Waiting for the promised seed and fertilizer

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

 

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

THE peak season for sowing Rabi crop is almost over without the promised seed and fertiliser by the provincial government to the flood-hit growers of Sindh. It has left the ruined farming community high and dry. A senior agriculture official said that Rs3.36 billion was to be jointly contributed by Sindh and federal governments to provide seed and fertiliser to the farming community. Sindh government has targeted 1.4 million acres for Rabi crop anticipating full-scale wheat sowing activity by farmers. But no such activity is visible in the eight districts on the right bank of the Indus, or in the left bank district of Thatta. Bureaucratic snags are the main cause behind the slow pace of action.

In Thatta district growers prepared their lands in pockets of Jheeruk, Mirpur Bathoro, Sujawal, Daro, Bannu and Laiqpur where water had receded. But they are still awaiting provision of seed and fertiliser for sowing the Rabi crops.

Growers are also not getting credit facilities by the Zarai Taraqiati Bank. The ZTBL is not entertaining their application on the ground that they have not cleared last year`s loans. Growers contend that if their last year`s loans are not being waived, at least fresh loans should be granted to mitigate their financial constraints owing to monetary losses by the floods.

Nadeem Shah, a grower-member in the Steering Committee of Sindh government`s `food security and crop enhancement programme,` complained that ZTBL management was not offering fresh loans. He said non-availability of seed and fertilisers was delaying wheat sowing though southern Sindh region has early Rabi and Kharif crops.

Under the Sindh government`s free distribution of seed and fertiliser plan, those having 25 acres are to be helped in calamity-affected districts of the province. Talukas and dehs have been selectively declared calamity-hit in 17 districts, both on right and left banks. Entire katcha area has been declared calamity-hit which is stretched over 579 kilometers right from Guddu to the Arabian Sea.

Umer Jamali, a grower from Johi taluka, complains that they are being kept on tenterhooks as far as provision of seed and fertiliser is concerned. “We are being told that distribution will begin soon. But we don`t know when it will take place,” he said.

“People do come and visit land for preparation of record but till November 23 no free seed or fertiliser has been provided,” remarks Allah Bux Machayo who owns six to seven acres.

He lost his home, paddy and sugarcane in August 26 breach at Kot Almo, Thatta, which rendered him a pauper. “Water is still standing in our land and there seems to be no outlet for its disposal,” he said. Shoaib Lodhi, who owns land in Deh Khiral, taluka Sujawal of flood-hit Thatta district, says that although one of his his khata of land has 25 acres but he is not sure whether he qualifies for the promised support.

The Sindh government has planned to give seed and fertiliser through district administration. National Fertilizer Corporation (NFC) would deliver fertiliser to DCOs. Seed would, however, be collected by DCOs from identified Sindh food department`s godowns. For transportation finance department is to release funds to DCOs but that has not been done so far.

DCO of Qamar-Shahdadkot Yasin Shar, however, confirmed that one million rupees has been transferred to his district for transportation of seed from food godowns but fertiliser is yet to arrive from Lahore. “We will begin distribution of the commodity very soon,” he said.

Secretary Agriculture Agha Jan Akhtar, Sindh Abadgar Board and Sindh Chamber of Agriculture are fully on board as far as distribution of seed and fertiliser is concerned. Two nominees each from the two organisations are inducted in the DCO-led committees for identification of growers, he added.

Lists of growers with 25 acres are ready with the DCOs, but funds are to be provided by finance department to each local administration head so that seed could be transported. “Government is not involved in any transaction of money for provision of seed and fertiliser. It is just transfer of goods from one hand to the other and that is to be expedited”, he said.

He said that water has receded in 55-60 per cent of flooded areas in pockets. “Seed`s germination has been verified and quality seed will be given to growers.”

But Mehmood Nawaz Shah, SAB`s general secretary, describes the whole plan as illogical. “I am a member of the Tando Allahyar district committee, but it hasn`t yet met. By and large, meetings of these committees have not been held,” he said.

His argument is that government is targeting 1.4 million acres for wheat sowing whereas Sindh`s total land for cultivation of wheat is just 2.2 million acres. Besides, he said, wheat sowing period was coming to an end. The most pertinent question, according to him, is availability of four cycles of water for wheat amidst flood ravaged irrigation network. “How it is going to be ensured?” he asked.

Floodwater brought sludge causing depression in some areas and sand dunes in others. Land`s levelling is a major issue. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has released Rs500 million out of Rs1.68 billion of Sindh government`s towards seed and fertiliser.

Only recently the prime minister announced the provision of seed and fertiliser free of cost but the pace is very slow. An official said that federal government has issued directives to the State Bank for transfer of funds but it hasn`t reached the Sindh government. The federal government has so far committed Rs100,000 for each flood-hit family head through Watan Card and that too is leading to complaints of anomalies and favouritism.

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