Direly needed package

The massive Kissan Package announced few days back by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was indeed a direly needed package of incentives and relief measures as the farming community was bracing itself to assess and overcome the huge losses and damages they had suffered due to heaviest and unprecedented rains and floods which had almost fully washed away standing crops including cotton, rice and sugarcane over almost forty lakh acres in the severely flood hit areas of the country. Through the Kissan Package, the government may be able to meet the demands put forth by the farming community. The package involves Rs.1800 billion that must be spent in the ongoing financial year–four times more than what they were getting last year.
The farming community’s representatives have not wasted time in welcoming and appreciating the Kissan Package. Hopefully, they will be fully availing it to rehabilitate themselves so that they can work with renewed zeal and vigor, strengthening the agriculture sector and national economy as a result. Indeed, the federal government deserves credit for allocating this substantial amount for the package despite facing financial constraints and certainly such a huge investment in the agriculture sector is worth making. Pakistan is an agrarian country but regrettably, it has to import staple products like wheat, sugar, cotton and pulses mainly due to the bitter fact that this sector is never paid attention.
Such a package was surely needed as the agriculture sector had suffered heavily due to the recent unprecedented rains and floods caused by climate change in Sindh and South Punjab. Resultantly, prices of agricultural commodities have shot up due to the shortage and disruption of supplies.
We must also appreciate that the federal government took a timely decision to allocate Rs.11 billion for waiving off the mark up on the loans taken by the farmers in the flood affected areas. Similarly, the Centre and the provinces will also be providing more than Rs.8 billion to small farmers in the floods hit areas, besides the substantial allocation of Rs.50 billion for providing easy loans to the youngsters residing in the rural areas and willing to become professional farmers.
The package also envisages measures such as reducing the fertiliser prices and ensuring availability of urea in sufficient quantities. This is in addition to the provision of solar panels for tube wells, introduction of instalments for electricity bills, provision of electricity at a fixed rate of Rs.13 per unit and agricultural inputs on affordable prices. All these measure will certainly go a long way in increasing productivity of the agriculture sector.
The bitter fact that the local tractor industry refused to cooperate with the federal government in providing locally manufactured tractors to the farmers at somewhat subsidised rates is relevant. The Prime Minister was forced to take recourse to import five-year-old, second hand tractors and in order to offset any adverse impact of this on the local tractors industry, also reduced duty on imports of tractor parts to 15 per cent.
Furthermore, in the flood hit area, the landless will be provided interest free loans of Rs.5 billion and as many as 12 lakh bags of certified wheat seeds and fertilisers will be provided, as well as gas at cheaper rates to offset the impact of reducing the prices of DAP fertilisers by Rs.2500 per bag. Accordingly, the DAP bag will now be available to the farmers at Rs.11250 instead of the previous rate of Rs.14000 per bag. The positive response of the fertiliser factories to the federal government in reducing their DAP product prices surely deserves to be appreciated as compared to the negative and indifferent attitude of the local tractor plants for providing some reduction in locally made tractors prices in order to provide some relief to the farmers particularly those living in the floods and rains hit areas.
The timely decision of the government to import 1.6 million tons of wheat in order to offset the adverse impact of devastation caused by the floods would hopefully help in augmenting its supply and stabilising prices of the commodity which was on the rise, thus causing hardships for the inflation-hit people in the country.
While welcoming the relief measures and incentives being taken by the federal government, provinces will also have to adopt a long term strategy to in order to reform, modernise and strengthen the agriculture sector. Pakistan is blessed with fertile land, congenial climate and a comprehensive irrigation system but somehow the country has not been able to fully exploit the optimum potential of the sector.
Unfortunately, the factors hindering accelerated growth of the agriculture sector are fully known to all concerned and those who matter but somehow, there was no consistency and long term planning to address the challenges faced by this sector on priority basis.
The incumbent government is here for a short period but it is worth noting that it still took due interest and showed concern in addressing the immediate problems of the farming community. Hopefully, future governments would move more firmly for tackling the issues of the agriculture sector such as poor crop yields, unfair distribution of irrigation water, lack of agricultural reforms and post-harvest infrastructure as well as adoption of modern techniques and taking proper and due advantage of technological innovations as well.
All in all, one can only appreciate the federal government for coming up with the direly needed package of incentives and relief measures for the advantage and benefit of the farming community and thus meeting all their demands. Indeed it was a direly needed package and results will only accrue through its proper, sincere, dedicated and committed implementation by all concerned. Needless to say that prosperous farmers means a prosperous, progressive and developed Pakistan.

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