‘Govt should concentrate on promoting agri sector’


By Asad Cheema

(Federal) of Businessmen Panel (BMP) of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Ahmad Jawad has said that the government should devise strategy to provide due subsidies to uplift agriculture sector in 2020 for the country’ GDP growth. Talking to media on Tuesday, Ahmad Jawad said that one should remember that we have to promote agriculture sector for an increase of 8% growth during the ongoing and coming years. He held provinces responsible for the continued poor performance of the agriculture sector since farming had become a provincial subject. ‘No agriculture policy, no planning and a lack of will at the provincial level were behind the pathetic performance in the last year. Provincial authorities have given the agriculture sector in the hands of inexperienced people,’ he said. The SG (Fed) BMP of FPCCI said that though better water availability would lend muchneeded support to the agriculture sector, but a remarkable hike in fertilizer prices, impact of climate change and locust attack played havoc with the optimism. These factors are set to turn the doubt into a major worry, he added. ‘Agriculture sector performance has continued to decline for the past 19 years. The sector is feared to continue the downward trend in the 20th straight year “ FY20,’ (urea and DAP) prices by up to 25% has badly hit agricultural (crops) output as high prices discouraged farmers from using a good quantity of fertilizer.’ The country’ annual requirement stands at around 150 million bags of urea and 130 million bags of DAP; he said. Jawad estimated that production of almost all major crops of the 2019 Kharif (summer) season including cotton, sugarcane, paddy and maize ‘oehas dropped 30% on an average compared to last year.’ Giving the breakdown, he said the production of food crops, including wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and millet, decreased 10-20%. Similarly government has set the new support price at Rs34.12 per kg for FY20. Cash crops, including cotton and sugarcane, have underperformed this fiscal year too. Cotton harvest is estimated to have touched a multi-year low in FY20 compared to 9.86 million bales ‘“ one bale is equal to 170 kg “ in the last fiscal year. It was 17.5% lower than the 11.94 million bales harvested in FY18. The country’ total cotton requirement stands at around 14 to 15 million bales. Same is the case with sugarcane. Its production is estimated to have dropped further this year. The output fell 19.4% to 67.17 million tons in FY19 compared to FY18. Production of pulses and oilseeds has dropped 25-30%. ‘Not a single type of pulse is available for less than Rs150 per kg in retail, though the government has spent over Rs30 billion on their imports in the first five months (Jul-Nov) of FY20.’ Rice production is estimated to have decreased 15-20% in FY20 compared to 7.20 million tons in FY19, he said adding only sugarcane crop has managed to perform better this year. The last year has also seen tomato and onion crisis as well. Their prices hit historic highs of Rs400 per kg and Rs100 per kg in retail, respectively, in the year. ‘Rains have affected about 30- 40% of the early crop of onion and damaged the entire crop of tomato, which is a very sensitive food crop.’ Jawad further briefed the arrival of locusts in Sindh and a few adjoining areas in lower Punjab has sparked fears among the farmers in 2019 which is yet be addressed. He also warned if the sector continued to underperform, it would be hard for the country to achieve GDP growth of 2.4% anticipated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for FY20.