Post Source: The News International

Growers protest against water shortage 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 (The News International)

LARKANA: Growers and farmers of Warrah, Mirokhan and Qambar-Shahdadkot districts staged a demonstration against the shortage of water and fertilisers here on Monday in front of the press club.

Hundreds of villagers, holding placards and banners, chanted slogans in favour of their demands and called for immediate action against the irrigation officials involved in water theft.

Talking to the media, they said Warrah sub-division and other canals were facing acute scarcity of water and their entire seedling had dried up, causing damage worth millions of rupees. They said they had lost billions of rupees worth of paddy last year in similar circumstances. Illegal water blockage in Panah canal and Tunia minor should be ended immediately to ensure water supply, the protesters demanded. 

Trade policy to lack steps to boost agriculture 

By Aftab Maken

ISLAMABAD: With trade imbalance of over $17 billion in the outgoing fiscal year, the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) in its upcoming trade policy 2009-10 has not made any significant interventions to boost agricultural produce.

Like previous trade policies, the commerce ministry is only introducing cosmetic measures for the enhancing the agri exports and curtailing the foreign imports to meet the local demand, said agricultural proposals in the trade policy 2009-10 available with The News on Monday.

Trade imbalance of the whole fiscal year 2008-09 witnessed a record of $ 17.04 billion against last year’s of $20.91 billion with exports of $17.78 billion against the target of $22.1 billion while the imports stood at $34. 82 billion against last year’s imports of $ 39.96 billion in the same period.A major incentive of granting six per cent R&D on the exports of processed food is proposed for encouraging research and development in food sector in trade policy and it would also help the farming community to minimize the post harvest losses, an official document revealing agriculture incentives in the policy said.

The rice milling machinery would be included in the list of long term finance scheme of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), said the document. Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) in their proposals emphasized on the subsidizing rice dryers at shelters or husking mills and 50 per cent subsidy on paddy harvesters.

It also proposed for setting up the cold storages with the shelf life of at least 12 months bacteria free with individual quick freeze concept instead of conventional bulk freezing as in vogue in Pakistan, said the proposal.

It further proposed that major subsidies to be considered for domestic production in order to curtail importation, it said, adding that zero rated import of refrigerated lorries and allied equipment for dairy industry may be considered.

All the insurance companies would be directed to open a separate window for agro-insurance and extended insurance cover on affordable yearly premium.The scheme will also be applicable for livestock and milk farming, the document said.

It is also proposed to reactivate the grading activity as in absence of quality check on export of agricultural and livestock commodities as the country is being subject to frequent confiscation/rejection of its agro-based exports.

The step is taken in the wake of a number of consignment has been either rejected or confiscated under the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food & Feed (RASFF), it added.The ministry also proposed that the domestic food laws be upgraded to match with international food laws and standards.

Crops of small farmers destroyed, landlords untouched

By Imtiaz Hussain

Ban on paddy cultivation is for the poor farmers not for the big landlords. Pursuing the section 3 of the West Pakistan Rice (Restriction on Cultivation) Ordinance Lv111 of 1959, the Board of Revenue circulated the Letter to the District Co-ordination Officers of Sukkur, Khairpur, Ghotki, Nawabshah, Naushehroferoz, Sanghar, and Matiyari to implement the order and to destroy the paddy crop if it had been cultivated.

The News has learnt that the Board of Revenue this time has placed a Rs5,000 fine against the violators of the ordinance. In the past the Board of Revenue used to collect four times the water rate from the violators of the Ordinance.

In the past shortage of irrigation water, water logging and salinity were the major reasons behind the restriction on the cultivation of paddy crop.

The farmers of Khairpur say that when there was no canal or barrage system they used wells for cultivation. However when water supply depleted from the canal and barrage systems and growers started using wells for irrigation, it was decided to exempt the people of Sindh living on the left bank of the Indus River from ban on rice cultivation and restricted the people living on the right bank to cultivate rice.

Elaborating the background of the cultivation of rice they said Rohri Canal caused water logging. In Khairpur there were only four tube-wells installed at Therhi, Tando Masti, Baighmaji, Mitho Mari and Hingorija. During Ayub Khan’s govt the SCARP Project was introduced to overcome salinity and water logging and paddy cultivation was banned.

Growers on the left bank of the Indus River used irrigation water in Kharif while the grower on the right bank used irrigation water both in Kharif and Rabi season and thus had two crops, so authorities had allowed the people of the left bank of the Indus river Larkana, Shikarpur, Dadu, Qambar Shahdadkot to cultivate rice.

Revenue department stated that in 2002 and in 2007-8 there was no ban on the cultivation of rice for the growers on the right bank of the Indus River including Khairpur, Sukkur, Ghotki, Nawabshah, Naushehroferoz and growers of these areas had cultivated rice crop but in 2009 the government issued a ban on the cultivation of paddy crop.

The Board of Revenue has no authority to ban or lift ban on the cultivation of rice without the consent of the irrigation department. Big landlords today enjoy the profits from the paddy crops and the revenue magistrates do not destroy their crops while they are destroying the paddy crops of the poor farmers who have no other source of income.

Such double standards have angered the farmers who say that rules, laws, ordinance and actions are for them but not for the big fish. Poor farmers say that there are thousands of acres of paddy cultivated but implementers turn a blind eye and destroy the crops of the poor, which is a very easy task for the officers.

The farmers are cultivating rice for their subsistence and not for marketing. They have appealed to the authorities to pursue a uniform policy. Discriminatory policies are stoking antagonism among the weaker segments of the society.

The government instead of respecting the rights of the poor farmers is victimising them. They say that they are ready to destroy their paddy crop with their own hands if the authorities prove they are impartial by destroying the paddy crop of the big landlords.

Farmers of Larkana are protesting over tonnes of rice rotting in their warehouses but the government has not purchased the same from them, is this good governance, growers ask. When this question of discrimination was asked from one of the revenue officer, he replied that institutions have been politicised and the administration is hostage of the big politicians. He said though ironical but in this country rules are for fools.

imtiaz_phulpoto@yahoo.com

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