Archive for April, 2010

EU allocates Euro 50 million for food security in Pakistan

 

Post Source: www.sananews.net

 

ISLAMABAD, (SANA): The European Union (EU) has allocated Euro 50 million for Pakistan and one billion globally to address the emerging issue of food security, adding that more than 60 million people are suffering from food insecurity in Pakistan. This was said by the Ambassador of European Union Jan De Kok, Wolfgang Herbing Country Director World Food Program (WFP), Sectary Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) Zia-ur-Rehman and Secretary Sindh Government Agha Jan Akhtar during the dialogue workshop on food security here in a local hotel.

The head of the delegation and Ambassador EU Jan De Kok in his speech said that the European Union has allocated globally Euro one billion to address the issue of food security amongst the vulnerable segment of population such as children and women.

He said Pakistan has been received the highest grant amongst all the countries as allocated a total of Euro 50 million for improving food security of the rural people on sustainable basis.

The EU ambassador said in Pakistan more than 60 million people mostly residing in rural areas and suffering from food insecurity.

He emphasized to support small farmers on the urgent basis so that could be able to enhance their agriculture production.

Wolfgang Herbing the Country Director World Food Program and Food Security Perspective in Pakistan in his speech said that 40 million out of total allocated 50 million will be spent jointly by FAO and WFP in seventeen districts of four provinces.

He said the project has arranged quality agriculture inputs (seed and fertilizer) in many cases produced locally, farm machinery and implements to the small farmers through tillage pools, and helping in rehabilitation of irrigation system as well as baron land, reduction of post-harvest losses by processing and preservation of perishable food commodities, and capacity building to enhance the labour efficiency and safety would result additional production of 133,000 metric tons of various food items.

The secretary Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock Zia-ur-Rehman said livestock and poultry is cash in hand for the small farmers. The rural poultry is an excellent means for ensuring proper nutrition of rural poor.

He said the livestock provide milk and meat for direct and indirect human consumption, hides for leather, bone meal for fertilizer and feed and drug for manner and fuel.

Secretary of Sindh Government Agriculture Department Agha Jan Akhtar lauded the EU commitment to support the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to combat soaring food prices and mitigating food insecurity. He hoped that FOQ, WFP and NGO’s would implement the project in the most efficient and effective way to achieve the desired objective of improved food security of the vulnerable population of the country.

Farmers seek payment from Lahore-based Company

Post Source: Dawn – 29 Apr, 2010

HUNZA, April 28: Small farmers of Hunza-Nagar have sought help from the Federal and Punjab governments in ensuring their payment from a Lahore-based company. In an appeal to the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the small growers from Shimshal.

Talking to mediapersons here, the representatives of the farmers said that Chaudhry Masood Ahmed, the contractor of Pepsi Cola International, Lahore, lifted 3,290 bags of potato from 1,040 small farmers in 2009 on promise of making payments of Rs5.2 million within 10 days but never returned.

The farmers had to incur Rs37 million loss due to poor production of potato as the contractor had provided substandard seed to them.

“We approached the contractor in Lahore on his given address but his in-laws threatened us,” Ali Ahmed, one of the affected persons said. We have also registered an FIR 92/10 against the contractor at Gilgit Police station for giving fake cheques to some of the farmers, they informed. We have also forwarded an application to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, through the PML-N Secretariat in Gilgit in this regards, they said.—Correspondent

Unfit wheat from Punjab lands in Sindh

Post Source: Dawn By Abdul Aziz – 29 Apr, 2010

NAUSHAHRO FEROZE, April 28: Mehrabpur police on Wednesday impounded, and then released three trailers loaded with wheat bags unfit for human consumption. Some 3,600 rejected wheat bags inscribed with ‘Punjab Government 2004’ were purchased by a businessman Yasir Jatt and brought to Mehrabpur for sale.

SHO Mehrabpur, Khamiso Khan Janwari released the trailers after impounding these and then denied the whole happening with the justification that it was not the duty of police to impound trailers. However, journalists took the pictures of wheat and trailers.

DPO Naushahro Feroze Rukhsar Ahmed Khuhawar acknowledged that wheat trailers were impounded by police although it wasn’t their responsibility.

Later, he, on the intervention of an MPA and some others, advised the District Food Controller, Rafique Ahmed Rajpar to take their possession.

When confronted as to why police were not responsible for it, he explained that basically Food Department should have checked its fitness and could’ve contacted police if it had reservations.

The DFC could not be reached as his cell phone was switched off and the PTLC number was not being answered.

Wheat, being outdated, was fetched at lower rates and would’ve been mixed with the fresh commodity, said the sources.

Wheat growers cry foul over delay in payments

Post Source: Dawn By Qamaruddin – 29 Apr, 2010

MIRPURKHAS, April 28: The food department has been deferring payments to growers for the last 12 days against wheat delivered to godowns and procurement centres. It was reported that the authorities concerned did not send enough amount to food department Mirpurkhas to be paid to landlords against procured wheat.

Hundreds of growers supplying the commodity to Autaq Syed Ali Nawaz Shah, Khaan, Sepota and Shadi Palli procurement centres were disappointed over non-payment of their dues.

Some affected farmers, including Sher Mohammad, Abdul Khaliq, Shahid and Saleem told Dawn that that they were not being paid since April 17, despite supplying wheat to the centres.

“Our visits to offices of district food controller and deputy director food remained futile,” they said arguing that the delay was affecting cotton sowing as they don’t have enough cash to buy fuel for tractors, cotton seeds and fertilisers or pay to labourers.

They demanded of the Sindh government to order an inquiry into the delay and ensure immediate and timely payment of their crop.

When contacted deputy director food Mirpurkhas region Sarfaraz Tunio said that the wheat procurement target was enhanced but the money was yet not transmitted to the National Bank branch, hence delaying payment to growers.

Bonded labourers: Displacement in Hari camps makes matters worse

Post Source: Dawn Correspondent – 29 Apr, 2010

UMERKOT, April 28: Speakers at conference held on Wednesday criticised displacement of peasant families in the name of freedom from bonded labour and said the landlord was still cruel but displacement and settlement of peasants in Hari camps was making matters worse. Speaking at “Peasant Conference 2010” organised by the Peasants and Workers Network Sindh in collaboration with South Asia Partnership on Wednesday, they said that displacement was no solution and called for giving peasants wages equal to industrial workers.

They said that Sindh Tenancy Act had become outdated and flawed, which needed amendments.

Renowned writer Syed Sardar Ali Shah said that even in this modern age, peasant of Sindh was living below poverty line and facing cruelty and manipulation of accounts at the hands of landlords.

He said that Sindh Tenancy Act had run out its utility and become flawed, which did not support peasants’ rights. Therefore, amendments suggested by peasant organisations should be incorporated in the law and its implementation should be ensured, he said.

Umerkot administrator Ghulam Akbar Laghari said that some organisations displaced peasants at the pretext of giving them liberty from bonded labour, which dealt a serious blow to agriculture sector in Umerkot, Sanghar and Mirpurkhas districts.

He said that poverty and richness were linked to hard work and motivation and urged peasants to enrol their children in schools who could change their destiny.

Punhal Saryo of Hari Porhiat Council said that when institutions do not work properly, laws become just decorations and when state fails to ensure basic rights and facilities, people and society suffer from imbalances.

He said that agriculture in Sindh had suffered from displacement of peasants. Vigilance committees were set up during previous government but unfortunately the then nazims who were chairmen of the committees did not convene meetings, he said.

If the committees had played their role of arbitrator between the landlord and the peasant the situation would not have come to such a pass, he said.

He lauded the government’s step to distribute land among landless peasants but questioned transparency. There were reports that feudal lords were being awarded lands in the name of peasants, he alleged.

He said that agricultural reforms were needed now and the government should confiscate big landlords’ lands and distribute it among the poor.Peasants and Workers Network president Rashida Saand said that during 10 years, 7,500 male, 8,100 female and 10,000 children peasants were displaced from Umerkot who were living a miserable life in Hari camps in Kotri, Qasimabad, and Matiari.

They were compelled to starve at the Hari camps, which lacked health and education facilities and were involved in sex work, therefore, lawyers, judges and intellectuals should play their role to save peasants and agriculture of this region, she said.

Zulfiqar Shah of the Institute for Social Movement Pakistan, Dr Noor Ali Shah, agriculturalist, Taju Bheel, peasant leader, Ali Akbar Gaju, secretary of Peasants and Workers Network, and Ali Mir Shah, progressive grower and intellectual also spoke at the conference.

The conference suggested survey of peasants in the district, ownership rights to peasants, implementation of tenancy act and urged brick kiln owners to pay fixed wages to peasants and implement labour laws.

It highlighted growing drug peddling, sale of bootlegged liquor, gambling, acute water shortage for irrigation and drinking, increase in hepatitis B and C and mushrooming business of quacks in the district.

The conference adopted a number of resolutions, demanding social security, old age benefits, education, health facilities and wages for peasants equal to industrial workers, end to corporate farming, provision of fertilisers and pesticides at subsidised rates, end to bonded labour and peasants’ participation in decision making by landlords.

Wheat price crash

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review (April 26 to May 02)

By Ahmad Fraz Khan

With the crash in wheat prices, the growers in Punjab are in trouble. In southern and central part of the province, where almost 40 to 45 per cent of harvesting and over 20 per cent of thrashing has been completed, wheat price is down at Rs750 per 40kg — Rs200 lower than the official procurement rate. The farmers have estimated the loss so far at a staggering Rs6 billion. It is feared that the situation may worsen as more wheat arrives in next two to three weeks.

At the heart of current wheat crisis is the provincial financial crunch, which has severely reduced provincial options. Though it is squarely to blame itself for the situation, the farmers are sharing the cost of its follies. During the last one year, Punjab, carrying huge stocks, spent the entire food subsidy on wheat stocks.

Instead of cash subsidies, it turned to be in kind; issuing low priced wheat for two huge schemes – Ramazan package and low priced bread (sasti roti). In both schemes, the food department issued subsidised wheat to millers and never got subsidy money from the provincial government. Neither it got the money to service its massive loan (Rs149 billion which was borrowed to complete enormous procurement drive of around six million tons) that was a hefty Rs1.2 billion per month.

Things became worse for the food department when the Punjab government failed to get permission for export of surplus wheat and is still carrying a Rs96 billion bank loan against three million tons of carry over stocks.

The Punjab government had been running from pillar to post to get money for procurement but has not got it, at least so far. The vague promises have not only robbed it of confidence to launch a full fledged procurement drive but also increased speculative pressure on wheat prices.

Knowing well that it does not have money to absorb wheat arrival once it gains momentum, the entire provincial set up is busy giving excuses to deflect the blame. As more and more decibels are added to farmers’ protests against price crash, the food department has been telling every one that “crop size has not been the same because of persistent drought and unusually hot March.” It has conveniently forgotten that drought was virtually broken during February and hot March only helped crop mature early.

As the campaign neared, the department shifted the stance and is now tell everyone that harvesting still has not gained momentum and wheat arrival is still slow. It has not lent ears to farmers’ cries. The official attitude is dictated by lack of money.

The Punjab government knew that its role is always crucial in setting the price on higher side as it traditionally entered the market with ready cash of billions of rupees. This time, its absence has led to price crash.

Wheat price in the province is between Rs750 and Rs800. It implies that there are buyers in the market, who are ready to purchase the crop at substantially less price. It also means that commodity has started arriving in the market in enough quantity that is more than what the food department or other official agencies were absorbing.

According to the farmers, the middlemen and the millers are actively buying wheat at the crashed price. They are benefiting from the official policy, which has made the selling of wheat to official agencies a tedious and time-consuming job. All departments, known for their corruption – like the revenue department – are involved in the issuance of gunny bags making the process painful for farmers. The provincial government is helping these departments in slowing down the process.

Had the official claims about size of the crop been true, the price crash would not have been as severe as it is. It is lower by 20 to 25 per cent in different parts of the province, according to the media and individual reports. The Punjab government, surviving on a huge over-draft from the State Bank of Pakistan, has also received a tinker from the central bank for its deteriorating fiscal health and cannot spare cash. How would it deal with the crisis is anybody’s guess?

The federal government must chime in with some help, if it does not want to gloat on the political cost that blundering PML-N government in Punjab would pay. It needs to take bigger view of the picture. Though it has financial problems of its own, it must realise that it has contributed to provincial problems and price crash. It asked the Punjab government to keep 2.5 million tons as strategic reserves and promised to pay Rs60 billion as cost of reserves. But it has made no payment so far.

The federal government also refused permission for export of surplus wheat stocks right till the last momentum and forced Punjab to keep holding those stocks at huge financial and incidental costs. It is time that it somehow helps Punjab arrange money in order to pull the provincial government out of the fiscal mess, and shore up sagging wheat price.

‘WB report aims at promoting agricultural land grabbing’

Post Source: The News Correspondent – April 27, 2010

An upcoming World Bank (WB) report aims at giving legitimate cover to agricultural land grabbing in Pakistan. This was alleged by the members of Roots for Equity, a local NGO and GRAIN, an international organisation at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club (KPC).

The Joint Director of Roots for Equity Wali Haider said that 700 acres of land has already been handed over to foreign entrepreneurs and this act has displaced hundreds of poor farmers in Pakistan. In the recent past, he said, 2400 acres of agricultural land has been given to foreign companies in Mirpur Khas, Sindh.

He said that Pakistan’s bio-safety laws did not allow the American multinational Monsanto to cultivate Bt Cotton in the country but it was being grown in Sindh and Punjab with impunity.

Haider said that he strongly condemned the release of WB generated principles for responsible agro-enterprise investment promoted by the bank.

“The WB in essence has given its official stamp to the profit greedy state and private investors to lease or buy millions of acres of farmlands in Asia, Africa and Latin America for food and fuel production,” he said.

“Land grabbing is a serious threat for the food sovereignty of our people and the right to food of our rural communities. Instead of prohibiting such anti-people and anti-farmer ventures, the WB is promoting a set of seven principles to guide such investments and make them successful,” he said.

Haider said that the WB was clearly promoting expansion of global agribusiness operations. “The band aid approach taken by the WB is to set a certain criteria for the land grabbers is to reduce the risks of social backlash This includes respecting the rights of existing users of land, water and other resources by paying them off; protecting and improving livelihoods at the household and community level (provide jobs and social services); and no harming the environment. These are the core ideas behind the WB’s several principles for socially acceptable land grabbing.”

Haider demanded that land grabbing must be immediately stopped and land should be kept in the hands of local communities and genuine agrarian reforms must be implemented immediately.

Roots for Equity’s board member Navin G. Haider and director research Sabiha Hasan were also present at the press conference.