LAHORE-Pakistan Businesses Forum has said over 205,000 tonnes of wheat seeds would be required to tackle with the needs of the farmers of flood affected areas in the country. In this regard special arrangements must made for the sowing of Rabi crops, particularly cultivation of wheat in flood hit areas in the country as wheat was the major cash crop and vital source to fulfill the dietary needs of local population. The floods have damaged more than 8 million acres of crops including rice, cotton, pulses, oil seeds and vegetables, and inflicted losses of over Rs320 billion.

Talking to press, PBF Vice President Jahan Ara Wattoo said despite agriculture sector devolved to provinces in 18th amendment still major relief areas of the agriculture still with the federal government. 

She demanded to reduce the power tariff, regretting that the government had raised the electricity to Rs36 per unit. Government may provide them electricity at the discounted rate of Rs5.35 per unit which farmers got earlier. She said subsidies on fertilisers while taxes on agricultural machinery and tractors should be abolished. Jahan Ara Wattoo urged the government to fix the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat at Rs4,000 per maund. 

PBF vice president further told government needs to take effective steps to stop the black marking of fertilizers, saying agriculture loans should be provided to farmers at a low-interest rate. She even questioned how small farmer can afford the loan at 15 percent KIBOR? 

Currently unbearable price hike in fertilizer, electricity bills, and other agriculture inputs has made agriculture nonviable. The production of major crops including wheat, sugarcane, rice, and cotton will decline further if the government did not pay heed to the rising electricity bills and input costs.

She even viewed government needs to sit with farmers and hold negotiations, adding that it was the responsibility of the government to solve the grievances of the farmers. We must understand Pakistan’s agriculture sector, which contributes 24 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings, has been damaged as recent climate change-induced floods have jeopardised food security and people’s livelihoods, and led to disruption in agricultural exports.