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LAHORE: Future of Pakistan’s agriculture is not threatened by the shortage or high prices of fertilizers but by the unavailability of water at the right time in the required quantity.

“Either we do not have rains in time or have heavy downpour but waste the whole water for not having the storage capacity. Countries with a water storage capacity of fewer than 30 days face the same kind of challenges in agriculture as we are facing now,” said Director General Agriculture (Extension) Dr Anjum Ali while talking to a select group of journalists on Saturday.

The DG said his department is carrying out raids against those unscrupulous elements who were involved in hoarding or over-charging in selling Urea and other fertilizers. However, he said smuggling is happening because of the huge difference in international prices of Urea and Pakistan. He said our total production capacity is 6.2 million tons which are enough for our domestic needs. He disclosed that the government is also importing 3 million tons of Urea for meeting the increasing demand.

He said after the 9th of May, 2002, a fine of Rs20.377 million was imposed on hoarders and those found involved in overcharging fertilizers with 258 FIRs launched and 67 arrests. Earlier, in the year 2022, while taking action against fertilizer hoarding, high pricing on-spot fine and arrests were made.

Punjab is consuming over 70% fertilizers marketed in Pakistan. Most of the Urea production is out of Punjab and therefore its availability is critical at peak stages of both Rabi (December-February) and in Kharif (Mid May-July). However, the ongoing heat wave and canal water shortages has created another problem and consumption has increased further since the 2nd fortnight of May, he added.

Buttar said we also need to promote the usage of phosphoric fertilizers as it is lower than international standards but these fertilizers develop grain in the crops that pushes up the production.

However, he said we are facing multiple challenges due to climate change such as heatwave and water shortage. He said natural calamities are much dangerous. We are still facing 50 percent shortage in river water and water is also short in canal due to less rain.

Dr Anjum Ali said that we need to develop farm water storage as was present in every village in shape of ponds in the past. He said absence of sufficient storage deprives us of irrigation even at the critical stage of the crops. He said we need to develop water storages first at farm-level and then bigger reservoirs as it will help us in the future. He said steps are also needed to tackle the heatwave phenomenon.

Regarding monsoon season, he said farmers should apply urea in the coming rains carefully as rain water compensates the shortage of urea fertilizers. He said Urea helps the leaves of the crop and rain does the same.

DG Agriculture also disclosed that the department is working on introduction of such methods which could reduce the water consumption for water guzzling crops such as rice. We are carrying out experiments such as direct seeding and others and their success would help overcoming the need of abundant water.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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