Archive for September, 2010

Farmers resent allowing duty-free import of raw sugar

Post Source: Business Recorder

By M RAFIQUE GORAYA

LAHORE  (September 29, 2010) : Various farmers associations have strongly reacted to the government’s decision to allow duty free import of raw sugar through mills and traders at a time when sugar cane crushing season is not far off and said “this is the most detrimental step of the government against the interests of the poor farmers.”
Talking to Business Recorder here on Tuesday, Director and Chief Co-ordinator Farmers Association of Pakistan (FAP) Tariq Bucha said, ” powerful and influential owners of the 70 plus sugar mills of the country are sitting in the Parliament and occupying high government offices, therefore, they are in a position to take any decision in self-interest.”
He said that the government has fixed sugarcane price at Rs 125 per 40 KG, which is much low than the farmers’ cost of production. Even if the sugar mills buy sugar cane at the rate of Rs 200 per 40 KG, the millers cost of white sugar comes to Rs 38 per kilogram, whereas this commodity is being sold to the consumers at the rate of Rs 85 per kilogram.
President Pakistan Agri Forum Ibrahim Moghal criticised the government for allowing import of raw sugar at a time when sugarcane crop will ripe for crushing in Sindh province next month. “The powerful sugar mafia wants to fleece the farmers by fixing their own price of the sugarcane rather than allowing the mechanism of the free market economy,” he added.
He said though sugarcane crop has been damaged over 4,00,000 to 5,00,000 acres in the country. Yet there is good standing crop over 1.9 million to 2 million acres, which can produce at least 3.3 million tons of sugar. “Instead of allowing the millers and traders to import duty free raw sugar in unlimited quantities, the government should have asked the sugar mills to first buy the available sugarcane in the country if it had smallest regard for economic interest of the farmers who have been ruined by the recent floods,” he lamented.
President Muttahida Kissan Mahaz, Ayub Khan Mayo said that Rs 125 per 40-KG sugarcane price is not acceptable to the farming community. He demanded that the farmers should be paid last year’s market price of Rs 210 per 40 KG, when sugar was sold to the domestic consumers at the rate of Rs 40 per KG. “Now the sugar millers are selling the commodity at the rate of Rs 84 per KG, therefore, the farmers should also be paid price of the sugarcane in light of the white sugar market price.
He said the farmers want that the consumers should be provided sugar at reasonable prices, however, it does not mean that the traders and sugar mills should be given a free hand to plunder the farmers and the consumers.
The farmers demanded of the government to withdraw its one-sided decision and take the farmers into confidence to formulate a win-win strategy for all the stakeholders. It may be added that Pakistan consumes four million tons of sugar a year, 1.8 million tons by the domestic consumers and rest by the commercial concerns like beverages and sweets makers. Pakistan has one of the highest per capita sugar consumption in the world.

Farmlands inundated by flood waters

Post Source: www.dawn.com

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

MORE areas in Dadu and Jamshoro districts inundated by floodwater will make it impossible for growers to sow crops in the coming Rabi season. The entire right bank area is expected to make nominal contribution to the Rabi crop. The government is still going through early recovery programme for flood-hit farmers, and still assessing the damages. But official sources say some incentives like subsidy on farm inputs are being planned for growers.

Water will take some time to recede from farmlands and then growers will need time to prepare or level their lands for the Kharif season next year, provided the government announces the required subsidies. Agriculture department officials say only 60 per cent area in Larkana district and 20 per cent in Shikarpur district have remained safe while the rest has been inundated.

Last year, wheat was cultivated on 2.7 million acres because of an attractive support price of Rs950 per 40kg. Growers in Jacobabad, Kashmore, Qambar-Shahdadkot, Larkana districts, who used to produce gram, got interested in growing wheat. Even katcha area has been producing wheat, sugarcane, cotton and paddy.

The wheat sowing target has not been fixed as yet. Rabi season in Sindh commences from November 1 and according to an agriculture department official, the sowing continues as late as January 10 in lower Sindh. Government seems to be planning to focus on wheat cultivation in areas which remained unaffected on the left bank, barring Thatta district.

The Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) president Abdul Majeed Nizamani observes that in view of the present situation, sunflower cultivation seems to be the only option for growers and the government should also capitalise on it. Sunflower crop can be sown as late as February in upper Sindh which remained unaffected and where water is receding. “We can save our import bill by producing edible oil through sunflower production on 1.5 million acres. It is currently grown on 500,000 acres,” he says.

Nizamani estimates that government can save on an import bill of Rs85 billion by investing Rs12 billion on subsidy on inputs like DAP, urea, seed and Rs3,000 for land preparation per acre.

Sindh Chamber of Agriculture president Dr Nadeem Qamar is hopeful about wheat cultivation on the left bank, provided irrigation department officials work effectively to provide water on time. He, however, sees no chances of Rabi crop on Indus right bank area. “The area is completely devastated by floods. I see no future for Rabi crop for our right bank counterparts,” he said.

According to Senior Member, Board of Revenue, Syed Ghulam Ali Shah Pasha, the main problem is that upper Sindh area doesn’t have any drainage system which can make water recede. “Water table in these areas is already high. I don’t see chances for Rabi crop there,” he says. Growers need to make their land cultivable first for which the government is committed to support them, he remarks.

Upper Sindh growers have late sowing patterns as compared to lower Sindh region for Rabi. Area that is normally brought under cultivation for wheat in Dadu and Jamshoro districts is currently bearing the brunt of floodwater due to breaches in the Main Nara Valley Drain (MNVD) and Manchar Lake.

The farm labourers have also suffered badly due to flood. Displaced, they are staying in relief camps in different cities. They have to return first to their native towns for their landowners to start cultivation.

The irrigation system also stands damaged in upper and lower Sindh by floodwaters. Performance of irrigation department has never been impressive. While a quarter of population of Sindh was affected by flood, a big population of growers kept demanding availability of water for their Kharif crop.

Two persons are reported to have committed suicide in upper Sindh due to non-availability of water for their crops. Growers’ protests still continue in areas of left bank in Sindh for supply of irrigation water.

KP growers fear severe wheat seed shortage

Post Source: Dawn economic & business review

By Tahir Ali

WITH the wheat sowing season to commence next month, farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa anticipate an acute shortage of seeds. They fear that if the issue is not tackled soon, it will severely damage the crop prospects. They want the federal and provincial governments and the international community to come to the rescue of the badly hit growers for whom the coming Rabi crop constitutes a first step towards their ultimate rehabilitation.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also warned that farmers in KP may not be able to plant wheat because of non-availability of quality seed and other needed inputs. Failure to provide time-critical inputs could reduce wheat yields, it fears.

Realising the potential seed shortage, the government has asked district agriculture officials to buy even the wheat meant for food.

“Normally wheat food grain is not utilised for sowing. But as seed shortage is feared, the director-general agricultural extension, KP, has asked all districts to buy as much of the commodity as possible,” says an official.

Though officials are confident there would be no shortage of seed, farmers fear its scarcity in coming weeks.

“Enough quantity and a robust system of distribution must be arranged in emergency,” said Niamat Shah Sawal Dher, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shah feared that millions of acres of irrigated land may be left barren if seed was not arranged in time. “With the Pirsabaq’s seeds research farm, public seeds industry and private seed stocks having been mostly destroyed by floods, KP is almost certain to face wheat seed shortage. The government should quickly import standard certified seeds to fill the gap,” he said.

“There are also reports that the government wants to utilise food standard wheat as seeds in wake of shortage. This is not a right choice,” Shah added.

Murad Ali Khan, the president of the Kissan Board Pakistan, said “We will like the government to provide seed free of cost to flood-hit farmers.”

Muhammad Zahir Khan, a farmers’ leader, said Charsadda farmers have lost wheat seed stored in their homes. “The government and farmers organisations should sit together to chalk out a strategy as to what should be done to ensure a bumper wheat crop. Wheat sowing is at hand, but there is neither any compensation nor free seed or other inputs for the growers despite promises. I am worried how will farmers pay their agricultural debts, buy inputs and feed their families when they won’t be able to sow wheat,” she said.

Bakht Biland Khan, general secretary of Kissan Board, Swat, also asked for relief . “While we know Swat is not the only place to have been hit by flood but we do deserve more attention as we have been devastated first by militancy and then by floods. Swat farmers are mostly poor who own an acre of land and have no money to buy inputs. We deserve to be compensated for our losses and must be given free seed and money to buy farm inputs and reclaim our fields,” he said.

A senior official said: “We will shortly take up the issue with the federal government. The provincial food department has also enough wheat stock that can be used as seed. Private seed companies will also be procuring the commodity. We also intend to buy seed from Punjab and have already bought 2,000 tons of it. Though at present we have only a small quantity of the required seed, it is hoped that by the start of the wheat sowing season, the problem will be solved,” he added. But this, others fear, may not be the case.

The KP uses about 1.9 million acres for wheat cultivation. The provincial seeds industry provides 10 per cent of the total wheat seeds requirement of 80,000 metric tons to farmers.

This year the demand for wheat seed has increased. In the past, 70 per cent of the KP farmers used their own stock while the rest bought seeds. Now as floods have destroyed wheat stocks in Charasadda, Nowshera and the DIK and Lakki Marwat, the government will have to provide seeds to more farmers.

Recent flash floods have dealt severe blows to agriculture in Peshawar valley, Malakand division and southern parts of the province.

The FAO, provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority and some local and international non-governmental organisations are planning to provide farm inputs to farmers on a limited scale. It means a large number of affected farmers will not benefit from the plan and will be left out.

After the Floods, What Will Happen to Pakistan’s Farmers?

Post Source: TIME Partners with CNN – By Krista Mahr

Monsoon season isn’t over yet in Pakistan — after three weeks of heavy rains and disastrous floods, the flood warnings are still coming in, threatening further chaos in a nation that is already in way over its head. To date, over 82,000 miles have been affected, killing at least 1600 people, destroying an estimated 723,000 homes and 1.4 million acres of farmland. The economic loss in crops — primarily sugar, wheat, rice, cotton and vegetables — is estimated at this point to be around $1 billion. And that’s a number that many expect will grow when the flood waters finally recede and farmers begin to figure out when, exactly, they can start planting again.

Knowing the answer to that can’t come too soon. Many of the some 20 million affected by the floods are subsistence farmers who live off their land. They have lost stored crops, seed supplies and standing crops just weeks before the winter planting of both wheat and the short planting season for rice normally begins. Now, given the potential damage to irrigation systems and soil, no one knows if the early autumn planting will be possible. “For poor farmers, wheat is the mainstay of their diet,” says David Doolan, a senior Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officer in Pakistan. “If they don’t have a crop next year, they will be facing severe food security. Their livelihoods are underwater at the moment.”

Much of the country hit by the floods lies along the Indus River. Upstream, significant damage to infrastructure, erosion and irrigation systems is expected to be found once the water clears; downstream, Doolan says there may be large deposits of silt from the river on land that will have to be drained and, effectively, rebuilt before it can be seeded. Right now, FAO is working to assess the extent of the land rehabilitation that will have to be done, what kind and how many seeds will be needed and where, and what stocks the country already has. FAO’s next step will be distributing starter kits of seeds and basic tools to farmers who have lost everything. “While our colleagues are saving lives, we’re trying to lay the foundations to rebuild people’s lives,” says Doolan. “The objective for most people is to remain independent.”

The flood’s damage to Pakistan’s food exports – and any potential ripple effect on food prices in world markets – is also unknown. Abdolreza Abbassian, an FAO economist, expects that the nation’s lofty goal of exporting 2 million tons of wheat will not be met, even if it could be. “Given the need inside the country, it could be politically not correct to ship the wheat out,” Abbassian says, adding that, unlike the current wheat shortage in Russia after that country’s wildfires, he does not expect any shortage from Pakistan to influence wheat prices. Rice, on the other hand, could be a problem: Pakistan supplies 10% of the world’s rice trade, and a severe shortage could potentially upset markets if the coming year’s planting is severely disturbed. “Anything that is bad news gets amplified, and Pakistan is no exception,” says Abbassian. But, he adds, the real concern is “not what will happen to the world market, but what will happen to Pakistan… When the water recedes, will the farmers go back and farm?”

Before the future of food security can be assessed, people need to eat now. The World Food Programme (WFP)  is scrambling to distribute one-month rations of wheat, cooking oil, and fortified biscuits to as many families as it can, but that effort, like so much else in Pakistan at the moment, has been hampered by the continuing bad weather. “We have helicopters available, but that’s been frustrating because on same days we just haven’t been able to fly,” says Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesperson in Islamabad. He says some people have trekked for days to reach WFP’s food distribution points. The organization has asked for $164 million to cover distribution for the next three months; so far, it’s received $32 million. (Read more about the economic impact of the floods and the aid Pakistan is receiving in my colleague Omar Waraich’s report from Shikarpur.)

For those of us who are not in Pakistan, the images we see — angry brown water tearing through towns, people, chest deep, carrying what little they could grab from their homes — are are the only tool we have to try to grasp the magnitude of what’s happening, let alone the magnitude of what’s still to come. Unfortunately, between natural disasters and refugee crises, starting all over again with nothing is something that all too many Pakistanis have had to do. “You can appreciate that Pakistan has suffered a lot of external shocks over the last five years,” Doolan says. “That would test anybody’s resilience, but people in Pakistan are very quick to rebuild their livelihoods.” That may be, but let’s hope the world won’t leave Pakistanis to face the aftermath of the largest humanitarian disaster in recent history alone.

Pakistan agriculture may need 2 yrs for flood recovery

Post Source: www.dawn.com  

 

 

 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s agriculture industry, a pillar of the economy, could take up to two years to start recovering from devastating summer floods, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Monday.

The ADB and the World Bank are assessing the damage caused by one of Pakistan’s worst natural disasters, which destroyed 1.3 million hectares of crops just before the harvest of key products such as rice, maize and sugarcane.

“Once the country gets back on its feet, it will be able to meet part of those agricultural import needs that will happen over the next two years,” Philip Erquiaga, director general of ADB’s private sector operations, told Reuters.

“We are thinking within that time horizon we should be able to see the agriculture sector coming back,” he told Reuters.

Agriculture is Pakistan’s second largest sector, accounting for over 21 per cent of gross domestic product. Nearly 62 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Kick-starting agricultural activity

Post Source: www.dawn.com – By Mohiuddin Aazim
Monday, 20 Sep, 2010

Bankers say the SBP is devising a concessional agricultural refinance scheme for banks to ensure availability of adequate financing to flood-affected farmers at single–digit interest rates. - File Photo.

 

The State Bank of Pakistan has received input from banks on what needs to be done to facilitate flood-hit growers across the country, particularly in the Rabi sowing season. This would provide a basis for an immediate agricultural revival package that the central bank may announce shortly. The Agriculture Finance Committee comprising representatives from NBP, HBL, Faysal Bank, UBL, Askari Bank and ZTBL has submitted its report. Now, the newly-appointed SBP Governor Mr Shahid Kardar is expected to announce a set of guidelines for concessional agricultural financing in flood-hit areas.

Bankers say the SBP is devising a concessional agricultural refinance scheme for banks to ensure availability of adequate financing to flood-affected farmers at single–digit interest rates.

Banks will have to extend larger amounts of crop loans at cheaper rates to reactivate agricultural activity. But bankers say they will also have to build a mechanism for heavier disbursement of development loans to enable flood-hit farmers to buy agricultural implements and inputs and to repair damaged water courses.

Banks provide farm loans to about 1.4 million growers or one fifth of an estimated seven million potential borrowers. “Most of small and medium-sized growers have no access to agricultural loans and they borrow from informal sources,” said the head of an agricultural credit of a large local bank.

Farmers estimate cumulative annual demand for crop and agricultural development loans at Rs2000 billion whereas banks’ lending remains below Rs300 billion. “Filling in this gap is a long-term policy issue. Banks should focus now on additional demand for agricultural loans created after the floods, said a central banker. Initial estimate of this additional demand is Rs250 billion. Final estimate would emerge once the SBP and the federal and provincial governments come up with precise calculations.”

Government officials say they are seeking soft credit lines from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank which can be used for providing agricultural development loans to farmers.

The federal ministry of food, agriculture and livestock and provincial agriculture departments are also working on agricultural revival plans. And global help is being sought from donor countries and international financial institutions to kick-start farming activities and to develop a long-term strategic support programme. “We hope to put all things together in a comprehensive package and announce at least the short-term part of it very soon,” a senior official of the ministry of food told Dawn.

The floods have washed away at least five million acres of cultivated land and thick layers of silt over farming land have erased or blurred demarcation lines that separate one piece of land from the other. Growers say before the government announces any policy package for agricultural revival it must ensure instant removal of silt so that flood-hit farmers can start sowing Rabi crops instead of fighting with each other over the ownership of land.

“This ought to be the first step in agricultural revival plan,” says chairman of Pakistan Agri Forum Mr Ibrahim Mughal. In the second step the government should provide agricultural implements to farmers of flood-hit areas so that they can start preparing land for Rabi crop sowings.

“Tens of thousands of agricultural implements including cultivators have either been washed away or damaged beyond repair. Provincial agriculture departments can ensure provision of such implements to farmers. We have plans to arrange agricultural tools and implements to farmers of flood-hit areas,” said an official of Sindh agriculture department without elaborating on it.

The floods have also damaged at least 7000 water courses and without their immediate repairing irrigation of Rabi crops of wheat, gram and canola and sunflower would become too difficult. Officials claim they are employing human and material resources of agriculture and irrigation departments for repairing water courses besides encouraging cooperative societies of farmers to accelerate self-help operations.

Growers say, once the flood-hit farming land is demarcated again, farmers get back agricultural tools and implements for land preparation and water courses are repaired only then they would need crop seeds for Rabi sowing. Later on, they would also require enough fertiliser.

The government has already announced to provide free of cost canola and sunflower seeds to farmers of flood-hit areas for Rabi crop sowing starting next month. The ministry of food, agriculture and livestock plans to provide free canola seeds for cultivation on 100,000 acres in flood-affected areas.

Sunflower production is expected to be higher this year because it can now be sown in the rice belt of upper Sindh, where floods have increased fertility

Sindh Abadgar Board President, Mr Abdul Majeed Nizamani says that during the current Rabi season sunflower can be sown over 1.5 million acres in Sindh alone against 400,000 acres in past years. Additional cultivation of this important oilseed would help reduce edible oil import bills besides boosting rural incomes.

The federal government has set a target of 25 million tonnes wheat production this year and officials say that plans for free distribution of wheat and gram seeds are on the cards.

To supplement government efforts in this regard, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN has also promised to distribute free of cost seeds for Rabi crops to 200,000 farming families in the first phase. It has indicated to double the number of such beneficiaries in the second phase.

The government has also sought support from donor countries including Australia for free supply of seeds of wheat, gram, canola and sunflower.

“The government must ensure that seeds for Rabi crops should be sprayed with medicines before distribution among farmers. Otherwise, stocks of free seeds could be black-marketed and wheat and gram seeds may be used even for consumption as food,” warns Mr Ibrahim Mughal.

Along with supply of free seeds, farmers of flood-affected areas would need fertiliser at concessional rates. Here again, growers warn that bags of fertiliser meant for flood-hit farmers ought to be clearly marked to avoid their black-marketing and misuse.

Pakistan flood farmers appeal for help

Post Source: Farmers Gurdian

By William Surman

MILLIONS of livestock are either dead or in danger in Pakistan as the severe flooding continues to cause havoc in the countryside. More than 200,000 cows, sheep, buffalo, goats and donkeys are dead or missing, millions of poultry are dead and aid workers say the numbers continue to rise on a daily basis.

The surviving livestock are now desperately short of straw and forage as 700,000 hectares of standing crops are under water or destroyed, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Association has warned.

The UN has asked for $5.7 million (£3.7m) in emergency assistance to get immediate feed and medicine to the surviving animals.

“Livestock in this country are the poor people’s mobile ATM,” said David Doolan, Senior FAO Officer, in charge of FAO programmes in Pakistan.

“In good times people build up their herds and in bad times they sell livestock to generate cash. Every animal we save is a productive asset that poor families can use to rebuild their lives when the floods finally pass,” he added.

The floods hit the most densely populated livestock areas in Pakistan where 75 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. As farmers fled the rising water they were forced to leave animals behind.

“You can put chickens, goats and sheep in the boat and take them with you but you can’t take a buffalo or a cow,” said Simon Mack, Chief, FAO Livestock Production Systems Branch.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has set up a Pakistan flood appeal http://www.dec.org.uk/donate_now/ to help those affected.