Farming neglected in K-Pakhtunkhwa

Post Source: DAWN economic and business review

By Tahir Ali

WITH the provincial revenue going up enormously following the landmark Seventh NFC Award, it was believed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province would allocate sufficient funds for the development of farming sector, but no step was taken in this direction. The meagre allocations to agriculture and its related sectors in fiscal budget 2010-11 indicate that development of agriculture lies far below in the list of priorities of the provincial government.

The annual development programme has been doubled and the provincial share in the ADP increased from Rs32 billion to Rs58 billion. Allocations for education, health and communication sectors have been increased by about 67, 80 and 64 per cent respectively as against previous year’s 17, 11 and 14 per cent of the ADP, the agriculture and its related sectors have not been given their due share in the budget.

Though allocation for agriculture in the provincial budget has been increased by about 45 per cent to Rs1.11 billion this year from Rs796 million in the outgoing fiscal, it has virtually come down if compared with the percentage to the total outlay of ADP.

Whereas the outgoing year’s allocation was 2.4 per cent of the core provincial ADP, it makes 1.9 per cent of this year’s total core ADP of Rs58 billion.

Irrigation budget was Rs1.4 billion or 4.3 per cent of the core provincial ADP in the outgoing year. Though its share in ADP has been increased by about 70 per cent to Rs2.4 billion, it has decreased by about 4.1 per cent of the ADP this year.

The budget for irrigation sector has been increased by about 70 per cent but it is insufficient considering the fact that the province needs to increase its irrigation infrastructure which at present cannot utilise the three million acre feet of water of its share that flows into, and is used by other provinces free of cost.

This year’s budget aims at economic revival and growth, according to the white paper, but the allocations do not reflect the ambitions.

Promotion of agriculture is the most effective tool for eradication of poverty and terrorism. This necessitates more funds for this sector. But the budgetary outlay for this sector reflects lack of vision and commitment on the part of the government.

Traditional methods, paltry allocations and weak commitments would do no good to the sector. The government will have to opt for out of box solutions and enthusiastic pursuit to develop it.

About 80 per cent farmers have no access to quality seeds, modern farm technology and increase in acreage and per acre yield which is necessary in the present circumstances, but the budget has either dealt the issues marginally or neglected them altogether.

The budget speech disclosed that the government would establish model farm services centres but there were no details. Obviously, financial constraints and small membership of the bodies have restricted their efficacy.

The most positive news for farmers in the provincial budget is the revival of cooperative bank and its subservient bodies from this fiscal year. According to Humayun Khan, the government would provide on billion rupees as seed money to the bank to give easy farm and non-farm loans to small farmers and rural women to increase their income.

Another positive point is the Bacha Khan Poverty Alleviation Programme. The BKPAP has the potential to solve some basic problems of farmers but a meagre allocation, limited outreach and the political-orientation may reduce its impact.

According to Khan, under the programme, 1700 village organisations were formed, 1567 farmers were provided quality seeds free of cost, another 3,500 were trained and 1,535 model demonstrations plots were arranged in the outgoing fiscal.

The government wants to form 1,800 new village organisations, 2,600 farmers would be provided loans and another 4,000 with seeds this year. A sum of Rs501 million have been earmarked for these purposes.

Livestock accounts for 50 per cent of provincial gross domestic product but it continues to be provided a meagre budget and is still being administered by the agriculture secretary.

According to Khan, this year’s budget is the outcome of the comprehensive development strategy, the first ever developmental roadmap of the province for the next seven years.

The CDS requires about Rs583 billion of which Rs346 billion are to come from foreign loans. The government wants to spend billions on agriculture under the CDS but the finance minister didn’t mention from where the funds would come.

There is neither any special plan for livestock farmers in rural areas nor any for horizontal and vertical crop maximization. Decreasing the role and impact of the middlemen in agri-businesses has also gone unnoticed.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA have over 30 million wild olive trees. By making these trees productive, the province can produce about 75,000 tons of olive oil worth $1.5 billion annually. But this sector has remained untouched.

The province has introduced several high yielding research based seeds but their faulty distribution and delayed availability are causing problem. The budget speech didn’t address this issue at all.

According to Khan, the agriculture budget is meant for 84 projects worth Rs813 million for 57 on-going and Rs361 million for 27 new schemes in the sector.

The department would bring another 535 acres under cultivation this year. Sprinkler irrigation would be introduced in 9,000 acres. While another 5,000 hectares would be leveled through laser technology.

In irrigation sector, 64 projects- 42 ongoing and 21 new- will be completed which include construction of six small and medium dams, improvement of irrigation channel, construction of small ponds etc., which will help irrigate and bring around 50,000 acres under cultivation, but the question is are these goals realistic.

In the agriculture sector, only seven of the 64 projects and in the irrigation sector 11 out of 52 projects were completed in the outgoing fiscal.

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