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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured the farmers that the government will not allow their exploitation any longer because agriculture can bring about economic growth in short run.

Speaking after a meeting with farmers and their representatives, on Tuesday, the prime minister said that “in the short-term, agriculture sector can lift the country. This was evident from the fact that the government’s one measure that ensured timely payment of sugarcane to growers contributed to increase in record production of agriculture sector.”

“Production of all the crops except cotton was very healthy, he added.

“We will not stop here and will continue to help the farmers by taking their inputs through regular meetings with them,” he said and added that China is ready to extend technical support in the agriculture sector.

The prime minister said the government would take input from the farmers and involve them to ascertain as to what kind of technical support would be required from China.

The prime minister said that work on research and seed development would be started on an emergency basis.

Although, in the short run, agriculture can lift the country, eventually in the long run industrial development would be critical for repayment of debt, said the prime minister.

He also said that industries must differentiate between profit and profiteering and do not make cartels to mint undue profit.

Replying to the demand of farmers with respect to fixed electricity rate of tube wells, the prime minister said that “we are buying expensive electricity and selling it cheap and consequently, the differential is contributing to increase in circular debt”. However, he said, the government is trying to find out a solution to the problem of circular debt.

The prime minister said the government was also discussing to provide relief to farmers on tube-wells and may shift tube-wells to solar.

The prime minister said that there was a time when the country was developing very rapidly but had gone down in front of our eyes because of injustice.

The prime minister said that soon after assuming power, the government was faced with the problem of sugar price increase.

As on the one hand the price of sugar was being increased, while on the other hand, farmers were not getting even the set price of sugarcane, the prime minister said, adding that there was a mafia operating in the sugar industry, which was selling expensive sugar.

This mafia was not declaring its profits and not paying due taxes, he said.

He said the sugar mills association was so powerful that when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initiated investigation into a sugar crisis, it threatened to further increase the price of this commodity.

The government, the prime minister said, decided to take action against them and it was not an easy one because in the sugar industry people across the party lines were sitting. The prime minister said that subsequently, the government decided to change the 1950 law to provide timely payment of sugarcane to farmers. However, an attempt was made to change the new law.

Earlier, representatives of farmers acknowledged the government’s support and stated that farmers first time got timely payment of sugarcane. According to them, Rs80-90 billion went into the pockets of farmers because of the Sugar Control Factory Act.

Farmers apprised the prime minister about their problems including electricity rates, high input and fertilizer costs.

APP adds:

He further said that the government would work on the duty-free import of agricultural equipment and tools from China and benefit from their expertise to develop our livestock sector as well.

The prime minister assured the farmers’ representatives that he and his team would continue to interact with them.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Minster of State for Information Farrukh Habib, Special Assistants to PM Jamshed Cheema and Dr. Shehbaz Gill were also present in the meeting with farmers’ representatives.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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