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LAHORE: Agriculture Republic, an agricultural think tank, has welcomed various direct and indirect initiatives announced in the federal budget. It particularly highlighted the establishment of a Climate Change Authority as a key step forward.

“Agriculture is the most affected sector of the economy due to climate change. This Authority can significantly help identify the damages and weaknesses caused by this phenomenon and suggest practical ways to mitigate them,” said Aamer Hayat Bhandara, speaking to the Business Recorder.

He emphasized the importance of securing climate finance from the international community, as mentioned in the budget speech. Bhandara suggested introducing schemes to offset the losses in the agricultural sector and stressed the need to include representatives of the agricultural sector as the main stakeholders in the proposed Climate Change Authority.

Aamer Hayat Bhandara, Co-Founder of Agriculture Republic and a progressive farmer, praised the allocation of Rs 5 billion in the budget for promoting mechanization by financing the procurement of planters, tractors, threshers, harvesters, and mobile grain dryers. He believed this will increase agricultural production and reduce pre- and post-harvest losses. However, he noted that this scheme was similar to one introduced by Premier Shehbaz Sharif during his last term, which was not implemented due to elections.

Bhandara also commented on the allocation of Rs 206 billion for water sector improvement and increased cheaper electricity generation, seeing it as an indirect benefit for agriculture by ensuring more water availability for farming.

He appreciated the steps announced for promoting aquaculture and domestic solar systems but raised concerns about the lack of clarity on whether GST was imposed on the agriculture sector.

Khalid Mahmood Khokhar, President of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), expressed disappointment that no mention was made of agricultural research. He pointed out that while international commodity prices have dropped, domestic input costs have risen, making farming untenable. He cited a 20% shortfall in cotton sowing as evidence and noted that despite a bumper wheat crop, farmers remain distressed.

Sardar Zafar Hussain Khan, President of Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP), criticized the mere Rs 5 billion allocation for agriculture, highlighting the government’s apathy towards this crucial sector, which not only contributes significantly to GDP but also ensures food security.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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