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ISLAMABAD: With the increase in petroleum products, gas, and electricity prices, the input cost for agriculture increased by 200 percent, while fertiliser is not available at a controlled rate in the market, badly affecting the sector and the entire economy.

This was observed by the Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research, on Thursday, which also recommended for emergency measures to ensure the availability of fertilisers for the ongoing wheat crop.

The parliamentary panel convened on Thursday under the chairmanship of Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, observed that urea is being sold in the black market at Rs 5,600 per bag against the controlled prices of Rs 3,560 while substandard DAP is being supplied in the market at Rs 15,000 per bag.

The meeting deliberated upon the non-availability of urea fertilizer for Sindh’s growers, where the wheat sowing season is almost concluded. The fertiliser shortage would badly affect the average yield.

Caretaker Minister for Food Security and Research Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik said that complaints regarding fertilizer shortage were received from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, while caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti also endorsed the fertiliser shortage in Balochistan.

“I used personal contacts to get some fertilizer from the nearby district of Punjab,” Bugti added.

The ministry informed the committee that it has been requesting since June that fertilisers should be imported to ensure its availability in the market, but due to financial crunch, the decision was delayed. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has now allowed to import 0.2 million fertiliser.

The committee pointed out hoarding and mismanagement as the major reasons behind the fertiliser shortage.

“We have controlled smuggling by around 99 percent, then where it is going,” the caretaker interior minister asked.

Chairman Shah conveyed multiple complaints received from farmers nationwide, emphasizing the critical impact on wheat crops in Sindh due to the shortage. Despite a reported surplus, the fertiliser was found to be scarce, with black market prices soaring to Rs 5,600, well above the controlled rate of Rs 3,560. The committee directed the ministry to collaborate with stakeholders urgently to address this pressing issue.

The committee addressed a starred question raised by Senator Sarfaraz Bugti concerning alleged manipulations in the import of olive plants. A sub-committee, chaired by Senator Kamran Murtaza, was formed to investigate and report on the matter within two months.

Expressing concerns about the non-recovery of cotton cess from textile firms over the last five years, the committee highlighted its adverse impact on cotton research and delayed payments to Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) employees. With arrears exceeding Rs 3 billion, the committee instructed the ministry’s officials to engage with the Aptma, addressing concerns and facilitating the recovery of cotton cess.

The committee was informed that the PARC had developed two new wheat varieties. Chairman Shah recommended compiling a list of progressive farmers for better outreach, suggesting a monthly newsletter to inform farmers about agricultural advancements. Additionally, the committee advised the PARC to liaise with farmer associations in Sindh and Punjab.

Regarding the transfer of BS-19 and BS-20 officers of the PARC from Sindh to Islamabad, the committee chairman directed a review of the decisions, emphasising the return of officers contributing significantly to the region.

Furthermore, the committee requested a report from PCCC officials on new cotton varieties and their availability in the market.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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KU Dec 01, 2023 12:42pm
Congratulations, they woke up to reality!
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