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Secretary General (Federal) of the Businessmen Panel (BMP), Ahmad Jawad has said the government should make a devisable strategy and provide due subsidies to uplift agriculture sector in 2020 so that our country GDP may increase.

Until and unless to increase GDP growth up to 8% for coming years; we have to take up agriculture sector one should be very clear. Jawad held provinces responsible for the continued poor performance of the agriculture sector since farming had become a provincial subject.

"No agriculture policy, no planning and a lack of will at the provincial levels were behind the pathetic performance in the last year. Provincial authorities have given the agriculture sector in the hands of inexperienced people," he said.

Expecting better water availability would lend much-needed support to the agriculture sector, but a massive surge in fertiliser prices, impact of climate change and locust attack played havoc with the optimism. These factors are set to turn the doubt into a major worry.

"Agriculture sector performance has continued to decline for the past 19 years. The sector is feared to continue the downward trend in the 20th straight year - FY20,"

(Urea and DAP) prices by up to 25% have badly hit agricultural (crops) output as high prices discouraged farmers from using a good quantity of fertiliser."

The country's annual requirement stands at around 150 million bags of urea and 130 million bags of DAP, he said.

He estimated that production of almost all major crops of the 2019 Kharif (summer) season including cotton, sugarcane, paddy and maize "has dropped 30% on an average compared to last year." Giving the breakdown, he said the production of food crops, including wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and millet, decreased 10-20%.

Similarly, the government has set the new support price at Rs34.12 per kg for FY20. Cash crops, including cotton and sugarcane, have underperformed this fiscal year too. Cotton harvest is estimated to have touched a multi-year low in FY20 compared to 9.86 million bales - one bale is equal to 170 kg - in the last fiscal year. It was 17.5% lower than the 11.94 million bales harvested in FY18.

The country's total cotton requirement stands at around 14 to 15 million bales. The same is the case with sugarcane. Its production is estimated to have dropped further this year. The output fell 19.4% to 67.17 million tons in FY19 compared to FY18.

Production of pulses and oilseeds has dropped 25-30%. "Not a single type of pulse is available for less than Rs150 per kg in retail, though the government has spent over Rs30 billion on their imports in the first five months (July-Nov) of FY20."

Rice production is estimated to have decreased 15-20% in FY20 compared to 7.20 million tons in FY19, he said. Similarly climate change had also badly hurt two major summer crops - cotton and paddy. As the torrential rains just before the first round of cotton picking hit the standing crop in fields in September.

Farmers used to make three to five cotton picking in one season. However, the rains in the range of 11 to 15 inches in a 40 to 45-day period in some districts damaged a significant portion of the crop.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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