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KARACHI: Government must announce tangible steps in the upcoming federal budget including curtailment of fertilizer prices and tariff on tube wells - aimed at bringing down high prices of agriculture inputs said Vice President of Pakistan Businesses Forum and former chairman FPCCI Agriculture committee, Ahmad Jawad.

Unfolding the details with presser, he said even in last budget, federal government has not been able to announce any new initiative for the development of agriculture sector, which is backbone of national economy except allocated Rs 10 billion to fight with locust attack and adjust Rs 50bn agri package in the budget which was announced few months back.

The target of 2.8% for agriculture development in the fiscal year of 2020-21 was also on low side in an unusual time.

He said it’s time for an effective and workable horticulture and agriculture export policy, similar to the textile policy. He also seeks the government to support farmers in a substantial way for the purchase of machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs. “The leadership may formulate a sustainable agriculture policy to ensure food security in the country.”

As due to an alarming plunge in cotton production, Pakistan would need to import seven million bales worth $4 billion. He lamented that recently, cotton production of the country touched 30-year low in terms of volume. “Government must take practical steps to increase cotton production in the country,” he emphasized.

However in the budget proposals, Jawad proposed that the government may announce concrete package in the budget for the facilitation of horticulture industry as global trade crossed $200 billion. He said that the government should allocate funds to promote the hybrid seed industry in Pakistan under private-public partnership to increase per-acre productivity. “The world is focusing on the use of certified seed for enhancing agriculture productivity due to better profitability and international recognition.”

He urged setting up different projects including cool chain infrastructure, ripening centres, food processing and value addition industry, agro-processing industry and accredited testing laboratories at special economic zones under PPP mode, to ensure availability of good quality produce for exports.

Additionally, he said, loan scheme for new agriculture graduates for promoting agriculture services should also be government’s priority in the budget. Similarly special mark up rate could be announced for the banks preferably at 5% in the budget to purchase agriculture machinery for the facilitation of the farming community. Further Farm to market; Place of whole corruption and high prices of commodities, it’s time to get Arthi registration. We will get taxes, benefit farmers.

Jawad also demanded that funds for Crop Insurance Scheme (CIS) may also allocated in the provincial budgets for farmers to the areas affected by natural disasters/ calamities, wide-spread diseases and unpredictable weather conditions in a transparent manner, through Sindh Bank, BOP and BOK and ZTBL.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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