Archive for June, 2010

WFO asks Pakistan to reduce wheat prices



Islamabad—World Food Organization (WFO) has expressed its concern over 10 percent less consumption of wheat in Pakistan last year owing to price hike of wheat and flour as half of the total populace is already facing shortage of food. While talking to VOA, an official of WFO Sahib Haq said that WFO recommended to the government to reduce wheat prices to cope with the situation. He said WFO submitted many recommendations to the government, which are included increase in food, decrease in prices of agricultural inputs and rationalization of food prices.

Food prices should not be higher than the world market. If the food prices are $ 200 per ton in the world market.

Talking to VOA, PPP leader and Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Food and Agriculture Javed Iqbal Warraich said that Pakistan was facing shortage of wheat due to wheat smuggling to other countries and farmers’ reluctance to grow wheat before increase of wheat prices by the government.

Now Pakistan has surplus wheat and flour is also available at every nock and cranny of the country. As compared to some other countries, wheat prices are still low in Pakistan, he added.

Amjad Jamal, spokesman of WFP in Pakistan also said that international bodies have initiated a food project in 21 districts of the country for poor families with the help of local people. He said that the farmers of one to four acre cultivated land were provided inputs and 400-kg wheat for domestic use with the help of FAO. It yielded extremely positive results.—APP


Farmers protest water shortage

Post Source – By DAWN Correspondent – Thursday, 17 Jun, 2010

RAHIM YAR KHAN, June 16: Dozens of farmers from Sadiqabad tehsil have protested shortage and theft of irrigation water, alleging that irrigation and police departments are not taking any action. The protesters gathered in front of the DCO office here on Wednesday and chanted slogans against the irrigation and police departments.

Allah Ditta and Muhammad Azhar said due to theft, farmers of Chaks 157, 159, 161, 162 and 163/P at the tail-end of Seena Waar minor canal could not sow cotton for two consecutive seasons. They said they had informed irrigation superintending engineer (SE) Mohabbat Khan Baloch, but to no avail.

Chaudhry Muhammad Arshad and Allah Wasaya said the farmers of Chaks 153, 154, 155, 156 and 157 and Ghari Baiger village could not get irrigation water due to theft from Chandrami minor canal ahead of Adam Sahaba head with the connivance of irrigation officials.

They alleged that influential politicians had got transferred SE Chaudhry Abdul Majeed in whose tenure there was no water theft.

They alleged that influential farmers of Chaks 147, 148, 151, 152 and 158/P would steal irrigation water with the connivance of irrigation employees.

They said they had also pointed out water thieves many times, but the irrigation department had not taken any action in this regard.

The protesters met Finance and Planning EDO Babar Ammam Babar who assured them that their grievances would be resolved.

Later, SE Baloch also held a meeting with the protesters and took a two-day time to solve their problem.


Tenants of Dhundi estate resist eviction

Post Source: – Wednesday, 16 Jun, 2010


By Shakeel Ahmad

MULTAN, June 15: The eviction of hundreds of Dhundi estate’s tenants was suspended on Tuesday after fierce protest and road blockade by them in Rajanpur, Dawn has learnt. Revenue Department officials aided by police faced resistance from the tenants, who also claim the ownership of 538 acres of Dhundi and Bruceaaba estates. The Lahore High Court, Multan bench, has ordered the eviction.

Peasants say they have been cultivating the land for decades as their forefathers made the barren land cultivable.

Rajanpur District Coordination Officer (DCO) Chaudhry Muhammad Amin suspended the action to avert the clash.

Hundreds of tenants led by Kisan Mazdoor Ittehad’s Rauf Lund, PML-Q’s Mian Shahid, Rohi Development Organisation’s Saifullah Masti, poet Ashiq Buzdar, Seraiki Thinkers’ Forum’s Sufi Taj Gopang and Syed Baqir Shah blocked Indus Highway for hours.

Tenants say that in 1980, then Rajanpur assistant commissioner Usama Maud allotted the land to 42 people, including his relatives and other influential people.

They said the allotment holders had tried to get the possession of land through applications to various authorities after concealing the facts. In 1994, the allotment holders had approached the Rajanpur deputy commissioner after getting decision in their favour from the Board of Revenue.

On July 27, 1994, they said, then deputy commissioner Tariq Javed Afridi in a letter to the Dera Ghazi Khan commissioner said the allotment was not legally approved.

The allotment holders moved several legal forums and courts, including the Lahore High Court, and got the land ownership.

They said that Layyah DCO Javed Iqbal, also one of the 42 allotment holders, was using his office to get the possession of the land. Tenants claim they were too poor to fight the costly litigation.

They demanded that the government allot the land to them as they had turned barren land into cultivable lush green estate.

They also alleged it was an attempt to settle the people of upper Punjab in the Seraiki region.

They said they would resist the eviction and demolition of their houses.

They demanded Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, President Asif Ali Zardari and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif provide them justice to them.

Tehsildar Faiz Abbas said that they had to implement the orders of the Lahore High Court.


Agriculture under provincial care

Post Source: DAWN.COM Economic & Business Review (June 14 to June 21, 2010)

By Ahmad Fraz Khan

The Punjab budget 2010-11, due today, is unique in a sense that it will be first after the 18th Amendment, which has made ‘agriculture’ a purely provincial subject. The question now haunting the farming community is whether it can replace the federation’s role in the sector. No one is sure, at least so far. Their confusion stems from the fact that it seems impossible for the provinces to undertake crop pricing, import of fertiliser and formulate agri-trade policies.

It is the Ministry of Food and Agriculture that assesses the need and imports are made by the Ministry of Industries through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan. Trade policy relating to agriculture and horticulture is formulated by the Ministry of Commerce in which Trade Development Board of Pakistan (TDAP), Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) are involved.

Fixing of indicative prices has also been a federal forte so far. The federation has been setting the uniform prices of major crops (wheat, sugarcane and rice) to avoid provincial distortions. How would the province go about them or even can they? It is a big question mark.

The federal and provincial governments should have gone into a parallel exercise along with discussions of ending the concurrent list to clarify such issues. The farmers are confused about how things would work out.

But still, there are many areas where provinces can make a difference and farmers expect their government to divert funds to agri-research, building farm-to-market roads, efficient marketing structures and promotion of value addition. But the provincial government’s performance leaves much to be desired.

As far as research in new seeds is concerned, out of major four crops, the province does not have seed for three crops. Where it does have, it is too old to make any difference. Take the example of rice seed, which brings $2 billion in export money. It is almost 12-year old and is vulnerable to all kinds of infections and has been long over due for replacement.

So is the case of wheat seed, which is even older and has declining output and increasing vulnerability. The farmers feel that budget is an opportunity for the Punjab government to set the context for future preferences for the sector, and spare substantial allocations for agriculture research.

Marketing of agriculture produce has been the weakest link in the agriculture chain so far. Over 40 per cent horticulture produces go waste in the field as these cannot be transported to markets on time.

If the Punjab government somehow is able to create a cold chain and save that 40 per cent produce, it can correspondingly increase farmers’ income and pull them out of poverty trap. The special department (agriculture marketing) set up to create efficient marketing system throughout the province, but the initiative somehow lost steam as soon as it was launched. For the last one decade, the department has been an additional burden on the provincial exchequer without any contribution to marketing structures.

Marketing needs storages, which give farmers’ capacity to hold their produce in time of glut till the time they get better price. The provincial preference in this regard has been pathetic. Last year, it allocated Rs100 million for creating wheat storage but pulled the money back some six months down the line as provincial finances tumbled. With this kind of attitude, how would the government make a difference this time, no one knows for sure?

But the farmers still hope that the provincial government does realise the importance of the storages and spare more funds and force the department to improve its performance.

They also insist that provincial responsibility has increased manifold with the federation reducing its role. It must try to promote agri-industry (value-addition), which presently stands at a paltry 16 per cent, through public-private partnership. Its current model prepared by the provincial government is too bureaucratic to make any difference.

The current model charges the private investor to take the project to Public and Development (P&D) Department, which is referred to finance department and then to accountant general for audit process and then to Treasury. The project comes back through the same channel and gives total control over the project to bureaucracy. Why should a private investor invest even 30 per cent of the project and then give control of his investment to bureaucracy. One hopes that government will loosen up such restrictions and make substantial allocations for the value-addition in the budget.


Raising farm productivity

Post Source: Dawn economic & business review

By Tahir Ali


As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is expected to receive huge funds from the federal divisible pool next fiscal year, farmers hope that the provincial government will provide sufficient funds and start a rigorous programme for the uplift of agriculture. Agriculture has traditionally received insufficient funds ranging from one to two per cent of the provincial annual development plan despite the fact that it accounts for over 20 per cent of provincial gross domestic product, provides employment to 45 per cent of the total labour force and about 80 per cent of the population is dependent on it for survival.

A high official in the agriculture department said he was happy with the size of agricultural development budget, but he did not reveal the exact allocation.

Agriculture was allocated Rs800 million in outgoing fiscal year’s core provincial ADP of Rs32 billion. This year it is likely to be around Rs1 billion out of an expected Rs45 billion ADP.

“The government will ensure both quantitative and qualitative expansion of different sub-sectors of agriculture such as increasing per acre yield, land development, bringing more land under cultivation and developing the livestock sector and horticulture and so on,” he said.

The total outlay of the KP’s budget for 2010-11 is expected to be around Rs300 billion as compared to Rs214 billion last year. After about 80 per cent increase in its federal receipts due to the historic NFC award that increased its share, KP will receive about Rs160 billion this fiscal as compared to Rs90 billion in the outgoing fiscal. It will also receive Rs25 billion as net hydro profits. So its net receipts will come to about Rs200bn that would further increase in coming years.

While there will be no shortage of finances, what is required is a commitment on the part of the government departments to develop agriculture through efficient management and utilisation of available resources.

Ihsanullah Khan, president of the KP Chamber of Agriculture, said high prices of the various agricultural inputs, power and oil have made it extremely difficult for farmers to do farming. Farmers need cheap inputs more than any thing else. If not, agriculture would suffer tremendously in the province.

Farmers needed incentives. Subsidies on the agricultural machinery and accessories must be given and increased,” he said. Nimat Shah Vice-President of Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran KP said “Agriculture budget must reflect the ground realities. The province often faced financial crunch in the past. Sufficient funds should be allocated to facilitate farmers increase per acre yield and acreage of important crops, bring more land cultivation and augment the storage capacity for vegetables, grains, crops and fruits. All this require that at least five per cent of the net hydro profit arrears should be earmarked for agricultural development. The agriculture budget should now account for over five per cent of ADP which should be gradually increased to 10 per cent.”

KP has low per acre yield in wheat. The provision of quality seed is a requisite for improving the yield.

“The budget should also have some allocation for developing seeds locally. Until that is done, high yielding seed varieties must be imported. Also, easy and timely availability of seeds and other inputs should also be arranged through improved distribution network. Abiana is double than in Punjab, it should be reduced,” he added.

The KP’s agriculture policy is targeting food security and poverty alleviation. But it is hardly possible with the existing low per acre yield, meagre acreage, inability of farmers to modernise farming.

KP has not been able to fully exploit its huge water potential due to insufficient budgetary allocations, shortage of water reservoirs and lack of physical infrastructure. KP and the tribal belt have 25 million acres of land. Only 6.7 million acres of it is cultivable. But irrigated land is only 2.27MA while around 4.4MA still await irrigation facility.

KP is a food deficient province. To grow more food, it needs to bring more land under cultivation. But cultivable area forms just thirty percent of the total cultivable land in KP.

“Model Farm Services Centres (MFSC) are serving the farmers well. But financial constraints and poor membership numbers have restricted their efficacy. The government should give at least Rs10 million to each MFSC for purchase of inputs and machinery. More MFSCs would have to be opened besides increasing their members,” said a farmer.

KP usually gets meagre share in agriculture credit. The government should allocate Rs2-3 billion for interest free loans for farmers and SRSP’s services should be utilised for distribution of loan facility.


DEVELOPMENT: Land issues — IV: What to do for our poorest farmers

Post Source: Daily Times

Syed Mohammad Ali

On-ground research by development agencies has shown that landless and marginal farmers are unable to get land on fixed-leases, as it often requires upfront payments that very poor farmers cannot afford to make Poverty remains a very serious problem for Pakistan as a whole. It is also true that levels of deprivation vary significantly not only across the provinces, but within districts of particular provinces as well. In this article, let us consider the case of Punjab, which, despite being the most populous and prosperous province, has acute poverty concentrated within districts like Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur. While I will try to highlight the plight of poor people within these above-mentioned marginalised areas of rural Punjab, this will be done generally enough to enable drawing lessons for other neglected rural areas around Pakistan.

In the poorer districts of Punjab, land distribution remains very unequal. Large tracts of agricultural land are owned by relatively few people, while a majority of the rural poor own very little or no land. Therefore, poverty in all its manifestations — ranging from food insecurity, inadequate health, lack of education, political disempowerment, etc — is still largely correlated with access to land.

It is important to note that land cultivation arrangements have not remained stagnant in the province. Sharecropping patterns in particular have begun to shift drastically in these poorer districts. Sharecropping used to provide poor cultivators access to land owned by large landowners in lieu of a share in the yield produced on this land. It would be simplistic to state that sharecropping was an ideal arrangement. When a poor cultivator has to give away as much as half the produced yield to the owner of the land, it does not seem like a very good deal.

Yet, due to the ineffectiveness of land reforms, sharecropping continued to at least provide an alternative arrangement for those who did not have sufficient land of their own. With the passage of time, sharecropping arrangements have also begun to decline. Findings of the previous Agricultural Census, which was held in 2000, confirmed this fact.

The increasing ability of landowners to use mechanisation to cultivate their own lands, without having to engage in partnerships with smaller farmers, is one cause for the declining trends in sharecropping. The rising cost of hiring managers to supervise sharecropping arrangements, and the tendency of these managers to cheat both sharecroppers and landowners, is another plausible reason.

Whatever has contributed to this trend of declining sharecropping does nonetheless imply that there is now significantly less land available for smaller farmers to cultivate their crops, even on what may have been an unfair cost sharing basis.

Land still seems to be given by landlords on a fixed lease or rent arrangements, but poor farmers find it difficult to secure land in this manner. On-ground research by development agencies has shown that landless and marginal farmers are unable to get land on fixed-leases, as it often requires upfront payments that very poor farmers cannot afford to make. Also, renting land instead of cultivating it under a crop sharing agreement is also a risky proposition for poor farmers, since the landlord has to be paid a fixed amount, no matter what yields are produced, or even if there is a crop failure. When landlords rent or lease land, they are also not obliged to provide loans to smaller farmers for purchasing needed agricultural inputs like seeds or fertiliser. Given that poor farmers have problems gaining access to credit for the timely investment required in these inputs on their own, this is also another big problem.

Such prevailing developments are disturbing as they indicate that landless and marginal farmers within a supposedly affluent province like Punjab are also increasingly unable to gain access to an asset (land) that remains essential for the survival of their households. Lack of access to adequate education and training opportunities, and a dearth of other viable job opportunities around their areas of residence leaves the landless rural masses with little choice but to join the ranks of lowly paid unskilled occupations, such as farm work (khet mazdoori) on daily wages.

Unfortunately, access-to-land problems are likely to worsen further in poorer parts of Punjab as these regions also have the highest rate of population growth. To contend with the implied challenges is not easy.

The preferred strategies of focusing on agricultural productivity and profitability through high-tech interventions, and now increasingly through corporate farming, do not help improve the lives of marginalised cultivators. Conversely, switching to more capital-intensive methods of production invariably results in falling demand for on-farm labour as well as reducing land available for poorer farmers. The results of the Green Revolution provide ample evidence to this effect. Yet, the insistence of introducing new variations of similar top-down approaches have resulted in proposals to begin leasing out large chunks of state-owned uncultivated land to potential investors from foreign countries like the UAE.

The main problem that needs to be addressed in poor districts across Punjab, and also in other agrarian regions of the country, is to devise means that enable poor landless households access to land and to overcome on-ground constraints resulting from concentration of power in the hands of landlords and the marginalisation of poor farmers.

Encouraged by donors like the World Bank, the provincial government has initiated a land record management programme. Modernisation of the land records system so as to prevent their manipulation by patwaris under the influence of large landlords can benefit small and medium sized farmers. However, it is unclear what impact this intervention will actually have on the ground. If land records are merely used to enable easier and more transparent land transactions, without putting in place measures to help the poor secure access to land, it could merely encourage more corporate farming.

Another recently reported proposal from the provincial government to give sizable chunks of forest areas to the educated youth for agricultural purposes is not only prone to land grabbing tendencies, but also controversial from an ecological viewpoint. Moreover, such an intervention will again not do much to help the growing ranks of uneducated, landless cultivators and daily wage agricultural labourers who comprise, perhaps, the most neglected and deprived segments of the agrarian population in Punjab and other provinces.

(To be continued)

The writer is a researcher. He can be contacted at


Weather insurance offers protection for poor farmers, stresses new UN report

Source: UN News


A new study by two United Nations agencies has highlighted weather insurance as an important tool to protect poor farmers, emphasizing that issuing such insurance before the planting season can be more effective than providing emergency aid after a calamity has wiped out crops.

“Weather insurance can reduce the need for costly emergency operations by preparing for the disaster, rather than reacting to the aftermath,” said Carlo Scaramella, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator for the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Not only can it help poor rural households reduce their risk in the face of weather shocks, it can also unlock other opportunities, such as access to credit, helping people invest in a better future,” she added.

The study, released by WFP and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at the Global Risk Forum in Davos, identified key principles to help promote the wider use of weather index-based insurance, and outlined how donors and governments can support the effort.

Weather index-based insurance, according to a news release issued by the two agencies, sets out an objective parameter, such as the level of rainfall, at a specific location, during an agreed period.

The terms of the contract correlate as closely as possible with the loss of agricultural production suffered by the farmer. All policyholders within the same area receive payouts based on rainfall measurements at the weather station close to their farms, eliminating the need for expensive, time-consuming loss assessments in the field.

“Weather insurance is mutually beneficial as it supports small farmers to better address risk in their agricultural activities, and encourages additional private-sector investment in rural areas, something IFAD believes can further support small farmers and their communities,” said the agency”s Associate Vice-President Kevin Cleaver.

The study released today was conducted by the IFAD-WFP Weather Risk Management Facility, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.