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LAHORE: Growers have, so far, brought 3.278 million acres of land under rice cultivation in the Punjab province against the sowing target of five million acres of land.

The production target this year has been set at 4.940 million tons and the provincial agriculture department’s 349 teams are working in the field to provide technical guidance to rice farmers in more than 7,000 villages.

Out of the total target area of sowing, four million acres will be brought under different Basmati varieties while coarse varieties of rice have been sown over one million acres of land.

This was disclosed at the second meeting of Rice Management Group (RMG) held here on Thursday with the Secretary Agriculture Punjab Iftikhar Ali Sahoo.

The meeting was attended by the Additional Secretary Agriculture (Task Force), Punjab Muhammad Shabbir Ahmad Khan, Director General Agriculture Extension Dr Muhammad Anjum Ali, Chief Scientist Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, Faisalabad Dr Muhammad Akhtar, Director General Agriculture Pest Warning, Punjab Rana Faqir Ahmed and others.

During the meeting, the situation of paddy sowing at the provincial level was reviewed. The Secretary Agriculture was told that this year basmati varieties were being sown over 4 million acres of land while coarse varieties were being sown over 1 million acres of land. An increase of 6.7% in the area under paddy cultivation has been reported in the last 3 years and during last year, 4.87 million tons of rice was exported.

On the occasion, Iftikhar Ali Sahoo directed to take special measures to further increase paddy exports. He directed to constitute Divisional Expert Groups in Faisalabad, Lahore, Gujrat and Gujranwala for technical guidance of paddy farmers to control harmful pests in these core areas and also extending technical advisory to farmers regarding pest/ insect control, Pre-Harvest Interval (PHI) spray and Maximum Residues Limit (MRL) spray on rice crop.

Secretary Agriculture, Punjab further instructed that specific paddy related pesticide’s availability should be ensured in the market in the core paddy area while pesticides specific to other crops (cotton or wheat) should be prohibited in these areas to reduce the impact of pesticides on paddy crop.

In response to a question, Secretary Agriculture said that this year, Government of Punjab is providing a subsidy of Rs10 billion on agricultural inputs to reduce the production cost of farmers.

Later, the representatives of Rice Exporters Association met with Secretary Agriculture, Punjab. During the meeting, rice exporters expressed fear of reduction in exports due to indiscriminate use of pesticides on paddy crop.

Secretary Agriculture said that he had directed to constitute Divisional Expert Groups in paddy core areas which would provide technical guidance to the farmers. He further said that Government of Punjab was taking steps to increase the export of paddy so that the country’s foreign exchange could be enhanced.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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