ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel, on Wednesday, was informed that the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) is not paying cotton cess since 2015, which has piled up to Rs 258 billion.
Federal Secretary National Food Security and Research said this while giving a briefing to the Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research, which held its meeting here under the chairmanship of Senator Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah.
The total national wheat requirement within next few years will jump from current level of 26 million tons per annum to 35 million tons, and with present farming practices, the country would not be in a position to meet the local demand.
Therefore, the farming practices should be changed in accordance with global practices.
Moreover, it is also important to earmark more financial resources to the agriculture sector as the country’s economy is based on agriculture.
The secretary said that the state must allocate at least 10 percent of the PSDP for the development of the agriculture sector, saying that only research and development (R&D) sector of agriculture needs Rs 50 billion per annum allocation and with current allocation there is no room for the agriculture developments.
The officials said that public sector entities including provincial food departments excluding Punjab, so far have failed to achieve wheat procurement target.
They said that Sindh has procured 1.1 million ton of wheat against set target of 1.4 million tons, Balochistan has procured only 30,000 tons against set target of 100,000 tons, and Punjab has procured 3.7 million tons against set target of 3.5 million tons.
The committee members and officials also expressed serious concerns over low national productivity of all the major crops and said that high input costs, traditional farming practices, non-availability of agricultural loans to small landholders, and role of middleman are key factors in keeping agriculture productivity below the global levels.
The committee also recommended upgradation of human resources involved in the agriculture sector.
The committee strongly recommended that since agriculture constitutes 19 percent of the GDP and employs 38 percent of the labour force, an allocation of Rs 12 billion for agriculture is totally insufficient, and it should be at least 10 percent of the public sector development programme (PSDP).
The secretary food informed the panel that the government has announced Rs 1,500 per acre subsidy for agriculture sector and is going to digitalise it, so that the farmers can easily avail it.
The committee recommended to the government for early fixation of minimum support price of wheat, so that the growers can have early information and can sow more profitable crops.
He said that cotton produce in the past nine years has witnessed a declining trend as a result, to meet the local requirements, the textile industry imported raw cotton, spending billions of dollars.
The officials said that a decade ago, Pakistan was among the top cotton producing countries in the world but now the country with around six million bales annual cotton production stands nowhere. They said that India, China, Central Asian countries, and the USA long ago started certified modern seeds to produce cotton as a result, today, their per acre and national production has increased manifold.
Few years ago, Indian cotton produce was around 11 million bales per annum but now has crossed 35 million bales per annum.
Secretary National Food Security and Research informed the panel that the APTMA members were not paying cotton cess since 2015, every year the textile industry has deprived the cotton growers of Rs 43 billion and accumulative amount of past years stands at Rs 258 billion.
He said that the Rs 50 per 40kg cotton cess was imposed on millers for R&D activities but the powerful millers are not willing to pay the cess.
The officials said that cotton producing area in the country has reduced by 40 percent over the period only because of low profitability.
The panel expressed serious concern over the reduction in cotton sowing area and said when the country was producing over 10 million bales of cotton, it was helping reduce the edible oil import bill by 30 percent.
Federal Minister for Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam said that the APTMA was represented at all the forums, while growers were not represented.
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has called an important meeting on agriculture, wherein, only agriculture-related matters will be taken up.
The panel was informed that 8.2 million families were associated with farming in the country, of which 7.7 million are holding 12.5 acres of lands.
Issues taken up included price reduction of the DAP and Nitro phosphate; of minimum support price for increased cotton production; briefing of IRSA chairman on water dispute between Sindh and Punjab and measures taken by the Ministry to develop crop zones.
The meeting commenced with implementation status of recommendations made by the committee to the ministry.
It was asserted that a change in role from that of passive data collection body to that of data collection must be ensured and a mechanism must be formulated for this.
The committee stressed the need for a uniform policy for wheat growth in Pakistan and stressed the need for stipulating a minimum support price for cotton.
Measures to motivate cotton growers from switching to other crops were stressed.
The ministry informed the Committee that weak execution and lack of funds were the main issues that have prevented the agricultural sector from attaining its full potential.
The Committee was also informed that a system was being put in place to ensure subsidy directly to the farmers.
It was asserted that in order to benefit extensively from Pakistan’s agrarian economy, it was essential that a departure from traditional agriculture be made to research and knowledge-based farming.
Taking up the issue of water appropriation between Sindh and Punjab, the Committee recommended that as per the Indus Water Accord of 1991, it must be ensured that all surplus and losses must be equally shared.
According to para 7 of the Accord, the IRSA may move the Competent Authority for discussion on this issue and progress on this may be sent to the secretary Committee before the next meeting.
The meeting was attended by Senators, Seemi Ezdi, Sania Nishtar, Saeed Ahmed Hashmi, Keshoo Bai, Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar, and Hafiz Abdul Karim, and senior officers from the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, the IRSA along with all concerned.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021