Contract farming harming mango production

Post Source: Dawn (Mohammad Hussain Khan)
Wednesday, 24 Jun, 2009 Mango

HYDERABAD: The atmosphere is suffocating. The stench in the vegetable and fruit market is overpowering, but Ali Sher has to move fast amidst scorching heat, wiping sweat from his face. Looking completely exhausted, he is busy earning whatever he can before the current mango season comes to an end.

Thanks to its excellent flavour, the mango is rightly called the king of fruits. There are allegedly over a hundred varieties of mangoes, but only two are widely recognised — those from India and Pakistan and those from Southeast Asia.

Mangoes have been cultivated in many a country, but nowhere is it as ubiquitous as in the sub-continent; Hyderabad’s fruit market serves as the main outlet from where mangoes from Sindh are dispatched up-country by road and train.

Sindh produces a number of high-quality mangoes, with Sindhri remaining the most popular variety. Prices of unripe Sindhri mangoes this year vary from around Rs1,300 to Rs1,500 per 160 kg bag — showing a marked increase from last year, when prices ranged from Rs1300 to Rs1400.

Mango commission agents claimed that demand this year remains high, and will likely rise further as the season draws to a close. Last year, Sindhri was sold till June 5, but this year it is still widely available.

Agents added that mangoes were being brought to market earlier and earlier, which made for higher quantities, but less flavourful mangoes, a move thought to be influenced greatly by the contractors who work with orchard owners.

‘At least farmers should take care of their orchards till the fruit attains maturity and then they may give its harvesting rights to contractors. It will certainly improve quality and quantity of mango,’ said progressive mango grower Imdad Nizamani from Tando Allahyar. He predicts less production of mango this year because of the short winter this year.

Mango cultivation in Sindh is not growing as compared to Punjab, where its area and production are both increasing. According to Director Sindh Horticulture Research Institute, Dr.Atta Soomro, Sindh produced 267,100 against Punjab’s 501,000 tons in 1990-91 as per figures of Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) while in 2007-08 Sindh produced just 368,100 tons against Punjab’s 1,373,100 tons.

‘I expect our production of mango this year to be not more than 330,000 tons,’ he said.

It was due to mango growers’ strong tendency in Sindh to give their orchards on contracts instead of taking care of it on their own. That’s why mango growers are also not interested in export of mango though they can earn considerable profits. As a result, the large-scale export of fruit export remains a dream in Sindh. In 2007-08 Pakistan’s mango export was 68,879 metric tons against production of 17,53,686 tons while in 2006-07 it was 61,632 tons against 1,719,177 tons production.

‘So far shipment of $99,183 of mango has been exported to UAE, Germany, Italy, England, etc.,’ said deputy director Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP), Hyderabad Abdul Salam Abbasi. He sees great potential in export of mango from Sindh but regretted that the growers of Sindh are not interested, as the majority prefer giving their orchards to contractors instead.

Requirements of Global GAP (good agricultural practices) – a certification system – under which a systematic chain of fruit’s health is to be ensured perhaps discouraged forced from taking care of scientific use of soil, fertilizer, spray, urea, picking pre and post-harvesting care, packing and transportation. These requirements not only pay dividends to growers but ensure labourers health safety as they are not exposed to hazardous chemicals.

 In Sindh growers give orchards to contractors before the season commences in return for cash-payments, and then leave it up to the contractor to decide how labourers are picked and used, mangoes are transported and their shelf-life maintained.

The pollination of mangoes is also often adversely affected in March-April under short-term agreements with contractors; excessive dropping of flowers, for example, is widespread.

‘Financial capacity and lack of skilled labour are [the] main hurdles that force growers to offer orchard to contractors. Mango is a perishable commodity thus growers avoid holding it for a longer period. But we need to break monopoly of contractors and bring our crop to market on our own. I tried to market my crop on my own but faced insurmountable difficulty due to middlemen,’ said Haji Nadeem Shah, an old mango grower from Matiari. He said, ‘contractor earns 400 times more than growers. For instance if I get Rs20,000 per acre, contractor gets Rs80,000 for the same. We can open our own sale points to market our product to benefit consumers. I and my friends plan to do something of this sort next year,’ he said.

Picking mangoes from trees must be done carefully in order to maximise shelf life. A stem of one to two centimetres must be left on the mango otherwise in order to prevent the fruit from rotting immediately. Likewise a temperature of 13 degrees centigrade, with a relative humidity of 85 to 90 per cent during transportation and storage must also be ensured. Contractors trying to maximize short-term profits may forgo quality control in favour of large harvests, rushed quickly to market.

Dr. Soomro contended that in Punjab growers prefer small farms instead of the huge ones which dominate Sindh. ‘We have absentee mango orchard owners in Sindh who don’t even visit their land. Mango tree demands pruning … and we have better climatic conditions for this fruit as compared to Punjab,’ he said.

Mango orchard owners stand to earn large sums of money this season while sitting at home, while labourers like Ali Sher return home having earned just Rs300 to Rs400 during mango season. ‘I don’t have any complaint because it’s my job. But it’s too difficult to make both ends meet,’ he said. 

Tenant, sons thrashed for not attending convention

 Post Source: Dawn June 26, 2009

OKARA, June 25: A number of farmers on Wednesday night beat up and injured an Okara Military Farms tenant and his three sons for not attending the national tenants’ convention.

The Anjuman-i-Mazareen arranged on April 17 last a national convention at Chak 4/4-L in which Jafar Husain and his sons (of Chak 15/4-L) did not turn up. They were declared by leaders in the convention as ‘Satans’.

Jafar Husain and his sons -Javed, Riaz and Abdul Aziz — entered their village mosque to offer prayers when a villager announced on loudspeaker that “the Satans had entered the mosque”.

Hearing the announcement, Maqbool, Rustam, Shahzad, Aslam and others rushed to the mosque and beat up Jafar and his sons. The police have registered a case.

Post Source: Daily Nawa-i-Waqt – Lahore June 26, 2009


50pc cotton, paddy crops may be lost due to water shortage

Post Source: The News International – Friday, June 26, 2009
By Shahid Shah

KARACHI: Damage to more than 50 per cent production of cotton and paddy is likely this year in Sindh amid 40 per cent water shortage in the current Kharif season.

This year, Sindh has a production target of 3.25 million bales of cotton over an area of 0.5 million hectares and 2.03 million tonnes of paddy over 0.642 million hectares.

However, the water shortage has badly affected the sowing of both the crops across the province and growers have protested.

President Asif Ali Zardari was also informed about the water shortage during his recent visit to Karachi. According to reports, he ordered that the water scarcity issue should immediately be resolved and more water should be made available to the province.

The Sindh government has taken serious notice of sowing paddy in cotton exclusive districts and has stopped the practice this year. Paddy consumes more water and nothing would be left for cotton.

Nevertheless the growers in tail-end areas of Indus are worried that the target of both major crops – cotton and paddy – may not be achieved due to water shortage.

Reports said that Sindh would be given around 32,000 cusecs extra water daily but it has not satisfied the growers. Reports said that President Zardari has ordered to take other efficient way of water distribution but the growers have demanded water according to water accord of 91.

Syed Qamar u Zaman Shah, Chairman Sindh Chamber of Agriculture told The News that there was no other way to compensate Sindh than to give its water share according to the 91 water accord.

“Guddu barrage is our cash counter, we should be given our due share at that barrage,” he said. When there is no proper share given at Guddu, how it would reach to other two barrages, he asked.

Shah said that they were given water somewhere in Punjab, which could be diverted through other canals or would be pumped out. Measurement of Sindh’s share should be at Guddu barrage only, he stressed.

He said paddy needs regular supply of water besides cotton.

New variety of BT cotton requires almost double water than previous varieties. BT cotton has been sown by majority of growers, which requires at least 6 waters compared to 2 to 3 waters provided to other local varieties of cotton.

Not only these two crops would suffer from water shortage but sugarcane is also in the fields, it would also be affected along with minor crops, Shah said.

“We are lower riparian and the upper riparian are taking water as it was their kingdom,” he said.

Reintroduction of organic farming urged

Post Source: The News International – Friday, June 26, 2009
Our correspondent

MANSEHRA: The experts have urged the government and policy-making institutes to reintroduce organic farming in the country to cope with challenges of unhygienic food and escalating diseases.

“Don’t force soil to yield more of its power by fertilisers, which create diseases and minimise resistance power among human beings. If the practice of using extra fertilisers and pesticides to get more yield is not stopped, our coming generations would never forgive us,” said one of the experts while speaking at a one-day seminar titled “Organic Farming to Revive Indigenous Knowledge and Practices” organised by Actionaid International, Mansehra Thursday.

The representatives of national and international non-governmental organisations, government departments and farmers largely attended the seminar. The experts, including agriculture scientists and Development Co-coordinator of Actionaid International, Raheela Khan, Senior Scientist at National Tea Research Institute Shinkiary Abdul Waheed, Mrs Nazli, Hidayatullah Khan and others said that the world community was facing the challenges of food shortage, epidemics and global warming but these issues were either directly or indirectly related to the earth.


Sindh government urged to increase wheat subsidy

Post Source: The News International – Friday, June 26, 2009
By Imtiaz Ali


The Sindh Assembly on Thursday was informed that if wheat subsidy was not increased, prices of flour might increase, especially in major urban centres.

Taking part in general discussion on the Sindh budget 2009-10, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Deputy Parliamentary Leader Faisal Sabzwari said that Punjab had provided a Rs6.6 billion subsidy on wheat to control flour price. He urged the Sindh government to find an avenue to provide wheat subsidy, which should be “target-oriented”.

MQM’s minister Shoaib Bukhari said that flour prices would go up if wheat subsidy was not provided, given that the Sindh government had already been criticised for the higher price of Roti as compared to Punjab. He said that it was incomprehensible for him why Rs1,100 million were earmarked for Planning and Development Department, even though its function was restricted to coordination and facilitation of various departments for uplift schemes, and added this money could be spent for other purposes. He said that Rs300m would be provided to NGOs under public-private partnership (PPP), although NGOs and PPP were two different things.

Sindh Irrigation Minister Murad Ali Shah said that there was no water available for necessitating the construction of any big dam, hence the government was focusing on water conservation through measures such as lining of canals. He said that the federal government had launched a Rs65 billion project, out of which Rs13 billion would be provided to Sindh in the first phase.

He said that Sindh could no longer resist the construction of Thal Canal, as Rs8 billion had been spent on it till now. Similarly, billions of rupees had been spent on RBOD’s scheme launched in 2001 that destroyed green belt, but now Sindh had to treat its water. With reference to Punjab legislators’ concerns over water distribution, the minister said that Sindh wanted “equity” in distribution of water as it had not been getting its due share. He said that Wapda was filling Tarbela dam, which was wrong, as it could not be done in case of water shortage. He said that at present there was a 30 per cent water shortage in Sindh, and immediate efforts had been taken to mitigate the situation.

Sindh Culture Minister Sassui Palejo said that link-canals could not be filled without prior consent of Sindh. She urged Punjab to adopt “balanced policy” on water.

Ali Nawaz Shah, provincial minister for agriculture, informed the assembly that he had reduced unnecessary administration expenditure of his ministry by 70 per cent. He said that urea fertilizer was 23 lacs excess this year as compared to last year.

Sindh Food Minister Nadir Magsi said that he was not consulted when an irrigation scheme was launched to prevent theft of water by Balochistan from Saifullah Magsi canal. He disclosed that President Asif Zardari had taken notice of this scheme, as it would likely to destroy fertile agriculture land and irrigate barren lands of “vested interests” in his constituency.

Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza said that the eradication of crimes, kidnappings, murders and land-grabbing required the cooperation and participation of all sections of society, as wherever he took action, he was “discouraged by localised pressure”. He said that insurance scheme for all cops would be launched in a week.

Shazia Marri, provincial information minister, said that the budget should be considered as a “welfare budget” as for the first time, a nutrition scheme was launched for children. She asked the opposition to conduct their homework instead of providing “distorted” figures.

Awami National Party (ANP) legislator Amir Nawab said that the minimum salary should be set at Rs7,000.

Minister for Inter-provincial Coordination, Makhdoom Jamil said that provincial autonomy was the panacea to all problems, adding that Sindh would oppose the division of Punjab.

Minister for Local Government Agha Siraj Durani, Minister for Information Technology Raza Haroon, Minister for Population Welfare Jam Mehtab, Taimur Talpur, Minister for Transport Akhter Jadoon, Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, Minister for Excise Mukesh Chawla, Agha Taimur, Bilqees Mukhtar, Tariq Arain, Izharul Hasan, Najmuddin Abro and others also spoke.

A motion was also unanimously passed, deferring the consideration of Finance Bill for Saturday before the session was adjourned by Speaker Nisar Khuhro till Friday morning.


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