, have to rely on informal sector for their credit needs offered at higher rates, leaving them in a vicious debt-cycle and poverty trap.

Acknowledging that agricultural credit disbursement was worse in KP, the SBP launched some agriculture-credit schemes as part of its financial inclusion programme for KP but credit disbursement ratio couldn’t improve.

Countrywide, less than 2 million farmers of the total 6.6 million, get agriculture credit facility. The situation in KP, which accounts for less than 4 percent of the national agriculture credit disbursement and where over 90 percent are characterised as small farmers, is particularly dismal. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounted for Rs 7.9bn or only 3.4 percent of the total agriculture credit of Rs233bn in 2009. Only six percent of farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have access to agriculture credit against 21 percent for the country.

Various easy credit schemes, support price mechanism and subsidy regimes in the past were designed for small and medium scale farmers, but they scarcely benefited from the schemes and big landlords were the main beneficiaries.

One of the main reasons of small farmers’ financial exclusion is their inability to be bankable — to be able to provide collateral (the explicit or implicit guarantee against the possible risk associated with the loan) to banks as most of them are tenants, who don’t have any property registered in their names or own land below the required level.

Plenty of these farmers, especially those in villages, are also influenced and kept from applying for credit by the Riba-element, a necessary part of credit but avoided by most on religious grounds.

Small farmers have been practically neglected in the existing provincial agriculture policy developed in 2005. The policy has, however, yet to be updated to focus them despite several announcements.

As per the prudential regulations for agriculture financing, banks are required to ensure disbursement of working capital/short term loans within seven days but it is usually delayed. “The entire formalities for any agriculture loan require lengthy documentation and procedure and take around two to four months to get the loan,” says a bank manager on condition of anonymity, when asked about the process of loan delivery.

“Small farmers should be given loans on personal guarantee. Group-based credit schemes are being followed by small banks but needs to be taken up by the main private banks as well to improve credit disbursement ratio in the country. Crop and life insurance is the best way to decrease the risk of farming community against losses and of banks against non-repayment,” he adds.

Some farmers hold the banks responsible for low agriculture credit in the province. “The banks are risk-averse. They avoid lending loans to farmers for fear of default. Much has been said of the one-window operation but no bank as yet has come out with a fast track mechanism for credit disbursement. The banks must simplify and re-structure their agriculture lending mechanism and mobile credit officers should reach farmers at their doorsteps to boost credit delivery,” says Shahid Khan, a farmer in Mardan.

Last year, the KP government revived the erstwhile cooperative bank and promised to provide Rs1 billion seed money for easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers from the bank but practically just Rs200mn were released. This year too, Rs400mn will be released. How can credit ratio be improved with this? 

Under agricultural loans scheme through the passbook system, banks are bound to allocate 70 percent of their loans to subsistence farmers but whether the law is followed is not clear.

In group-based lending, developed by the SBP, small farmer groups are formed by the lenders involving 5-10 members having identical needs and registered with the former. Collateral is generally not used and is replaced by personal guarantee —-a joint liability agreement/undertaking — takes its place wherein each member takes the responsibility of the outstanding debt of all group members. In case of any change in the group, a fresh guarantee would be signed by the members.

A group coordinator acts as facilitator of the group and agent of the bank. The bank ensure that group coordinator is executing the assigned tasks as prescribed like liaison with members, arrangement of meetings, etc, and if need be replace him, with the consensus of the group, in case he fails to deliver. Group members ensure that the bank receives timely repayments from individual borrower/group members. But if a borrower dies, liability lies to remaining group members. However life insurance is urged to safeguard the interests of both the borrowers and lenders.

Everyone who owns or is a tenant or lessee over up to12.5 acres of land or have more than 40 sheep, has computerised national identity card, residence in the village and membership in the village organisation, is eligible for crop or non-crop loans in the scheme. 

Though globally 12.5 acres of land is the threshold of subsistence farming but in Pakistan one having that much land is considered a rich person given the phenomenon of small land holding in the country. According to an estimate, cultivated land per person in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stands at just at 0.2 acres. The benchmark needs to be brought down for bank credit if small farmers are to be benefited.

Repayment schedule for farm loans may be set as per production cycle of crops and for non-crop activities, like livestock farm establishment, it should be three to five years.

 

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Decline in sugarcane market price

Decline in sugarcane market price

By Tahir Ali

THE ban on supply of gur to Afghanistan despite bumper sugarcane crop and the prolonged cold/dry weather have improved cane supply situation for sugar mills. However, farmers in Khyber PakhtunKhwa remain adversely affected.

Along with fall in price of sugar, per satta (two purs or 150-180kg) price of gur has come down to about Rs8,000-9,000 this season from Rs16,000-17,000 last year. It is for the first time in recent years that gur has lost its competitiveness.

Masud Khan, an official of the Premier Sugar Mills, Mardan, said that an overwhelming majority of farmers were bringing their produce to the mills. “For the first time during this season cane supply has reached 100 per cent delivery. We are receiving around 3,600 tonnes of the commodity daily,” he said adding “against the official support price of Rs150 per 40kg, the growers were being paid Rs158/40kg or around Rs200 per 50kg.”

“Huge cane production, low gur prices and damages caused to the crop by frost with fear of further loss to sucrose contents due to weather conditions, and the need to vacate lands for subsequent crops, are compelling farmers to bring their crops to the mills,” Khan added.

According to Haji Naimat Shah Roghani, senior vice-president Anjuman-i-Kashtkaran KP, farmers widely cultivated cane this year following attractive prices of Rs338/50kg offered by mills, and around Rs16,000/satta price of gur in the market last year. Cane was sold even up to Rs500/50kg to private vendors engaged in juice extracting business.

“Banning movement of gur to the tribal belt and its export to Afghanistan, which led to sharp fall in its prices, the faulty decision of the government to import sugar at the start of crushing season instead of lifting stocks from mills in time, led to fall in cane price severely affecting growers. This, no doubt, helped reduce sugar prices in the market but at a critical juncture making timely payments to farmers impossible, at least for now,” he said.

“The millers are offering a price of Rs200 for 50kg these days. At the present rate of returns and for gur in the market, 300 maunds average per acre yield (15 purs or eight satta) could earn a farmer only Rs60,000 and nearly the same amount if he takes his produce to mills.

The present rate of gur and the rate offered by mills are too little for farmers as the per acre cost of production has increased to almost over Rs60,000 due to steep rise in prices of farm inputs, services and increased land-rent in recent times, especially in the last couple of years,” said Mr Roghani.

“With such a return that only equals the cost of production, farmers would hardly be inclined to grow sugarcane in the coming Kharif season. Does the government understand the risks involved?” he asked.

Farmers in the cane-rich DIK have multiple complaints. Muhammad Ismael, a farmer from Luanda Sharif in DIK, said farmers were being denied indents, a prerequisite for cane-supply to mills. “Indents are issued only to big farmers who have access to right quarters. The farmers with poor resources are running from pillar to post. As gur production was mostly avoided by area farmers, selling cane to mills was the only option,” he said.

”But with indents not issued or delayed for lengthy process as these are being provided through agents against the past practice when it was directly given to farmers, we have to sell our cane to the commission ‘mafia’ at a lower prices but prompt payment. The commission agents buy the crop between Rs135-140 per 40kg against Rs150 offered by Chashma Sugar mills in the area,” he added.

“Payments legally due in 15 days are delayed for months. A farmer who supplied cane to a mill last year received his payments this year. The farmers are also subjected to a cut of around 10-15 per cent on the pretext of poor quality and low sucrose content,” added Mr Ismael.

With gur prices historically low, the commission agents should also have reduced their commission at gur markets. “But they continue to impose a commission of Rs130/pur in Mardan and Swabi while their counterparts in Peshawar and Charsadda were collecting only Rs40/pur. The government must ensure a uniform rate of commission for gur agents in the province,” Mr Roghani added.

“The government is also needed to support farmers through targeted subsidies on inputs. It should remove or reduce general sales tax on agriculture services and inputs. It should allow export of gur and lift the ban on its movement to the provincially- and federally-administered tribal areas,” he stressed.

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.

review of Eralp

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

Swat where Eralp is being implemented

Lag in agriculture recovery
By Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis of one year working of Eralp

By Tahir Ali

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unaffordable soil testing

Unaffordable soil testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under performing sugar crops research institute

I took photo with Canon camera.

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlook for Maize in KP

Outlook for maize crop

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province. – File photo

PESHAWAR: FARMERS in the Malakand division are hoping a bumper maize harvest this season in the wake of favourable weather condition and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of the crop imposed by security forces in 2009.

The Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of the crop in the province.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. The crop remained safe from rains and winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with per acre yield of up to 3,200kg in some areas,” he said.

Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the Model Farm Services Centre in Swat, endorsed Khan’s views. Local farmers hope per acre yield of up to 2,000kg from farm seeds and around 2,500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop was damaged first by shortage of water and rain and later by torrential rains.

However, officials rule out any damage to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice-president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in the plain areas of the province was between March and May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was too scanty to cater to the needs of maize and sugarcane crops.

That was why the farmers didn’t cultivate maize until cane was harvested by end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation reduces per acre yield day by day,” he added.

“Maize requires regular watering but cannot survive its excess. The crop was damaged later when it rained heavily and water stood in the fields. The subsequent rains also caused growth of weeds in the crop. The crop also needs proper quantity of DAP and urea intakes. But as prices of these fertilisers more than doubled during this period, these remained mostly unaffordable by poor farmers,” he added.

About 40-50 per cent of the crop across the province might have been lost to these factors, he said. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions and termed it an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and the yield is better.

Those who did not follow our advice and making no arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields might get some of their crops damaged by excess water but that would only be known when the crop was harvested, he said, adding there were no major negative reports from any area in the district and a good crop was expected.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa produces around 0.8 – 0.9 million tons of maize per year. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95 per cent of the maize cultivation area. But while per acre yield of the crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4,600 kg, it is generally between 700-1,200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties Babar and Karamat have yielded up to 4,800kg per acre in research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline — it accounted for 68 per cent of the total maize production in 1996, down to 28 per cent in 2006.

The maize farmers in KP have remained far behind their counterparts in Punjab. According to a Swabi-based farmer Hameed Khan, the per acre yield in Punjab is higher because they use first generation (F1) seeds, do mechanised farming, apply latest production methods and have started commercial farming.

“But in KP, farmers lag far behind on these indicators and use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half while from F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Through efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology they have made it possible to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

…………………………..

Here is the original text of the article

Prospects of maize crop

By Tahir Ali Khan

Farmers in the Malakand division hope for a bumper maize crop in wake of favourable weather and the lifting of an unannounced ban on the cultivation of maize imposed by the security forces in 2009.

Good yield in the area could boost maize production considerably as Malakand division accounts for 32 per cent of provincial maize production. A bumper crop besides increasing farmers’ incomes will also provide cheaper maize flour to the people, favoured by them for its warm effects.

Nasrullah Khan, a progressive farmer from Buner, said there were good prospects for the maize crop in the district this year. “There are no more restrictions on maize cultivation. There have been damages neither by rains nor winds. We are hoping to get a bumper crop in the district with PAY of up to 3200kg in some areas,” he informed.

And Muhammad Naeem, another progressive farmer and ex-head of the model farm services centre in Swat, seconded his views and said maize yield in the area will considerably increase as farmers face no curbs on maize cultivation this year. Local farmers eye PAY of up to 2000 kg from the farm seeds and around 2500kg from hybrid seeds in the area, which is the norm here,” he said.

However, in low/plain areas of the province like Peshawar, Swabi and Mardan, according to farmers, maize crop has been damaged first by the lack of water and rain and later by excess of water due to torrential rains though officials say there is no threat to the crop from these factors.

Haji Niamat Shah, vice president of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP, said the most suitable time for maize cultivation in plain areas of the province was between March-May though it can be sown till July. “But there were no rains and the supply of water was also insufficient to cater to the watering needs of sugarcane crop and maize simultaneously. So, the farmers didn’t cultivate the crop until sugarcane was harvested till the end of April. Time is of importance as delay in cultivation decreases per acre yield (PAY) day by day,” he said.

“Maize requires watering regularly but it also cannot survive excess of water. Later when it rained heavily, the crop was damaged by the heated water standing in fields. Heavy subsequent rains also caused growth of unnecessary weeds in the crop. Then, maize also needs proper amount of DAP and urea intakes whose prices have more than doubled during this period, thus becoming mostly unaffordable for the poor farmers” he added.

According to him, about 40-50 per cent of crop across the province might have been lost to these factors. To get the official version, this scribe tried to contact director general agriculture extension KP but he was not available. However, an official from Mardan agriculture department rejected Shah’s assertions, dubbing it as an exaggeration.

“We provide hybrid seeds as well as technology. We had told farmers to cultivate maize either before 45 days or 15 days before the rainy season so that the maize flowers are not damaged by winds or rains and it yield better. Those who have not acted upon our advice and haven’t made arrangements for draining out surplus water from their fields may get some of their crop damaged by excess water but that will only be known when crop is harvested and not now,” said the official adding that there are no big negative reports on maize from any area in the district and a good crop is likely to be harvested.

Similar views were expressed by a Nowshera based official though he conceded crop in some low areas might have been damaged due to excess of water as farmers are generally oblivious to drainage system in the fields.

KP produces around 0.8 to 0.9 million tons of maize annually. According to an estimate, Punjab and KP account for 84 per cent of the total maize production and 95% of the maize area. But while PAY of maize crop in central Punjab has gone up to 4600 kg, it is generally between 700-1200kg in KP.

This is disappointing when viewed in the backdrop of the fact that two locally developed hybrid maize varieties-Babar and Karamat- have yielded up to 4800kg per acre in the research farms.

KP’s share in countrywide maize production has been on the decline – it accounted for 68 percent of total maize produce in 1996 which decreased to 28 percent in 2006.

Maize farmers in KP have remained far behind than their counterparts in Punjab and they need to take advantage of the expertise of their Punjabi brethren for their financial prosperity and food security of the people.

According to a Swabi based farmer Hameed Khan, PAY in Punjab is high because they use first generation (F1) seeds, love mechanised farming and use latest production methods and have started commercial farming. “But in KP, farmers have lagged far behind on these indicators. Farmers use mostly second generation (F2) or even third generation (F3) seeds here. And it is known that yield from F2 declines by half, that of F3 comes to less than 1/3rd of the F1 potential,” he says.

“Another advantage enjoyed by the Punjab farmers is comparatively bigger land holdings and good financial position. They can invest more in standard seeds, fertiliser use and latest farming technology. Efficient crop rotation and modern agriculture technology there have made it possible for them to grow three crops while in KP, despite potential, mostly two crops are grown,” he adds.

The absence of support price mechanism, of official purchase centres and of maize processing plants in the province have discouraged farmers to invest more in maize cultivation.

There are two ongoing schemes from the financial year 2009 in the annual development programme: One, for adaptive research on new hybrid maize varieties worth Rs44mn; and two, maize hybrid seeds production through public private partnership but slow pace of the schemes is mitigating their impacts.

Both the public and private sector need to be proactive and establish seed laboratories and introduce new drought/air resistant maize seed varieties to increase maize production.

Tobacco pricing and grading in KP

Tobacco grading and pricing

 

By Tahir Ali Khan |

 

http://www.dawn.com/2011/07/25/tobacco-grading-and-pricing.html

 

GROWERS in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complain of low prices offered by tobacco companies and the unmerited grading of their crop.

 

At present, 200-250kg of barn-cured tobacco of different grades fetches around Rs30,000-35,000 which is much lower than warranted by the escalating cost of production, says a Swabi farmer Abdur Razzaq.

 

Tobacco, as per law, is the only cash crop whose weighted average price (Wap) must increase by a certain ratio each year.

 

“Though prices are supposed to be fixed in ‘consultation’ with farmers taking into account the cost of production and other factors, tobacco companies use their clout to fix prices of their own choice. They usually try to buy double the quantity of their annual purchase targets at the lowest possible price,” he said.

 

This season, as per assessment of tobacco growers, the average cost of production stood at Rs167 per kg. “The Wap should have been fixed at Rs200 per kg to benefit the growers, but buyers are offering between Rs125-78 per kg for different grades of recommended varieties and Rs104-95 per kg for non-recommended varieties. This shows how unrealistic is the price fixed by the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB). The shrinking profit margin has particularly hit the small farmers,” he said.

 

Last year the companies had purchased tobacco from growers at Rs103-105 per kg against the Wap of Rs98 fixed by the PTB.

 

“Tobacco companies earn huge profit as, according to an estimate, they prepare over 1,000 cigarettes per kg of tobacco. The influential firms are working as a cartel to increase their margins. But farmers are suffering for lack of cooperation and ignorance,” he said.

 

Had the companies not agreed to purchase the harvested non-recommended tobacco variety, called Swati locally, at the average support price of Rs104.30 per kg for the year, around 40 million kg of this variety would have no buyers and that would have exposed around 80 per cent farmers –that grow Swati in Mardan, Swabi and Charsadda – to huge financial losses. But thanks to the farmers’ efforts that the appalling scenario has been averted,” he said.

 

Asfandyar Khan, another farmer says “Farmers have greatly benefited from Swati variety as it has increased their output by about 50 per cent, saved them from the problem of grading as almost all of its leaves are of No.1 quality.”

 

Until recently, these companies were urging farmers to grow the Swati variety and why private buyers are taking it” he asked.

 

He said farmers were also unhappy over the deliberate and unfair down-grading of their tobacco. “The companies sort out the best leaves and reject the rest which is eventually purchased by private buyers. The importance of grading can be judged from the fact that for the top eight grades of recommended tobacco varieties, the average maximum and minimum prices per kg in descending order are between Rs125 and Rs107, Rs123-105, Rs119-103, Rs115-101, Rs105-94, Rs100-92, Rs90-83 and Rs82-78,” Asfandyar said.

 

As per the law (MLO No.487) and their written agreements with farmers, tobacco companies are to be fined if they fail to purchase the entire tobacco crop from growers but they often delay procurement or abruptly end purchasing the commodity.

 

“They ask us to bring our produce but they buy a little of it of their choice and close the depot. This is done precisely to make growers

run from pillar to post to sell their ‘sub-standard’ tobacco on low prices to private buyers who seem to be the agents of these companies,” he added.

 

Tobacco companies and the PTB each year warn farmers not to cultivate the non-recommended varieties as these won’t be purchased by them, but only 10-20 per cent farmers cultivate the recommended high-yielding varieties of Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008 and the other 80 per cent go for the Swati variety. This could either be due to their ignorance or the urge for better profit on part of the farmers.

 

Tobacco employs over three million persons directly or indirectly, contributes billions to national exchequer in taxes and saves billions likely to be spent on imports of cigarettes besides earning millions of dollars in exports.

 

KP produces between 65-85 million kg of tobacco but the output can be enhanced to 300 m/kg per year. With a possible production of 300 million kg, Khyber Pukhtoonkwa can earn $537mn annually from tobacco export. But the potential has yet to be realised. “KP grows about 98 per cent of Virginia tobacco but its membership in the PTB is equal to that of Punjab. It should be given representation proportionate to its output,” he added.

 

Following is the text of the article I had sent to Dawn.

Low tobacco prices and grading and purchasing problems

By Tahir Ali Khan

Tobacco farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are disappointed over low tobacco prices offered by tobacco companies as well as what they call unmerited grading of their tobacco crop.

At present rate of tobacco, an average barn comprising around 200-250kg of different grades of tobacco fetches the farmers only around Rs30-35 thousand which is much less than warranted on the back of escalated cost of production, Abdur Razzaq, a farmer from Swabi, said.

He said per kilogram cost of production for tobacco this season stood at Rs167 as per their assessment. “The Wap should have been fixed Rs200 per kg to benefit the growers, but companies are offering farmers between Rs125-78 per kg for different grades of recommended varieties and between Rs104- 95 per kg for non-recommended ones. The shrinking of profit margin has particularly hit the small farmers.” he added.

Tobacco, as per law, is the only cash crop whose weighted average price (Wap) must increase by a certain ratio each year but farmers have been traditionally denied good returns for their crop.

“Though theoretically tobacco prices are fixed in ‘consultation’ with farmers after different surveys and taking into account the cost of production and other factors, tobacco companies using their clout and unity are managing prices of their own choice and benefit. The companies usually purchase double the quantity of their annual purchase targets but at much lesser price than due,’ he said.

“Tobacco companies earn huge profit as according to an estimate they prepare over 1000 cigarettes from one kilogram of tobacco. They are united and can manipulate prices that suit them but farmers are suffering for disunity and ignorance in their ranks,” he added.

“That tobacco companies are offering up to Rs125 against the WAP of Rs104 speaks volumes of how unrealistic the price fixed by the Pakistan tobacco board (Ptb) is. Last year they had purchased tobacco from growers at Rs103-Rs105 per kilogram against the Wap of Rs98 fixed by the Ptb,” he said.

According to him, had the tobacco companies not finally agreed to purchase the harvested non-recommended tobacco variety, called Swati, at the average support price of Rs104.30 per kg for the year, around 40mn kg of this variety would have no buyers and that would have deprived around 80 per cent farmers –that grow Swati in Mardan, Swabi and Charsadda- of billions of rupees but thanks to the struggle by farmers, that nightmare has been averted. But the price offered for the variety is still insufficient,” he said.

Asfandyar Khan, another farmer, seconded his thoughts. “Farmers have greatly benefited from Swati in that it has increased their output by about 50 per cent, saved them from the problem of grading as almost all of its leaves are of N0.1 quality, made curing facile and brought almost to nil the wastage of leaves during curing, thus increasing their incomes. It is astonishing the companies first refuse to buy and then fixed a meagre price for Swati as until very recently, it were these companies that had urged farmers to grow the variety. If it has bad quality and taste, then why the private buyers are offering up to Rs128 per kg for it and asking the growers to bring as much as they can,” he said.

He said farmers were also unhappy over the deliberate and unfair down-grading of their tobacco. “The companies sort out the best leaves and reject the rest which is eventually purchased by the private buyers. The importance of grading can be judged from the fact that for the top eight grades of recommended tobacco varieties the average maximum and minimum prices per kg in descending order are between Rs125 to Rs107, Rs123-105, Rs119-Rs103, Rs115-101, Rs105-94, Rs100-92, Rs90-83 and Rs82-78. For Swati the maximum and minimum prices offered by companies is Rs104 and Rs95 while private buyers offer as much as Rs125 to Rs128 for this kind of tobacco,”

Asfandyar said as per the law (MLO No.487) and their written agreements with farmers, tobacco companies are to be fined if they failed to purchase the entire tobacco crop from growers but they often delay procurement or abruptly end purchase of the commodity.

According to another farmer who wished anonymity, ‘the companies request us to bring our tobacco produce but when we go there, they buy a little quantity of their choice and then close the depot. This is done precisely to make growers run from pillar to sell their ‘sub-standard’ tobacco on low prices to private buyers who seem to be the agents of these companies.”

Tobacco companies and PTB each year warn farmers not to cultivate the non-recommended tobacco types as these won’t be bought but only about 10-20 per cent farmers cultivate the recommended varieties of Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008 and the other 80 per cent go for the Swati variety. What could the farmers be expected to do if the latter has great profit for them.

Importance of tobacco cannot be denied as it employs over three million persons directly or indirectly, contributes dozens of billions to national exchequer in different taxes and saves billions likely to be spent on imports of cigarettes besides earning millions in exports.

KP produces between 65-85 million-kg though it can produce up to 300 m/kg per year. With a possible production of 300 million kg, Khyber Pukhtoonkwa can earn $537mn or Rs45bn annually from the export of tobacco, but the potential has not been realised. India`s exported the country`s surplus yield to 80 countries and earned Rs130 billion annually.

 

Snags in commercialisation of KP’s Livestock sector

A boy herding sheep in India.

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowering female farmers

Empowering female farmers

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn July 11, 2011

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovative farm schemes needed

Investing in innovative farm schemes

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn, 06-06-2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/06/06/investing-in-innovative-farm-schemes.html

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Hybrid vegetables

bitter gourd

Image via WikipediaGrowing hybrid vegetables

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn May 30, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/30/growing-hybrid-vegetables.html

FARMERS and the private sector have joined hands to cultivate hybrid vegetables and adopt innovative growing techniques to raise crop yield in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In Takht Bhai, Mardan, farmers opting for technique of growing hybrid vegetables, see it as a route to their prosperity.

On a visit to the area, this scribe witnessed lots of u-shaped stands and scattered open sheds scattered that had been prepared with sticks and plastic wire, cobbled together, to support the structure for hanging vegetables.

Taufeeq Ahmad Khan, a local farmer, said the sowing of imported hybrid of bitter gourd called Karail , and not the local variety Karaila , was started three years ago.

“Farmers are usually too conservative, often ignorant and also poor to adopt new technologies and strategies but once their utility is established, they adopt them quickly. Seeing financial advantages, more and more farmers are following suit. The private sector guided us to adopt high-yielding variety of bitter gourd,” he said.

“It is highly rewarding for farmers as they continue growing vegetables for around nine months. An acre of imported hybrid bitter gourd sown this way earns a farmer around Rs400,000. Besides, vegetable like tomato or fruit like watermelon can also be sown alongside it on the ridges in the field. This can fetch them another Rs200,000,” he added.

Gul says local seed of bitter gourd when sown on ridges in the field usually gets destroyed quickly by excess of water, heat, drought and diseases. “Besides it can resist adverse climatic conditions and diseases, being a short duration crop. The local bitter gourd also has negligible income for farmers as compared to hybrid bitter gourd.

“ It is also more resistant to diseases and climatic conditions and the vegetable is comparatively healthier,” he said.

According to Khan, the method is simple and can be easily adopted by any one. “As Karail had to be kept above the ground to save it from degeneration, one has only to bear a one-time expenditure of around Rs40,000 for building the structure using sticks and plastic wire. The vegetable hangs from it which can be collected easily. This structure can be used for next three to four years if protected. Considering the advantage of this technology, it is a negligible amount which farmers can happily spend to increases their incomes a lot,” he said.

“The second vegetable or fruit grown alongside bitter gourd is of short duration. It continues its output till winter when frost decomposes its roots. But if necessary measures are taken to protect it against chill and moisture, it will continue yielding even in winter,” he added.

Adoption of these techniques together with guidance on establishment of market linkages with packaging and processing industries can benefit the farmers. Growers in other areas can take advantage of the experiences of their counterparts.

Farmers say the government and private seed dealers can help the farmers by providing them with seeds on deferred payment.

Imported hybrid seeds of vegetables are available in the market but the farmers said if hybrid seeds are developed locally and provided to them, it would be better. These will surely be cheaper and easily adaptable to local ecosystem.

If local labour and fields can be used by the multinationals to prepare new seed varieties, why can`t we do the same ourselves. The numerous public seed research farms could be used for developing hybrid seeds for vegetables.

The government and private sectors can reduce dependence on import of seeds by developing hybrid varieties for vegetables and fruits themselves. But it will also have to be disseminated to farmers as soon as possible. For this purpose` a pro-active strategy will be needed by the agriculture department to contact farmers at their doorsteps.

The province is gifted with diverse climatic and ecological zones which is well suited to all types of vegetables and fruits. About 47,000 hectares produce approximately 0.52 million tons of fruit and 38,000 hectares produce around 0.356 million tons of vegetables.

undermined tobacco research

Tobacco field in northern Poland

Image via Wikipedia

Tobacco research undermined

By Tahir Ali Khan

Dawn April 4, 2011

http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/04/tobacco-research-undermined.html

THE country’s biggest tobacco research station in Mardan, severely handicapped by shortage of staff, is unable to offer much of the required expertise to farmers of the tobacco-rich region.

 

At least 60 per cent posts of research officers at the station, run by the Pakistan Tobacco Board (PTB), are lying vacant. No appointments and postings have been made against the posts of retiring officials.

 

Shortage of research and development staff at the PTB such as assistant development officers (ADOs) and field assistants in different districts is undermining its research and development activities and consequently liaison with tobacco farmers.

 

The government should not only fulfill the manpower needs of the facility but also provide development staff at the grass root/farm level, farmers demand.

 

The research station performs various functions and works to ensure production of quality tobacco crop in the region. “We have soil testing, plant pathology and breeding, and agronomy laboratories at the station. Experiments are conducted here on different crop varieties using different ratios of fertiliser, both imported and local, insects/pests and disease control methods apart from holding workshops, seminars and field days for training and educating farmers and other stakeholders,” said Ghulam Farid Marwat, manager at the station.

 

Soil testing is carried out both at the station and at farm level. Soil sample from different areas of the country are collected regularly, and analysed and the findings of the tests are conveyed to farmers.

 

The station is also working on green manure project in Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Okara in Punjab.

 

“For producing green manure, Egyptian clover (Barseem) is mixed in the land. We have used half the quantity of NPK (fertiliser blended with ingredients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) generally used in fields and have obtained better results.

 

The tobacco per hectare yield (PHY) increased from 2,600kg to 3,550kg with the improvement in soil condition. The technology and guidance would soon be transferred to farmers,” he said.

 

The focus of PTB and the research station is on quality as well as quantity of the crop as smokers worldwide prefer quality tobacco leaves and products.

 

“Farmers are needed to grow only the recommended varieties- Speight G28, K399, RGH4 and TM 2008. Tobacco companies do not buy tobacco other than these varieties. The new variety developed by PTB -TM 2008- has the potential to increase per hectare yield by over 20 per cent than the non-recommended varieties,” Marwat said.

 

To a question, he said, whereas only about 20 per cent farmers in the past used to cultivate the recommended tobacco varieties, now most of them cultivate the recommended varieties. “This would help produce better quality tobacco crop generating more income for farmers and the country by boosting exporting of tobacco and its by-products,” he hoped.

 

To minimise the use of wood in tobacco curing and avoiding deforestation, the facility has also built a solar-barn with the help of Peshawar University of Engineering and Technology. This energy is being used in curing tobacco.

 

“This has saved about 50 per cent fuel. The facility will be transferred to farmers in coming years. With the help of one time investment, farmers will save a lot in fuel expenses as well as the environment from pollution,” he said.

 

The station is also working on a project of growing mushroom. After the curing season, the curing barns of tobacco farmers lie unused for months which will now be used for growing mushroom. The idea will be expanded at farm level later and farmers would be guided and provided technical know-how. This will create income opportunities for farmers on the one hand and ensure availability of a protein-rich food for the people on the other.

 

Though the station works in close collaboration with tobacco growers in solving their problems and developing the crop, the liaison among growers, the station and the PTB seems to be weak and needs practical steps to strengthen it further.

 

The facility should have more land under tobacco seeds cultivation as against the present 16 acres. Obviously, the facility is providing limited quantity of free seeds to selected growers due to meagre production of seeds and has left the task to tobacco companies.

 

Besides Mardan’s tobacco farm, there are four other sub-research stations for developing tobacco crop – two each in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one model farm in Buner which will be functional in next two years. Tobacco research stations are planned in Pishin, Balochistan, and Jampur Punjab in near future.

 

Secretary PTB Numan Bashir confirmed that PTB and the station were facing paucity of research and development staff and feared that it might impact liaison with farmers at root level.

 

“Most of the field assistants and ADOs have served for over 30 years now and have retired or are on the verge of retirement. For the moment, we have given additional charge to officers in some areas. Inductions will be made soon after go-ahead from the higher authorities,” he added.

Low Sugarcane to mills

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

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Jamal Garhi’s Buddha site

Buddha’s footsteps

The sites of Jamal Garhi and Sawal Dher in NWFP are an archaeological treasure that needs more attention

By Tahir Ali

After crossing the Rashakai Bridge on Nowshera-Mardan road, you enter Mardan with a billboard saying ‘Welcome to Mardan: The land of Gandhara.’ Mardan has been the heart of ancient Gandhara and has a huge presence of the remains of Buddhist Civilization at Takht Bai, Jamal Garhi, Shahbaz Garhi, Therelli (Sawal Dher), Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, Aziz Dheri, Sehri Bahlol and so on. Sculptures excavated from here are displayed in various museums of Pakistan and around the world.

The archaeological site at Jamal Garhi lies to the northeast of Mardan City at a distance of 15 kilometres on the Mardan-Katlang road. This road has been renamed as Rahimullah Yousafzai’s Route after the great son of the soil who has achieved worldwide fame in journalism. Located between the villages of Jamal Garhi and Shikray Baba on top of a hill at an elevation of 122 metres, this site is called ‘The Jamal Garhi Kandarat’ by the locals. The remains at the site are traced back from 1st to 5th century A.D. It is said that Kushans, Little Kushans and Hindu Parthians had inhabited the place. With the end of the Kushan rule in 225 A.D., the Gandhara civilization gradually declined. The invasion of White Huns around 450-500 A.D. put an end to this era. The Huns virtually destroyed monasteries and killed its inhabitants. Little is known about this period. But a Chinese Pilgrim Fa Hsein, who travelled through the Peshawar valley in 400 A.D. said that the Gandhara region was flourishing then. When his successor Sung Yen came to the region in 520 A.D. he reported that the Huns had destroyed the country.

A company ‘Sappers and Miners’ explored this site first in 1873. As told by Yasir Ali, the site attendant, a statue of Buddha — known as the Fasting Buddha — recovered from here in 1907 was taken to the Lahore Museum where it is kept with the information that it was excavated from a village near the site. The Chinese Pilgrims say nothing about this important place. A Kharoshti inscription discovered from the excavation conducted during 1907-08 revealed Samavat 359, which corresponds to 275 A.D. In 1836 Sikh General made it Gandaparas. The site was excavated in 1876 and later on in 1910-11, it was again excavated.

The site comprises a main round stupa, circumscribed by chapels that are closely packed together. According to Sir John Marshal, a famous archaeologist, the round stupa at Jamal Garhi is one of the oldest from the Gandhara period. There are many votive stupas which were built by votaries who had got their wishes fulfilled here at the main round stupa. The Kitchens, courtyards, meditation rooms, secret wall, a meeting hall, general and guests’ dining hall and monks’ quarters are some of the important constructions at this complex. A distinctive feature of the site is the separate quarters, probably meant for the visiting scholars and monks. All the constructions are stone-made and are still intact in some of the cases. Another salient feature of the complex is the path in the middle.

The Jamal Garhi’s archaeological site is situated in the middle of Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi — the two other important Buddhist centres — at an equal distance of 12 kilometres from each side. The site is some eight kilometres away from another historical place of Therrelli (Sawal Dher) which is situated to its east and which also has many archaeological remains though they are in a very dilapidated condition and seem to have been forgotten. The Theralli Establishment was excavated by Japanese and Pakistani experts in three sessions — in 1964, 1966 and 1967. This is a large complex comprising main stupa, many surrounding votive stupas, residential rooms and other sections. This site also dates back to 1st to 5th century AD. and many of the remains have been destroyed by illegal excavators.

This monastery is easily accessible from each side. From Shahbaz Garhi you may approach it via Charguli to Sawal Dher to Katlang road. If you are at Takht Bhai, it is better you take up the Takht Bhai to Jamal Garhi route to reach here; and if you want to come straight to Jamal Garhi from Mardan, take up the Katlang-Mardan road. Here you will enjoy an easy drive right up to the site as Department of Archaeology and Museum, Government of Pakistan, has constructed a beautiful zigzagging passage with the help of Japanese engineers.

The Jamal Garhi and the Sawal Dher sites are not as yet on the world’s heritage list of UNESCO, which must be ensured. Visitors in the site told The News on Sunday that a tuck-shop, a police-post, a park, lavatories and seating arrangements with sun-cover are the immediate requirements of the place. They also urged an awareness campaign on the media about the site. Sajjad Haider, a visitor, called upon the department of Archaeology and Museums to expedite the repair work and save many of the remains from further damage. “It is our heritage. We must join hands with the government to preserve and develop the historical sites,” said a man Qayyum Khan. Bakht Raziq from Katlang suggested that power and water must necessarily be provided at the site without any further delay.

The Jamal Garhi’s site is ideally located for a picnic. It has a stream of fresh water flowing below on its northern side while the famous Lower Swat Canal and one of its subsidiaries flows close to it in the east. Despite the hot weather, cool breeze makes the weather pleasant throughout the summer.

The site affords an impressive view of the picturesque district of Mardan. Stand anywhere in the site and you will get a handsome panoramic view of Mardan and its surrounding areas. An excursion here especially at the time of sunrise and sunset is an excellent idea.

The hill on which the structures stand is part of a vast mountainous range and many tiers of mountains can be seen. Far in the west and east, the hills that house the Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi’s archaeological remains are visible if the sky is blue and clear. Looking down below at the plain in the south is refreshing. But no less amusing and wonderful is the sight of the vast mountainous range in the north, east and west.

(The News, 18-05-08)

Khwaja Muhammad Khan Hoti’s interview

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: “Oppositionist by nature”

By Tahir Ali

(The News January 2009)

Nawabzada Khawaja Muhammad Khan Hoti was born in Mardan on 1st January 1955. He belongs to the Yousafzai tribe of Pakhtoons. He has passed Bachelor of Arts from Sindh University.

He belongs to an influential political family. His father Nawabzada Mohammad Umar Khan Hoti was chief of Hoti. His grand father (Late) Nawab Sir Muhammad Akbar Khan Hoti was a big landlord and prominent political figure of NWFP. His maternal grand father Brig. Sir Nawab Muhammad Shah Jehan Khan (Late) was the ruler of Dir State. He is the son in law of (Late) Nawabzada Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti Ex-Governor NWFP, Federal Minister and Central Pakistan Muslim League Leader and has a son Umar Farooq Hoti – who recently created stir in Mardan when he joined PML (N) – and four daughters.

KMH joined politics in 1979 as member of Mardan municipality. He joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1987, became the General Secretary of its NWFP Chapter in 1998. One year later, he became the President of PPP NWFP.

In1988 he became the advisor, and in 1989, the special assistant to the Chief Minister NWFP. Later, he was appointed Provincial Minister for Tourism for a short period. He also served as provincial Minister for Education from 1993-1996.

Due to differences with Chairperson of PPP in 2004, he left the party as provincial president and later on, resigned from its basic membership. In 2006, he joined ANP and was appointed as its Central Vice President of ANP. He won National Assembly seat in Feb. 2008 and was given the portfolio of Federal Minister for Social Welfare & Special Education in April 2008. Now-a-days, he is Federal Minister for Narcotics Control.

He is locally known as Baba-e-Rozgar and he says cannot help without providing jobs to the poor and needy. He is famous for his candid remarks. He is a public figure and feels like amongst the common man. This is why he is locally very popular.

TNS talked to him recently. Excerpts follow

The News on Sunday: You remained very close to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. How did you find her during your interaction with her?

Khwaja Mohammad Khan Hoti: The truth is that BB was a leader with an unmatched political acumen. She was an international leader and was Pakistan’s cherished identity abroad. She was an asset to the country. Pakistan and Pakistanis have lost too much in her departure to Hereafter. She was a high calibre lady born and nurtured in a great political family- the Bhutto family- and tutored by one of the greatest leaders this country ever produced- Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed. She had her peculiar qualities and was truly benazir (matchless). She always took informed and well thought out decisions in her political career.

She had sagacity more than her any other contemporary. She would anticipate the future course of actions and would prepare her responses how to deal with them. I remember when I contacted her right after the 9/11; she was profoundly sad and said that it was a step that would have dangerous repercussions for the Muslims the world over and especially Pakistan. The events in the aftermath just testified to what she had anticipated on the very day of the terrorist attack.

She had that outstanding ability to recognise the potentials workers and how to take them along with her. She was mardum shanas (good judge of people) and would deal with people according to their worth and capabilities.

I personally miss her a lot. She held me in high esteem. You remember I was the PPP’s provincial president for NWFP. Once, in Dubai, when interviews for the aspirants of party tickets were being held before elections, I had a brawl with her on the issue of awarding party ticket to a person for elections. BB stressed that her nomination be endorsed which in my view was not suited to the prospects of the party. I objected to it. Difference of opinion took ugly terms and I walked out of the meeting saying that if our advice was not to be ignored, we had nothing to do there and told her that she should take the decisions herself and get these communicated to us which would be endorsed. Feeling disgusted, I went to the City Centre and was preparing to depart for Pakistan. Soon afterwards, she called for me. When I reached there, she smiled and said, “Hoti sahib! I agree to your suggestion because I have confidence in your political acumen.” Then she said that as I was angry with her that day, she would take us to lunch -which she very rarely did. On another occasion, when after a party’s public meeting in Lahore, there was a discussion as to the number of participants. Some said they numbered 20 thousands and others put the attendance at 30,000. When BB heard all of them, she asked me to give my analysis, and told those present that my assessment would be right as I always spoke the truth. I told them they all exaggerated and that actually the strength was five to six thousand. BB approved of my estimation.

TNS: Despite the fact that there is a powerful PPP government in the centre and four provinces, the death of BB is yet to be investigated. How do you look at the delay? And also who do you think to be behind her death?

KMH: I think her death should be promptly investigated. There have been many untraced killings in Pakistan and let’s hope that her case doesn’t add to these blind cases. Who ever that killed her has succeeded to strike the nation and the country hard. I don’t know as to whether local or foreign people or groups are to blame for her death but it’s our duty to expose her killers and bring them to justice as soon as possible.

TNS: People say the present PPP regime is violating her legacy and the party is being haphazardly run. Do you agree?

KMH: Since I am not in the PPP I cannot say for sure as to how the party is being run after her. I think only a party insider can be exactly aware of the things and feeling there. I am not in a position to say as to what changes have taken place since President Zardari became the party chief.

TNS: You had differences with her. Could you explain as to why did you desert the PPP in early 1990s?

KMH: Now as she is no more physically amongst us I don’t want to go into details about this matter. I have buried this hatchet.

TNS: Your son Umer Farooq Hoti recently joined Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Did you suggest this step? People say you are also to join the party soon?

KMH: Yes my son has joined the PML (N). He had some serious differences with local leadership which I think were not dealt rightly by the local chapter of the party. Perhaps Farooq thought that he would have more vistas open to him there in PML (N) and that he could serve the people well if he joined it. So he took the decision on his own. You know he is my only son. If I cannot make him happy, I simply have no right to compel him on this front and thereby displease him. Then he is an adult and knows his interest well. But as far I am concerned, I am in the ANP. Asfandyar Wali Khan is my leader. He is like a brother and very dear to me. He is a respectable and knowledgeable man and knows politics well.

If my son is in a party other than mine, this has been done by others in the past and is seen even today. Wasn’t Asfandyar’s grand-father Bacha Khan a veteran of Congress while the latter’s elder brother Dr Khan sahib was in the Unionist party before independence? Aren’t the two brothers from Laki Marwat – Saleem Saifullah and Anwar Saifullah – in the PML and PPP respectively? I would also like to draw your attention to the past. You know I was inducted into politics by my uncle Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hoti, former NWFP Governor who was a PML stalwart. He wanted me to join PML and would argue with me. But I joined the PPP in 1987 instead.

TNS: But don’t you have differences with, and difficulties in, the ANP?

KMH: We do have been facing some difficulties but I think they are the products of local conspiracies against us. I want to make it crystal clear to all plotters that ministerial or party slots have no significance in my eyes. These come and go. My family has always been the lucky one in this connection. In my case especially, I have worked on too many important slots in different governments. I have made commitments to people in my constituency- You know I am locally known as Baba-e- Rozgar (Father of jobs) because I believe in service and try to provide jobs to the needy. I am proud of my reputation and feel happy that I am not known as Baba-e- corruption which someone else is. Ministries may seem attractive only to those who make money out of them. I have never indulged in corruption and have always met my personal and political expenses by selling my ancestral property. The confidence, support and service of the people are dearer to me. I am not ready to compromise on Pakistan and the rights of the people of Mardan. The moment I realised I won’t be able to fulfil the promises I made with the people, I will resign and go to the people again to apprise them of the situation. I believe in transparency and always consult my constituency on whatever step I take. That will be my last day in office. Also, I am an oppositionist by nature. I feel like being with the people who oppose an incumbent regime.

TNS: How do you look at the performances of central or NWFP government so far?

KMH: I think there are some problems to face, ranging from law and order to financial crunch to external threats to political tensions. The governments are trying to solve the problems. The question is what after them? Who else has the panacea for these ills?  I believe the Pakistani nation is ready to confront all these hardships with courage and patience. The people, unfortunately, are not being taken into confidence. The sooner it is done, the better. I think we need an overall surgery of our policies. These must be brought in tune with the people’s wishes.

TNS: During your election campaign, you would chastise the US policy vis-à-vis Pakistan and Muslims. What about that now?

KMH: Pakistan is a declared non NATO ally of the US. Bilateral relations are meant for the benefit of both the countries. We’ll try our best to rid the world of terrorism. But we have our limits and cannot and must not exceed them to have our own polity jeopardised for them. We may be prima facie divided, we may belong to divergent groups and parties but we are united in that we are not ready to compromise on our sovereignty and national honour. For us Pakistan comes first and other things follow it. It is somewhat a universal truth that we have embraced as a nation. While Pakistan would do whatever it could to eradicate extremism and terrorism, it also expects rational thinking from its other allies. The present stereotyped tendency of putting all the blames of each and very thing on Pakistan will have to be avoided. It will only create problems and will serve no purpose for the coalition. If President Bush has been attacked by shoes, it is not a work of Pakistan’s making. The US will have to change its policy from aggression to peaceful dialogue with its opponents. It will have to bring a shift in its policies towards the Islamic world. When you support the killers of Palestinians, you will have to face indignation from the whole Muslim Ummah. While successive Pakistani governments are also to blame for the scourge, much of the terrorism in the world today is a reaction to US policies. If you also look at the huge anti-war rallies worldwide, you can see that the US has lost the war for hearts and minds. The American people need to know the truth. The US will have to think as to why it is being looked as an anti-Islam/Muslim power. The US must forthwith shun its militant approach, befriend the nations and avoid subjugating them.

And look at the respective attitude of India. It also accuses us of being supportive to terrorism. It ignores that Pakistan is itself a target of terrorists. If terrorists from India or Iraq target Pakistan, does it give us a license to attack these countries? Certainly not. It would have to forgo this mentality of accusation and threats. If it continues to charge Pakistan of whatever ugly takes place there, we also have questions regarding its role. When Pakistan overlooks the Indian intrigues against Pakistan or the disproportionately large presence of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, India should also reciprocate the same gestures.

TNS: You remained in the political arena for quite a time now. Based on your experience, what are the three main problems the Pakistani political system is faced with?

KMH: We considerably lack tolerance. Be that leaders or workers, they all try to benefit at the expense of others. They see their party colleagues not as brothers and friends but as rivals who must be sidelined and maligned to minimise their own prospects. Look when some vested interests in the ANP conspired against us in Mardan, my son was compelled to join the PML (N). This practice goes on unabated at all levels-local, provincial and national- in the country. Politics should not be turned into personal enmity which is a common sight through out Pakistan.

Another malady with our political system in my view is that promises are made but are mostly violated. Commitments are fulfilled the least. Because the promises are not intended to be pursued, mostly unrealistic commitments are made with the people. The public is not taken into confidence by the leaders if there are any hurdles and problems in the realisation of promises and objectives. This causes public resentment and disenchantment with the politicians.

The third drawback in our system to me is that there is too much experimentation in every department. Policies are made, changed and replaced. Projects are started, then lethargy engulfs those who run it and at last these are shelved for ever. Very handsome policies are prepared but these always await implementation. This lethargy has dealt us severe blows through out our history.

TNS: where does Pakistan stand today in Narcotics-trade?

KMH: There are at present an estimated 600,000 drug addicts in Pakistan. It accounts for a little over 2 % of the world’s Narcotics business. Afghanistan now a days is world’s biggest supplier of Narcotics- around 7800 hectors of poppy cultivation has been estimated there. The international drug mafia has changed its focus from Pakistan and is now taking drugs to Europe on some other routes in Iran, Turkmenistan and Bangkok.

And one interesting information, Holland of late has legalised the use of Charas (cannabis) in its country.

TNS: How can the drug trafficking be stopped or minimised?

KMH:  China and Saudi Arabia award death penalties to drug traffickers but even then people take drugs there. Narco mafia is very powerful and spread over the globe. It is very difficult to eliminate the business altogether. But we will have to continue our efforts for a drug-free world. We may not be able to eradicate the trade entirely but will decrease it for sure. As Pakistan is concerned, it faces many constraints. The narcotics’ department is yet to have its own building. It has a total budget of Rs.120 million which much too less than actually needed- as against it, the social welfare department’s budget when I was its minister recently was Rs.9000 million. The department has a workforce of three thousand employees that supervise border areas spread over thousands km- according to an estimate every official looks after an area of 10km to ensure that drug peddling doesn’t take place. Is it possible for him? As against it Iran has a total anti narcotics force of 35000 while Turkmenistan has 25000 personnel for the purpose. Also their pays are ridiculously small- while they are astonishingly expected to deal fairly with the narcotics-trade worth millions, and often billions, of rupees and have to contend with the resourceful drug mafia which is ever ready to invest on them. They deserve to be remunerated well. More incentives must be given to them and to the informers that risk their lives against the dangerous and powerful drug barons. We also need X-ray machines. Small dealers should also be arrested but it is the drug barons that would have to be given special attention- after all the small peddlers get it only form them to pass on to consumers. We also need to have more narcotics police stations around the country. Again, the importance of having more hospitals for drug addicts cannot be exaggerated- I am happy to announce that the present regime has envisaged to open a few narcotics police stations and Benazir Hospitals for drug addicts in the country.

Gujar Garhi Farm Tool cluster

Upgrading farm tool cluster
By Tahir Ali

Monday, 10 May, 2010 | 01:06 AM

THE farm tool producers at Gujar Garhi in Mardan say that they need technical and financial support to upgrade the existing cluster.

The site is not on the list of clusters selected by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (Smeda) for development initiatives.

Various equipment from the smallest to the biggest agriculture tools are manufactured in this cluster and have province-wide demand because of their cheaper rates.

“Our agriculture tools such as rotary hoe, shovel, spade, sickle, pickaxe, gur-ganees, plough, wheat-threshers and tractor trolleys are popular in and around the province. Though the wheat-threshers made here are of standard quality they are a bit costlier as against those made in Faisalabad because they are made in bulk quantity,” said Gulzaruddin, a manufacturer of farm tools and micro-power plants.

“The iron sheet cutter we manufacture has a price of around Rs1.2 million while the imported one costs around Rs25-30 million. The micro-power sheet binding and rolling machines produced by us are cheaper than those made in other clusters. We also make standard but cheaper micro-hydro-power plants that are accepted both nationally,” said another manufacturer at the site.

But load-shedding is playing havoc with production in the cluster. “We avoid taking bulk work-orders as only three to four hours of daily power supply has left us with no option. If we use generators, our cost of production increases and our goods become uncompetitive in the market,” he said.

“Militancy and terrorism have also taken their toll. Our sales have dropped by 50 per cent in the last few years and we are also exposed to kidnapping for ransom,” he added.

“In the wake of growing energy crisis and law and order, the cluster needs relief in taxes and electricity and gas tariff,” he urged.

The cluster is situated on the main Mardan-Swat highway and must be shifted to an industrial estate. “The industrial estate should be built nearby in close collaboration with and direct supervision of the local manufacturers. Plots should be provided to us on monthly installments,” he added.

Iftikhar Ali, a dealer in agriculture implements, said in the past training, equipment and financial support were provide to local entrepreneurs, but there was nothing of the sort at present.

There are around 120 small, medium and big manufacturing factories in the cluster. Many of these, however, are still working with outdated tools. “This warrants spacious factories, more investment and technical support of the government and capacity building of the workers,” said Ali.

“The cluster should have common facility centres and machine pool from which small artisans unable to buy machines could get them on rent,” said another wholesaler.

Free flow of electricity, easy loans, preferably interest-free ones, tax-relief and a separate industrial estate for the cluster are the steps urgently needed, he added.

Interviews with several manufacturers and industrialists revealed that most of them would like to have Sharia-compliant interest-free loans. A few others said loans on low mark up and easy conditions could be acceptable.

Smeda can help develop networking among manufacturers, upgrade technology, improve human resource skills and market products internationally.

Javed Khatak, chief of Smeda NWFP, said cluster had enormous significance in terms of manufacturing of agricultural tools. “The agriculture tools manufactured here are even exported to other countries. The government and my organisation would do whatever possible to promote this cluster,” he said.

“We would open common facility centre at the cluster soon. Modern machineries would be provided to industrialists on rent basis. We would also facilitate group based raw-material procurement to diminish the cost of transportation. We would arrange a skill development component for the cluster workers. The government would also provide them support for their capacity enhancement and standardisation of their products which will help them meet bulk-demands in future and increase their market attraction,” Khatak added.

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