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KARACHI: Vice President of Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) Ahmad Jawad has demanded of the federal government to exempt the taxes and General Sales Tax on the manufacturing of cold storages for the period of next ten years before the approval of the federal budget in order to address food security and increase perishable exports, similarly in the operational mode, five years tax holiday may be granted to the respective firm.

As inflation in Pakistan is high with food prices fluctuating all the time. This is basically because Pakistan does not have proper food storage facilities, and seasonal demands put a strain on supplies, resulting in ever-rising food prices.

In Pakistan, cold storages are filled only with potatoes and apples most of the time. Similarly, there is no food processing industry to increase storage life.

"This is needed not only to reduce food losses which are significant in Pakistan, but also to help farmers get better incentives and income, better document the value chain, increase credit to farm economies and help achieve overall competitiveness in the country's rural sector," said Jawad.

If government successfully makes such measures for the cool chain, country's horticulture exports may increase up to tenfold which would be great addition to national exchequer.

He noted that in the 2021-22 budget the total allocation of federal government and provinces for the agriculture sector will be Rs91.75 billion which is not an impressive number if we want transformation.

Despite the immense interest expressed by PM Imran Khan for the revival of agriculture, the federal budget has missed more areas than it mentions. For example, farmers demand revamping of research. The budget seems to have completely missed it.

The cotton crisis has taken space in the national debate in the last few years and its dip to an exceptionally low level had rekindled hopes, egged by official responses, that the government was determined to revive cotton glory. The budget document has completely ignored the subject. Rather, it allowed cotton fibre import, hurting revival prospects.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's speech carried Rs12 billion allocations for the sector from which locust attacks and food security would receive Rs1bn. About Rs2bn are allocated for productivity enhancement, another Rs1bn for oil (crop) cultivation - read olive initiative - and Rs3bn have been set aside for watercourses improvement. Can this paltry figure, out of the total layout of Rs8.4 trillion, even sustain the sector, let alone revive it?

The government of Sindh has proposed an increase in the overall budget allocation for the agriculture sector from Rs14.8 billion this fiscal year to Rs15.26 billion next year.

"Sindh government will establish GIS and Remote Sensing Centre for monitoring of natural resources," he said. "The provincial government will also establish Centre of Excellence in Seed Science and Technology at Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam." Similarly Punjab government has allocated Rs31.49 billion for agriculture under the development budget for financial year 2021-22.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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