Archive for May, 2010

Over 100 bonded labourers freed

Post Source: BY Dawn Correspondent

BADIN, May 25: Under the orders of the District and Sessions Judge of Badin, Amjad Ali Bohio, police on Tuesday rescued more than 100 bonded farm labourers of Kolhi families, including women and children, from illegal confinement of a feudal lord Mir Basharat of Talhar taluka. Dhengo Kolhi had filed an application in the court of district judge Badin, stating that Mansingh, Ms Pansi, Dharmoon and Delo along with 66 peasants were in illegal confinement of Mir Basharat and requested for their release.

After being produced in the court, the freed bonded labourers in their statements, alleged that the landlord forced them to work illegally and claimed

a loan of Rs700,000 on them. They stated that no amount to them was paid by the landlord as labour charge.

In another application filed by Ms Kakoo against the same landlord, she alleged that Karamshi, Ando, Dhanji and Hoshi besides 32 other bonded labourers were in the illegal confinement of the landlord and sought their release.

The freed labourers, in their statements, alleged that the landlord had falsely claimed Rs450,000 as loan against them though he had not extended any loan to them and refused to pay labour charges. On the contrary, they accused the landlord of extracting labour from them by force.

The munshis of the landlord, Rab Nawaz Leghari and Ghulam Mustafa Kumbhar, appeared in the court, denied the allegations levelled by the bonded labourers and alleged that they wanted to usurp the loan amount.

The judge while disposing of the two applications observed that the rescued labourers were free to move and, from now on, were not in the custody of the landlord They were at liberty to go anywhere.

The order further said, both the parties were at liberty to seek their remedy available to them in accordance with law.

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Wheat prices on the slide

Post Source: Dawn – By Ahmad Fraz Khan

Wednesday, 26 May, 2010

 

 

LAHORE, May 25: With the Punjab Food Department preparing to wind up procurement campaign in a week’s time, wheat price has started crashing throughout the province and may continue to slide. On Tuesday, it dropped by Rs20 per 40kg – from Rs885 to Rs865 — and the farmers fear that every passing day will press it further down. According to wheat analysts, the market still has a tradable surplus of around 800,000 ton to one million ton. The millers are not ready to purchase it at current lower price, because they know it will go further down. The investors, who had money or loans, have already purchased their share and are almost out of the market. Thus, no one is there to control the market glut and stabilise the price.

The food department has so far procured 3.6 million ton wheat, and hit its financial limits. It has invested Rs84 billion on the purchase, and plans to terminate the drive just under four million ton. Its daily arrival is still around 40,000 ton, and it will hit the target by the first week of June. Everyone in the market now knows that it has already invested whatever loans it got from the banks and will have to borrow more money for procurement, which is hard to come by.

According to Muhammad Mukhtar, a trader from Farooqabad, the department will maximum purchase another 200,000 ton to 300,000 ton if it gets additional money from banks. It will still leave around 500,000 ton to 700,000 ton in the market, causing a steep crash. Both these realities – market glut and department pulling out – are pressing the price down, and will continue doing so, he says.

A few middlemen with a limited holding capacity are still keeping their stocks with the hope that the government will complete the procurement target of five million ton. “Once the department is out and they lose the hope, they will throw their stocks in the market, further accentuating the problems,” Mukhtar says.

This glut of half a million ton will hurt the farmers badly, says Jamal Hotiyana – a grower from the central Punjab. In fact, Afghanistan has a good crop this year and the Afghans did not show interest in shopping. That quantity, which normally finds it way to Afghanistan, has created a local market excess.

“The situation may take another turn after two months when rice traders, who had huge bank limits and invested in wheat, will start throwing wheat in the market to clear their godowns,” says Abdul Basit, a rice trader from the city. That means the wheat price is not expected to recover for the next few months.

High yielding hybrid maize seeds

Post Source: Dawn economic and business review (24 to 30 May, 2010)

By Tahir Ali

Officials at agriculture department believe Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can triple the present maize yield per acre if the farmers sow hybrid seeds — Babar and Karamat. “Maize has higher per acre yield than other crops and it can further be increased manifold if the two hybrid seeds produced at the Cereal Crops Research Institute (CRCI) in Pir Sabaq are sown in the province,” officials assert. The average per acre maize yield has been at 690 kg in 2005, 638 kg in 2006, 857 kg in 2007 and 732 kg in 2008.

Director Seeds Industry Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Ismail Jan says the CRCI has produced several hybrid maize seeds but experiments conducted on these two seeds in Malakand, Hazara, Mardan, Peshawar and some other divisions have proved their better yielding potential. Babar has a per acre yield of 100 maunds or 4,000 kg and Karamat up to 120 maunds or around 5,000 kg.

“Their grains are bigger and their resistance against diseases is also high. Also, another advantage is that when the crop fully ripens their leaves remain fresh and green which can be used as fodder for animals,” he added.

It can be highly lucrative for farmers. A yield of 120 maunds per acre would earn Rs100,000 at the current market rate. The net income after deductions of expenses would be around Rs80,000 – a hefty amount by any standard. The income could go up enormously if the farmers grow two or three crops in a year.

“But to get the maximum yield, farmers should use the first generation hybrid seeds – F1. Research has indicated that yield from the second generation seed of the crop gradually drops down from 10 to 50 per cent. Also, these should be sown in a systematic manner – in rows. The distance between rows and plants should be 30 and 10 inches. This method decreases the ratio of per acre seeds, increase yield and facilitate other components of farming. The crop also requires watering on every rotation and proper amount of DAP and urea intake,” Ismail Jan added.

Both the seeds can be sown in Kharif and Rabi. In Kharif season, the crop matures in about 100 days while in Rabi it takes about 120 days. In the plains, the sowing period for Babar in Rabi season is February 15 to March 15 while in Kharif it is between June 20 and July 20. In the hilly and semi-mountainous areas, Babar should be cultivated between May 1 and June 25.

For Karamat, the sowing period for Rabi season in the plains is Feb15 to March 15 and in Kharif season it is June 15 to July 10. In hilly areas, it is from May 1 June 15,” he said.

He said the farmers could get the standard F1 seeds easily from the provincial seeds industry stores and private companies.

Manzur Ahmad, a farmer, said availability of improved seeds is the biggest problem for maize growers. “The government should put in place an efficient seed distribution system to provide good quality seeds to farmers. It necessitates involvement of farmers associations,” said Ahmad.

Maize being the second largest food crop after wheat is of major importance for the food deficit province.

Maize is a multipurpose crop. It is used as food by the people. It produces edible oil. It is also used in several cereal products. It is also consumed by starch industry and livestock feed industry. Its sticks are used as fodder and fuel in rural areas. These can be utilised for power generation as well.

Studies by the National Agricultural Research Centre Islamabad have established that maize can be a good diet for all. The use of maize can also reduce wheat import bill.

The government should announce a minimum support price and procure maize directly from farmers. At present, there is no official procurement centre or mechanism in place for maize crop.

Only four districts of the province have bulk seed stores. More stores should be opened in other districts and the tribal belt.

The provincial government should encourage private sector to set up state-of-the-art maize seed processing plants and accredited seed laboratories. Private companies need to be encouraged to introduce new seed varieties that increase maize productivity.

Rice growers in a fix

Post Source: Dawn economic and business review (May 24 to 30, 2010)

By Ahmad Fraz Khan

 

AS rice sowing season begins, every stakeholder in the crop and its trade – farmer, miller, trader and exporter – starts wondering what it would bring for him, in the face of changing ground realities. Given the huge carryover stocks which the government and exporters have failed to clear, the farmers are mulling how to go about it. Their concern is multi-dimensional, ranging from prices to government rescue plans. They want uncertainties to be removed before making investments.

A recent letter of the Basmati Growers Association (BGA) to the federal government explains the farmers’ dilemma. The association says that the carryover stocks of Basmati rice of 2008-09 and 2009-10 have caused virtual glut in the market, as the exports have stagnated around one million tons for the last three years.

Over 200,000 tons of stocks with Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) – 150,000 tons from 2008-09 and 40,000 tons of 2009-10 – and another 25,000 tons with the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) are lying unsold.

The nursery sowing is about to begin and the farmers are in a fix whether to invest in the crop or not. If they do, what kind of returns they would get.

The exporters have their own list of complaints. They think that the official intervention in the trade cycles have led to problems in the last two years, making the crop non-competitive in the international market. The farmers are sticking to archaic production methods, which are highly inefficient and expensive, rendering the crop non-competitive.

They maintain that current basmati seed is fast losing its vitality, and should have been replaced to keep the production and trade efficient and economically feasible.

Instead of moving on these fronts, the government prefers subsidising financial cost of farming inefficiencies. Thus, they cannot export rice for higher than world prices. Neither the government officials nor farmers are ready to respond to the market demands; rather they want market to adjust according to their production and preferences, an impossible task for anyone. .

Then research is lagging far behind. Over the last many years, no research institution – Pakistan Agriculture Research Corporation, National Agriculture Research Corporation and Rice Research Institute – has been able to come up with any new variety that could revitalise rice production and the market.

Instead of building on the current advantage that Pakistan rice has in the world market – its taste and aroma, the government is busy importing hybrid seeds of unknown parentage. The VAC has recently approved 20 hybrid varieties – all of unknown parentage, character and production potential. Exporters are thus left to themselves to find new markets for the hybrid seeds.

Exporters have done some branding and marketing for rice – fine and coarse – within and outside the country. But, of late, ‘Others’, a third group – is emerging, and eating fast into areas of both established varieties. In the last two years, out of the total two million acres under rice crop, this “others” group now occupies 738,000 acres – a whopping 31 per cent. In 2008-09, the area under “others” group was 561,000 acres. .

The country suffered badly when it ignored new seeds introduced for cotton crop. No one knew what was being sold in the name of BT cotton until the so-called new BT seeds swarmed over 90 per cent of traditional varieties. The government woke up to the reality when the crop was threatened.

No one can oppose new varieties, if they have market potential. But one can argue that they must be able to stand on their own and add to national exchequer. In order to achieve that, the government, in the first place, should know what was being sown and what kind of share they can have in the world or domestic market. On the basis of such studies, they must be regulated and restricted to areas where they do not threaten traditional varieties and the over $2 billion export.

If approved, they must be legally separated from two established varieties and subjected to independent branding and marketing.

Farmers dismayed at govt’s ‘failure’ in wheat procurement

Post Source: The News – By Munawar Hasan

Monday, May 24, 2010

LAHORE

FARMERS of Punjab, the bread basket of the country, are dismayed at the outcome of the official procurement drives launched by the Punjab Food Department and the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) as both have failed to achieve procurement target by a big margin.

Only the Sindh Food Department has been able to almost achieve the purchase target during 2010 drive as it has procured 98 percent of 1.5 million tonnes targeted wheat. Conversely, like Punjab, the federal government is all set to fall short of the wheat procurement target during ongoing drive.

Out of 1.6 million tonnes target set for wheat procurement for Passco, only about a million tonne wheat has been procured yet. According to a senior official, Passco had distributed gunny bags among farmers for the purchase of 1.1 million tonnes wheat so far.

However, sources said, it was highly unlikely that Passco could buy wheat beyond 1.1 million tonnes as the federal government has shown reluctance in provision of additional finances. “We are trying to get loan worth Rs 13 billion for achieving remaining target,” an official said, adding that the federal government had already provided Rs 26 billion to Passco for buying 1.1 million tonnes wheat and expressed the hope that more finances would be made available.

However, he admitted that there was almost no wheat available with growers at present, thereby admitting that the procurement drive was about to end. “Wheat has almost changed hand from growers to the public sector departments or flour millers and middlemen,” he observed.

Owing to the little quantity available in the field, daily procurement of Passco has come down to 12,500 tonnes. The bulk of total procured wheat, about 0.94 million tonnes, has been procured from Punjab while the rest has been sold to Passco in Sindh province.

The Punjab Food Department, the largest public sector buying entity of the country, could only buy 3.4 million tonnes so far out of 5 million tons target set for 2010 campaign. The procurement drive launched by department is at its concluding stage and scheduled to end on May 31. Unless the Punjab chief minister takes drastic steps for achieving the remaining target, the provincial food department is bound to miss the target by a big margin. Much to the dismay of growers, high ups of the Food Department have already intimated employees to start winding up the procurement operation.

The biggest hurdle for both Punjab and Passco to procure targeted wheat has been finances. Like Passco, Punjab is still short of Rs 6.0 billion for carrying out the remaining wheat operation. On the other hand, Sindh has successfully arranged required Rs 35 billion and materialised it purchase plan.

“We took steps in advance for ensuring timely availability of finances for wheat procurement and ultimately ended up with record buying of wheat,” said Mir Nadir Ali Magsi while talking to The News here on Sunday. He said successful wheat operation was only made possible due to the proper planning and execution.

Falling wheat prices

Post Source: Dawn economic & business Review (17 to 23 May, 2010)

By Ahmad Fraz Khan

 

THE wheat market is in a tailspin. After stabilising a bit around Rs900 per 40kg, the prices have started sliding again. On Thursday, the rate dropped to Rs870 per 40kg even in Lahore city – a difference of Rs80 per 40kg. It is happening during mid-May – the peak procurement period. There is another danger lurking around the corner. The Punjab Food Department is sprinting towards its procurement target of four million tons. If this pace is maintained, the department might cross three million tons figure very soon.

Daily arrival at procurement centres is around 100,000 tons, and it could take the department only weeks to hit four million tons, that could leave the farmers at the mercy of the market.

The financial position of the department, unless strengthen by the federal government, does not allow it to go beyond four million tons, though it promised to raise the target to five million tons if need be. This is unlikely to happen. The wheat growers see the going getting tougher.

The department is changing tactics, and trying to spread its purchases, at least, till mid-June. It has started slowing down procurement by making the process time consuming. Currently, it is issuing gunny bags with a date for delivery of wheat ranging from seven to ten days. The Revenue Department officials are always at their best when it comes to making life difficult for farmers. Apart from extracting huge cost for issuing gunny bags, they are also delaying certification for bags. The Food Department is now trying to prolong procurement by slowing down purchase rather than increasing the target.

The strategy may check the wheat price going for a free fall by keeping the official window open and stopping middleman from exploiting growers beyond a point. The government should raise procurement by at least 500,000 tons, if not one million as promised, and arrange finances – an uphill task given the overall national financial crunch.

Another factor driving prices down is the absence of foreign buyers, especially the Afghans and the Central Asians. Prices in Pakistan are too high to attract them. Afghanistan this year has harvested a bumper wheat crop. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is also running two programmes there: one for direct provision of subsidised wheat and other for providing confectionary items. Wheat from Pakistan has thus lost lustre in Afghan market and beyond.

Slide in international price, which has come down to $230 per ton, against Pakistani price of $300 has added to the problem. Pakistan might not be able to clear its stocks for next year unless it prepares to pay heavy subsidy.

Currently, India has a surplus stock of over 40 million tons. Can Pakistan outbid the Indian sale in international market despite price disadvantage? It seems to be improbable. By the end of current procurement season, Punjab alone would be holding exportable surplus stocks of around 3.5 million tons.

Punjab also needs to realise that wheat prices should not only make sense for the farmers, but for the millers as well. Current high price and interest rate have kept the millers out of procurement by increasing their capital investment on purchase. The millers know that the government would subsidise wheat to keep flour prices down.

Farmers protest against VAT

Post Source: The News – correspondent
May 19, 2010

LAHORE: The Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) has strongly protested against the proposed imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on agriculture inputs and products.

In a special meeting convened by Dr M Tariq Bucha, Director & Chief Coordinator, FAP, the participants said that it would totally kill the farmers and cause irreparable damage to the agriculture sector by making inputs more expensive. This will, in turn, increase the prices of agriculture produce, adding to the miseries of both the farmer and consumer, who are already facing extreme economic depression.

The farming community is already facing adverse effects of poor and inefficient wheat policy and large outstanding payments from sugar mills and continuous increase in the prices of essential items in the market.

The FAP spokesman urged the government to discuss the VAT imposition with the farmers through the farmer bodies and refrain from implementing the detrimental conditions of the IMF. It is the right time that the government should resist unjustified pressures and, being a democratic government, should consider the welfare of the people of Pakistan as their paramount priority.

Agriculture is a sector which can be described as a golden egg laying hen, which the present government, in connivance with the IMF, wants to slaughter and get all the golden eggs at one time. They are sadly mistaken and need to straighten their direction and approach.

The FAP spokesman said if the government, despite being democratic, took dictatorial steps by imposing the VAT, the farmers would resort to countrywide protests along with other sectors and for that the government alone would be responsible.

He further added that the government had already caused more than 20 billion rupees loss to the farmers by making huge profits through extraordinary and unwarranted high prices of oil, fuel and through tax on use of utilities and withdrawal of subsidies on essential inputs.