Archive for May, 2011

Procurement target for wheat may be revised

Post Sourc: DAWN Magzine

 

 

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

 

 

THE Sindh government may get the current wheat procurement target revised from the federal government following a bumper crop. The target at 1.3 million tons is also 0.2 million tons short of that fixed last year.  According to Sindh Food Secretary Mohammad Naseer Jamali the target may be revised any time. So far the Sindh government has procured 1.2 million tons of wheat.

The agriculture department’s crop reporting service section estimates that the province has produced around 4.2 million tons of wheat mainly due to increase in acreage and fair amount of inputs after last year’s floods. Katcha area on the right and left banks of the River Indus was brought under wheat cultivation. Farmers took full advantage of soil’s fertility and moisture after the floods.

Wheat was sown on 1.1 million hectares last year and production was recorded at 3.5 million tons. This year 1.2 million hectares have been brought under wheat cultivation. Wheat benefited by weather conditions besides water remained fairly accessible in areas where canal system was intact. Unusual lengthy cold spell supported the crop.

General Secretary of Sindh Abadgar Board Mehmood Nawaz Shah, however, sees no justification in the provincial government’s initiative to get procurement target revised at this point of time. He argues that it will benefit the middlemen.

“Growers have already sold their produce. If target is revised the middlemen are set to make an extra buck,” he says.

He claims that hardly 25 per cent of the procurement is made through grwers.” wheat has been hoarded by middlemen, bought at lower rates and recalls that “we had urged the government to set wheat procurement target at 1.5 million tons in view of floods.”

The Sindh government can store 600,000 metric tons in its own godowns. The rest is either kept in godowns of flour mills or preserved under conventional methods. Around 150,000-200,000 tons of wheat is kept in government’s reserved centres, Jamali said. “I think around one to 1.1 million tons will be stored and preserved in godowns and under conventional practices,” he says. Of the last year’s reserved stock of 325,000 tons, 15,000 to 20,000 tons remained with the government, while the rest was exported, he said.

The federal government provides ceiling to provincial government for purchase of wheat with financing at the rate of 16 per cent.Punjabwas given target of 3.5 million tons for procurement.

Procurement is mainly made by provincial food departments or by Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Organisation (Passco). The food department then sells wheat to flour mills and chakkis and repays the loan to the federal government.

Wheat support price was fixed at Rs950 per 40kg by but in majority cases, farmers didn’t get the price. They were unable to sell wheat directly to food department as they didn’t get gunny bags and ended up selling it to middlemen at lower rates. They complain that food officials purchased wheat from dealers and middlemen at official rates as both sides earned money illegally. Sindh Food secretary did admit that there were complaints of non-provision of gunny bags in the province but the issue was resolved. “We did provide bags to farmers,” he claims.

In upper Sindh area like Sukkur region comprising five districts of Ghotki, Khairpur Mirs, Sukkur, Naushahro Feroze and Benazirabad, transportation of wheat remained a problem until recently. Sukkur region food official Qaiser Khan Rahu said that against 60,000 metric tons target of wheat, 55,000 metric tons had been purchased so far. Around 32,000 metric tons of wheat would mostly be sent toKarachi. Tenders for wheat transportation had been floated.

Growers resent food officials’ indifferent attitude towards wheat procurement. Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) office-bearer Abdul Majeed Nizamani estimates losses to farmers at Rs1875 million on account of non-payment of actual support price to growers by food department officials, who preferred to purchase wheat through middlemen and dealers.

“On an average, growers sold their wheat between Rs860 to Rs880 per 40kg against support price of Rs950. As per our calculation of 1.3 million tons of wheat procurement only 0.3 to 0.4 million tons of wheat is purchased directly from growers at actual price,” he claims.

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Can Organic Farming Feed the World?

Post Source: Socialist Pakistan News (SPN)

By: Sonja

“I am struck, every hour of every day, by the contrast between what could be in this world, and what is… everyone who is ever liable to be born could be well fed, forever, … to the highest standards of nutrition and gastronomy… But the food chain we have now is not designed to feed people… it is designed to produce the maximum amount of cash in the shortest time… The global free market … is disastrous (for farming)…

      When cash rules, sound biology goes to the wall and common sense and humanity are for wimps.”               (Colin Tudge. “Feeding people is easy”, 2007)

What is the problem?

     We are in a constant state of crisis: Every day at least 16,000 children die of malnutrition, almost 1 billion people of today’s 6.3 billion world population are undernourished (Worldwatch Institute) while another 1 billion is “malnourished” (or “overnourished”) – meaning to be overweight or suffering from diabetes or heart disease – and every day global warming and its consequences further increase the food crisis (Krugman). Today basically everybody suffers from rising food prices, unhealthy food (Schlosser 195 ff.), toxins (Colborn et al. 138/139 ff.) and food-supply shortcomings which can and will have political consequences, as just seen in the form of uprisings in the Middle East, for example (Krugman). It is also a well-known fact that the modern food production contributes to global warming and the ongoing energy crisis since modern industrial farming – including the whole food processing and distribution process – consumes almost 20% of all the fossil fuels used in the US (Ziesemer 5). So it seems almost as if modern industrial farming – which in the last 40 to 60 years was regarded as crucial to have helped to feed the world, is now entering a vicious circle where it will only increase the crisis instead of showing a way out. (Since modern industrial farming contributes to global warming, resulting in droughts and floods, which will just further destroy the harvest and therefore furthermore increase the food crisis; Krugman).

       In 2050 nine to ten billion people are expected to live on this planet (Dugger/Gillis) while the soil we plant our staples in or try to feed our livestock with is going to be depleted of its nutrition and will further erode (Montgomery 4 ff.). At the same time ground water supplies, like our water in general, will be even more contaminated than it is already through the toxins which are used in modern industrial farming (Rodale 12 ff.). 

     Organic farming could show a way out of this crisis. It is more sustainable, less toxic and uses the accumulated knowledge and common sense of thousands of years of experience which human kind has acquired through natural history, biology, farming and general survival skills.

       Can we feed the world relying on organic farming or not? Biologists like Colin Tudge from the UK and Michael Pollan from the US strongly believe so. The corporate-owned media seem to disagree (as expressed in an editorial in The Economist: “The 9 billion-people question”). Whatever the answer to this question is, it is an important one. Can we live healthy in the future? Can everybody live healthy? Are people going to be able to live at all? We are facing a serious crisis. Are we running out of food, soil and water? Can we sustain a food industry which relies on fossil fuels even if we know that we are running out of oil? People will have to eat. And they should be able to eat healthy. UC Berkeley professor Michael Pollan expressed his opinion that if we solve the global food problems we can also solve the health care crisis (especially in the US), the energy crisis and the global climate disruption problems (Pollan. “Farmer in Chief”). That would definitely mean that we would have to produce locally as well.

     Almost nobody states these days that organic farming is “bad”. Most people agree that it could be a solution for the ongoing problems we face these days. However, Jay Ambrose is an exception, who thinks that organic farming is “worse than global warming”, but not many people seem to take him very seriously. The main question for most of us in regards to organic farming is if it can produce efficiently enough to feed the growing world population or if it might be too labor-intensive and too costly and therefore would just remain a “niche” and privilege for the upper middle-class to afford and enjoy. More studies on this topic are available and are becoming more easily accessible these days, what might be connected to the fact that organic farming became recently one of the most expanding and profitable food industry market segments (Szymkowiak 26ff.).

     For all logical reasons it seems that actually only organic farming can show a possible way out of the permanent food, energy and climate (environmental) crisis (and maybe even the healthcare and unemployment crisis!). Let’s add some facts and research results to our common sense.

Why did I choose this topic?

     I love food. But recently, I started to become scared of food as well. Especially after reading Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire. Since then I’ve gotten very worried about my daily nutritious intakes. I decided that I really don’t want to eat gen-manipulated staples anymore after reading Pollan’s concerns about “biological pollution” which he states is much more dangerous than any chemical pollution, since there is no way to control the gen-manipulated pollens once they are “out there” and cross-pollinate. Pollan writes: “Harmful as chemical pollution can be, it eventually disperses and fades, but biological pollution is self-replicating” 213). I also have to admit that I never wanted to know that most of the food I am usually eating is on a regular basis treated with at least seven different poisons before the food even enters the food processing process (where several more toxins will be added…). Well now, thanks to Pollan, I know, unfortunately. And I can either stop eating – which I can’t really, or change my eating habits and switch entirely to organic food. I know organic food is available. But can it produce enough food for everybody in an efficient way?

     I’d like to live healthy, but it seems sometimes as if that is not possible anymore. Toxins are everywhere and we are not only threatened by them because we eat them; they also – as the whole industrial farming process in general – accelerate the depletion, destruction and contamination of our soil and (ground) water supplies. The more I read about this topic, I come to the conclusion that modern industrial farming is not sustainable and will destroy our environment and increase global warming and thereby worsen the food crisis we face already in several ways. The only “way out” seems to be the “way back”: the way back to natural, organic farming. This is how human kind was able to feed itself for thousands of years.

 What is “Organic Farming”?

     Organic farming is in general mainly described as a farming system which does not use chemical (“artificial”) herbicides or pesticides nor gene-manipulated organisms (GMO’s) and tries to be self-sufficient, using “green manure” for fertilizing and biological (natural) pesticides to protect the crops. Organic farming also uses the techniques of crop rotation and mixed farming. Usually, it is aimed at producing locally and supports biodiversity instead of any kind of monoculture which has led to soil depletion and erosion and many other problems so far. Wikipedia states that

Organic foods are those that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irridation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives (“Organic Food”).

Others insist that organic farming needs to be a kind of farming which “envisages a comprehensive management approach to improve the health of (the) underlying productivity of the soil” (Bhattacharyya and Chakraborty 115). The same authors also cite “the most recognized definition” of organic farming as

the concept of the farm as an organism, in which all the components – the soil, minerals, organic matter, microorganisms, insects, plants, animal(s) and humans – interact to create (a) coherent, self-regulating and stable whole. Reliance on external inputs, whether chemical or organic, is reduced as far as possible. Organic farming is (a) holistic production system (115).

It is also historically the oldest traditional form of farming, the system of farming which was used since the last 10,000 years (Bhattacharyya and Chakraborty 111).

How “efficient” is Organic Farming?

     Actually, the fact alone that organic, traditional farming has led to a 200 fold increase of the human population in the last 10,000 years (Tudge: “Can Organic Farming Feed the World?” 7) should prove the efficiency of this “old fashioned” farming system, which can be applied almost everywhere, specifically in all the areas which are “organic… by default” (Bhattacharyya and Chakraborty 118). Especially in the developing world where farmers don’t have the money to buy chemical fertilizers and where a lot of areas are not suited to be cultivated with heavy machinery (even if the farmers had the money to purchase them) organic, traditional farming will remain the most commonly used farming technique “by default”. Why change a system which has worked almost perfectly for over 10,000 years? Organic farming did not only help the human race to survive so far, it helped to increase the number of the world population by thousands and millions in the last 10,000 years.

     Today it seems to be a proven fact that organic, traditional farming is more energy efficient than modern industrial farming. Susan Lang, reporting for the Cornell University News Service, for example, informs about a study which showed that “Organic Farming produces (the) same corn and soybean yields as conventional farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides”. The fact that organic farming is more energy efficient than conventional farming, is also confirmed in a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) from Jodi Ziesemer. Here, the author claims that organic agriculture uses up to 50% less energy in its production of food than industrial farming, but – on the other hand – uses 33% more manual labor (Ziesemer 23).  Other studies support these findings. In his book The Botany of Desire Michael Pollan writes in reporting about his interview with an organic farmer that the organic farmer basically has the same yield – the same results in obtaining crops in regards to the amount of cultivated land – using organic farming than the industrial farmers have. But Pollan also concludes that, “of course”, organic farming uses more labor (1/3 more of manual labor than conventional farming) and that it therefore can’t really be compared with industrial farming in regards to efficiency – even though it “only spends a fraction as much on inputs” as conventional farming (224). Most studies confirm these findings or observations: Organic Farming uses less energy (up to 50% less), but more labor (ca. 30% more), but has in general, or can have at least, the same yield, the same crop harvest outcome, as industrial farming. Even though one study came to the conclusion that the yield of organic farming was 20 % lower than conventional farming, the authors had to “admit” that at the same time the “input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34 to 54 % and (the) pesticide input by 97 %” (Maeder et al.). Newer studies do not confirm this result that organic farming is less efficient than industrial farming. A research study by Catherine Badgley et al. from the Michigan University actually states that if organic farming in the developing countries would be brought up to the more efficient standards of the developed world, it could easily be able to feed the (world) population, and the yield results could be increased by 50%, while conventional, industrial farming would not only be impossible to pursue in many regions but would also be counterproductive, even damaging, for these countries. This study is especially important because it also comes to the result that the yield increase can be reached without any more land use and that enough “green manure” or natural, biological nitrogen fixation could be created to fertilize the soil in a natural way:

Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base. We also evaluated the amount of nitrogen potentially available from fixation by leguminous cover crops used as fertilizer… leguminous cover crops could fix enough nitrogen to replace the amount of synthetic fertilizer currently in use (Badgley et al. 86).

     The need to create green manure or natural fertilizer through nitrogen fixation using natural bacteria or compost might not even be always necessary. As Bhattacharyya and Chakraborty point out in their study “(a) lot of plants … are surviving with huge biomass years after years without (the) use of any fertilizer” (113). But according to Badgley et al.’s study bringing organic farming up to higher standards in the developing world, by for example, the use of (natural) fertilizer would increase the general crop yield worldwide up to 50%. To be clear: The researchers mean 50% more in food supplies and crop yields than we have right now using mainly industrial farming in the developed world and a traditional, organic way of farming on lower standards (which could be improved a lot) in the developing world. Badgley et al. conclude that “the estimated organic food supply exceeds  the current food supply  in all food categories, with most estimates over 50% greater than the amount of food currently produced” (91). An increase of 50% in our current food supply definitely is the least that needs to happen if it’s true what is stated on the Share the Worlds Resources (STWR) website – that “the world needs to double its food production to feed nine billion people by 2050” (“Only Sustainable Farming Will Meet Growing Food Demand”).

What does “efficiency” mean?

     But, the other question is: What does the term “efficiency” mean? British Biologist Colin Tudge states in his book Feeding People is Easy that organic farming is already “100 times more efficient” than the systems of industrial farming, since it uses so much less energy in the whole production system compared to industrial farming:

So it is that traditional farms, making no use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and using only the muscle power of people and animals … in general produce about 10 kcalories of food energy for every one kcal of energy expended on the cultivation. But in modern industrial farms the equation is typically the other way round: 10 kcal are expended, largely in form of fossil fuel, for every one which is created in the form of food energy. In terms of energy out “versus” energy in, therefore, the traditional systems are about 100 times more efficient (60).

 Another question would be: Do we talk about “short-term” or “long-term” efficiency?  A study published by the by the Indian Journal of Fertilisers concludes that organic farming might be less efficient in the beginning, but will be more efficient over time compared to conventional farming (Bhattacharyya and Chakraborty 114). This finding is also confirmed by the previously mentioned study Susan Lang is reporting about in the Cornell University News Service. Lang cites Prof. David Pimental, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, who conducted the study which reviewed a 22-year-long farming trial. He concluded that

… although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators (Lang). 

      The efficiency of organic farming depends on environmental and weather conditions, on long-term or short-term conceptions, energy consumption, and a lot of other considerations, but – as stated earlier -, most “concerns” in regards to the efficiency of organic farming are expressed in relation to the amount of the manual labor it requires, since in organic farming no chemicals are used to get rid of weeds, for example. But even if organic farming is more labor-intensive – which it seems to be – , is that really “a bad thing”? People need jobs and working on a farm might be in some ways “nicer” and more rewarding than working in an office or in the biotech or chemical industry. Of course, the work conditions need to be taken into consideration, since there are some reports about high suicide rates among farm workers. But even these suicides are mainly connected to industrial farming, not organic farming, at least in the developed world. A research study, published by the the Soil Association (the oldest and biggest British organic food organization), detailed for the UK, for example that:

Farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of all occupations with an average of one farmer committing suicide every seven days. The lack of human contact outside the immediate family can exacerbate feelings of isolation and depression. With only 13% of farms in England employing any labor beyond family members, this is a common situation and problem (Maynard and Green 24).

     But working on a farm, especially on an organic one, is hard work. And even though it seems as if especially young people really enjoy organic farming, we should probably also start to find ways not only to improve crop rotation but also job rotation. But at the same time lot of farm jobs are already part-time or seasonal. And especially working on an organic farm provides not only biodiversity but job diversity as well. Organic farms conduct a lot of times on-the-farm food processing and have on-farm stores to sell their products. They independently deliver their products to local markets and customers, meaning they have their own “distribution centers” and delivery services as well. They usually also do their own marketing. There are a lot of diverse and high skilled jobs available in organic farming, which most people find to be rewarding and which help workers to socialize and to overcome isolation and depression (Maynard and Green 27).

     Studies and articles by the Soil Association and Colin Tudge not only state that it could be very beneficial for the developed/industrial countries to provide more jobs in the organic farming industries, but that it would actually be very damaging to developing countries to reduce their work-force in the country side. Tudge explains in his article “Feeding People is Easy” (which summarizes the contents of his book of the same title) that “(I)n the Third World, 60 per cent of people live on the land. If poor countries industrialize their farming as Britain and the US have done, and as they are increasingly pressured to do, then this would put 2 billion out of work”. And, as we all know: Weeds might grow out of nowhere, but jobs usually don’t.

Conclusions:

     It seems to be proven that organic farming has the same efficiency results in regards to crop yields per acre as industrial farming in the developed world, and could even be more efficient over time compared to industrial farming since it doesn’t deplete the soil and since it is also especially suitable in times of droughts because it keeps the soil more moist. In times of global warming we will be facing more droughts in the nearer future, so organic farming seems to be the way to go. In the developing world crop yield could be increased up to 3 to 5 times (Bailey, Maynard and Green 50), depending on the exact area and environmental conditions, by using more organic fertilizer than traditional farming does produce right now. According to the previously mentioned study by Badgley et al. this would all add up to a possible increase of the world wide food supply by 50%. Unfortunately, UN experts suggest that we need to double our food supplies by 2050 (“Only Sustainable Farming Will Meet Growing Food Demand”). But maybe a change in our general diet, as suggested by Tudge and others (by eating less meat, for example), and a further improvement of farming methods can help with the last 50%…

     At least one thing is perfectly clear: Organic farming is – without doubt – much more energy efficient than industrial farming. Facing the energy crisis we have right now, the consideration of switching to a farming system which uses up to 50% less energy than industrial farming – like the organic farming systems do – does seem to make a lot of sense. The fact that at the same time organic farming is also more labor intense can be seen – as the Soil Association suggests – as quite beneficial and maybe even in some ways “efficient” as well as a lot of new jobs can be created in the developed world (at least 93,000 more in the UK, for example; Maynard and Green 36) in connection with organic farming while jobs wouldn’t be eliminated in the developing world if a conversion to intensified, industrial farming could be avoided in the “Third World” countries.

     Other benefits of organic farming as implied by Michael Pollan in his article “Farmer in Chief” would be potential savings in health care due to a less sickly population since organic produce is much healthier than other crops and – as already mentioned – no artificial toxins are used. According to an “Organic Farming: facts and figures 2005” sheet published on the Soil Association Website, organic food has much higher levels of vitamins, especially vitamin C, and minerals than non-organic food. Organic food also contains less additives, pesticides and antibiotics – all known to increase cancer, heart disease, allergies and other health problems.

     But in the end we also have to keep the big picture in mind and ask the question: What can be more beneficial and “efficient” than to try to save the world through a serious effort to protect the environment, decrease the impacts of the energy crisis, slow down global warming and, hopefully, to be able to feed the world in the future? To accomplish a goal like this, organic farming seems to be the only way to go.

Works Cited

Ambrose, Jay. “Organic Food Worse than Global Warming?” reporternews

      6th Aug. 2009. Web. 4-25-2011.

Badgley, Catherine et al.: “Organic agriculture and the global food supply”. Renewable

      Agriculture and Food Systems: 22(2); 86-108. Michigan University: June 2006.

      Web. 4-25-2011.

Bailey, Laura. “Organic farming can feed the world”. The University Record Online.

     University of Michigan News Service 30th July 2007. Web. 4-29-2011.

Bhattacharyya, P. and Chakraborty, G. “Current Status of Organic Farming in India and

    other Countries”, Indian Journal of Fertilisers, 1 (9), Dec. 2005, 111-123.

    Web. 4-29-2011.

Colborn, Theo et al.: Our Stolen Future. New York at al.: Plume/Penguin,1997. Print.

Degger, Celia and Gillis, Justin. “World population growth to keep zooming, UN says”.

     San Francisco Chronicle 4th May 2011: A2 (also New York Times). Print.

Lang, Susan. “Organic Farming produces same corn and soybean yields as conventional

     farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides, study finds”. Cornell University

      News Service July 2005. Web. 4/20/2011.

Krugman, Paul. “Droughts, Flood and Food”. New York Times 6th Febr. 2011. Web.

     2-07-2011.

Maeder, Paul et al. “Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming”. Science

     Magazine, 296 (5573): 1694-1697 31.st May 2002. Web. 4-20-2011.

Maynard, Robin and Green, Michael. Organic Works: Providing More Jobs Through

     Organic Farming and Local Food Supply. Bristol/Edinburgh (UK): Soil Association,

      2006. Print.

Montgomery, David R. Dirt. The Erosion of Civilizations. Berkeley/Los

     Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2007. Print.

“Only Sustainable Farming Will Meet Growing Food Demand, says UN Expert”.

     Share the Worlds Resources. Web. 4-25-2011.

“Organic food”. Wikipedia. Web. 4-20-2011.

“Organic food: facts and figures 2005”. Soil Association. Web. 4-29-2011.

Pollan, Michael. “Farmer in Chief”. New York Times 12th Oct. 2008. Web. 4-29-2011.

Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire. New York: Random House, 2002. Print.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. Print.

Rodale, Maria. Organic Manifesto. How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet,

     Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe. New York: Rodale, 2010. Print.

Szymkowiak, Marysia. “Daddy Greenbucks”. terrain Summer 2007. p. 26 ff. Print.

“The 9 billion-people question”, The Economist 24th Febr. 2011. Web. 5-03-2011.

Tudge, Colin. “Can Organic Farming Feed the World?” July 12th 2005. Web. 4-29-2011.

Tudge, Colin. “Feeding People is Easy.” May 2007. Web. 4-29-2011.

Tudge, Colin. Feeding People is Easy. Italy: Pari Publishing, 2007. Print.

“Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2011 Shows Agriculture Innovation Is Key

     to Reducing Poverty, Stabilizing Climate”. World Watch Institute: State of the World:

     Press Release 12th Jan. 2011. Web. 4-25-2011.

Ziesemer, Jodi. Energy Use in Organic Food Systems. Rome: Natural Resources

      Management and Environmental Department – Food and Agriculture Organization of

      the United Nations, 2007. Web. 30th April 2011.

Wheat procurement touches to 3.828 million tons: MinFa

Post Source: Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD: Wheat procurement campaign across the country for the year 2011-12 was in full swing as the provincial food departments and official grains procurement agency Passco has so far purchased about 3.828 million tons of wheat from the growers. An official in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MinFA) told APP here on Tuesday that the government would procure about 6.57 million tons of wheat to fulfill the domestic requirements as well as for keeping the strategic food reserves in the country. In Punjab about 2.16 million tons of the commodity has been procured so far as against the set targets of four million tons, he added. He informed that the Sindh province has procured about 1.17 million tons as against its set procurement target of 1.3 million tons for the year 2011-12.

Meanwhile, he said that procurement campaign was also resumed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan as the provinces have so far purchased about 0.38 million tons and 0.054 million tons of wheat respectively from the growers on official fixed rates of Rs. 950 per 40 kg.

The official further said that Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) procured about 0.548 million tons of the commodity as against the target of 1.3 million tons.

Passco has been given the task to procure 1.3 million tons of the commodity adding that it would procure 1.26 million tons from Punjab and 0.04 million tons from Sindh, he added.

Passco has started the wheat procurement in Punjab where it has procured about 0.233 million tons of wheat from its 176 procurement centers across the province, he added.

The official further informed that Passco has established 11 procurement centers in Sindh and 14 centers in Balochistan for procuring the commodity.

It may be recalled that this year wheat crop has been sown on over 8.8 million hectares of land in the country to fulfill the domestic consumption which was 3.5 per cent less as compared to last year’s sowing.

Wheat crop has been sown on over 6.68 million hectares of land in Punjab, while in the Sindh Province about 1.08 million hectares of land are under wheat crop, he said.

In KP, the wheat crop was sown on over 0.73 million hectares and in Balochistan it was cultivated on over 0.32 million hectares.

The provincial governments in line with the federal government were providing 200 bags per farmer at an average of 10 bags per acre for small and medium growers for grains packing, he added.

The large scale farmers having land of more than 50 acres were provided 500 bags per farmer adding that when these bags would be filled by the growers they would be provided more bags.

It is pertinent to note here that the bumper wheat crop of over 24 million tons is expected during the current crop season as against 22 million tons of domestic requirements of the commodity.

A Tribute to the Struggle of Women Peasants and Workers-15 women peasants honoured

Post Source: Dawn.com

The South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), organized a national conference, titled “A Tribute to the Struggle of Women Peasants and Workers”, in commemoration of the Labour Day.

15 women peasants honoured

 

LAHORE, May 6: The South Asia Partnership, Pakistan (SAP-PK), a not-for-profit organisation, on Friday distributed awards among 15 women peasants and workers in recognition of their efforts for mobilising women about their rights.

The organisation distributed awards at a conference titled “A tribute to the struggle of women peasants and workers” at Alhamra on The Mall here in connection with Labour Day.

The conference was aimed at acknowledging and appreciating the struggle of women peasants and agricultural labourers for their rights and highlighted the issues being faced by them.

Around 250 peasants and workers, representatives of civil society organisations and journalists attended the ceremony.
Labour leaders Mehnaz Rafi, Peter Jacob, Rubina Jamil and Misbah Rashid distributed the awards.

Earlier, SAP-PK coordinator Shabnam Rashid briefed the participants about the conference.

She said that a rural woman was not recognised at official and societal level as peasant or worker.

Shabana Naz from the Aurat Foundation appreciated the initiative to pay tribute to women peasants and workers.

She said that women should assert themselves to be acknowledged as a human being with equal rights. She said that women in Pakistan were facing multiple problems due to rigid and neglecting attitude of society.

All Pakistan Trade Union Federation secretary-general Rubina Jamil said that women workers were not being given rights enshrined in international human rights treaties.

She said Pakistan had yet to initiate legislation on the ILO Convention 177 which was about workers’ contribution to informal economy.

SAP-PK Deputy Director Irfan Mufti said peasants and workers were backbone of the economy but they were living in pathetic conditions.

Conference commemorates female peasants, workers

Staff Report Daily Times

LAHORE: The South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), on Friday, organised a national conference, titled “A Tribute to the Struggle of Women Peasants and Workers”, in commemoration of the Labour Day.

The conference’s aim was to acknowledge and appreciate the struggle of women peasants and agricultural labourers for their rights and highlight the issues they are facing. Around 250 peasants and workers from SAP-PK peasant and worker groups, representatives of civil society organisations, and several journalists from across the country were among the participants. SAP-PK coordinator, Shabnam Rashid, gave the welcoming speech and briefed the participants about the Labour Day’s background.

Two documentary films showing farmers’ struggle for their rights were also shown, one on Hasht Nagar and second on Anjuman Mazareen Tehreek. Shabana Naz from Aurat Foundation appreciated the initiative of paying a tribute to the women peasants and workers. She said that women should assert themselves to be acknowledged as human beings with equal rights as that of men.

She suggested that female students should also be given the option to study agriculture as subject. She said that women in Pakistan are facing multiple problems due to society’s rigid and patriarchal attitude. Rubina Jamil said that female workers in Pakistan are not entitled to rights enshrined in international human rights treaties. She said that Pakistan has yet to initiate legislation on ILO convention 177, which is about workers working in an informal economy. SAP-PK Deputy Director, Irfan Mufti, said that peasants and workers are the backbone of the economy but sadly in Pakistan they lived in depressing conditions. He urged that this equation needs to be changed. Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, a famous poetess, read out her poetry in appreciation of women peasants and workers. Also, awards were distributed among fifteen best women peasants and workers in recognition of their efforts for women rights.

Husan Ara Magsi from Balochistan and Haemeeda Ghanghro from Sindh also spoke on the occasion. The speakers were of the view that the peasants and workers throughout the country are facing the same problems and they must become united in the struggle for their rights, adding that the government needed to take immediate steps to ensure social security, health and education of peasants and workers.

 

Injured peasant women wait medical treatment, police arresting any one leaving the village

By: Farooq Tariq

 

On 3rd May at 4pm Rana Mujib, son of Rana Mohammed Iqbal, the speaker of Punjab Assembly, entered a village Chah Dhaban Wala near Bhai Phero in Tehsil Patoki to occupy 12 acres of land along with dozens of gangsters. When the women of the village resisted, they were fired at and nine women and one young boy of 10 year were injured. The land belongs to the tenants of Department of Auqaf who were working on this land since 1920. The Ranas were furious because they were unable to take over the land few months earlier because of furious resistance of the peasant women.

 

In protest of this brutal action by the son of the speaker Punjab Assembly, the tenants went to the main GT Roadand blocked the road for few hours. Police came to negotiate. They promised to register a case against the gangsters and pleaded the tenants to vacate the roads. When the roads were cleared in the night of 3rd May, police asked the tenants to remove the name of the son of the speaker from the application. The tenants refused. The police registered a case against the tenants for blockading the road and another FIR against the tenants to attack the son of the Speaker.

 

Police then went to the village to arrest anyone leaving the village. Till writing this report, it is believed that over 20 villagers have been arrested. No one can leave the village Chah Dhaban Wala and police have been deployed on all sides of the village.

 

The leader of the tenant told me on phone that please ask and if possible send Asma jehanghir to our village and other women organizations  to take out the injured peasant women who are in the village and there is no medical treatment for them. The injured women are Majeedan Bibi, balqees Bibi, Saba Bibi, Shafiqan Bibi, Naseeb Bibi and the young boy Mohammed Shoaib.

 

The History of the incident

 

In 1920, the land in Chah Dhaban Wala belonged to a Gordawara. It was not a fertile land. The tenants worked very hard to make this land cultivatable. In 1960, the department of Auqaf took over the land and the tenants were asked to pay a very small amount of 20 Rupees per acre to the department. The total land was around 1400 acres. Out of this around 800 acres is now left with the tenants and other land is been taken over by the Ranas and other feudal of the area on one and another excuse. In 2007/2008, the department of Auqaf increased the lease amount to 2500 Rupees and the tenants went to Lahore High Court against this increase.

 

Around six months back, 12 acres of land was forcefully taken by one of the friend of Rana Iqbal son. When they came to occupy the land, the women of the village resisted and they were thrown out of the village by these brave women. The peasant men did not went to resist as they knew that they will be shot at straight by these gangsters. Now on 3rd may, the same gang came back to occupy the land and women resisted, they opened fire.

 

This is sheer gangsterism. Poor peasants are now confined the village and the injured women are unable to take medical treatment because of police blockade. The police at Bhai Phero, known also as Phool Nagar are all acting on the directions of the Ranas and they do not care of the law.

 

An act of feudal gangsterism should not go unnoticed in the suburbs ofLahore.

 

I appeal to SPN members, and also to all those who are receiving this mail to contact Mohammed Liaqat at the village (0336 448 2802) to know the first hand report and help the injured women.

 

I also appeal to Asma Jehanghir and other women activists to take a serious notice of the situation. The members of Labour Party Pakistan, Women Workers Help Line, Anjaman Mozareen Punjab (AMP) are in contact with the villagers. We will not leave them alone.

The tenants of Okara under the leadership of Mehr Abdul Sattar are planning a public meeting at the village. However, the main priority is to bring these women to hospital. The police say that if they agree to remove the name of the speaker son, they can leave the village and also that there will be no more arrests. This has been rejected by the villagers. Liaqat says that his wife got rifle hits on her head, how could we remove his name from the gangsters?

 

Please take up this case on priority base. Talk to the villagers and see for yourself what is happening inPunjabvillages. 

 

Farooq Tariq

Spokesperson Labour Party Pakistan 
25 A Davis Road Lahore, Pakistan 
Tel: 92 42 6315162     Fax: 92 42 6271149     Mobile: 92 300 8411945 
www.laborpakistan.org  

www.jeddojuhd.com 

Tenant farmers become unlikely land owners in Pakistan

Post Source: www.thestar.com

By Rick Westhead

 

Zuhra, 50, was given 2.4 hectares two years ago under a land reform program by the Pakistan government

 

 

FAIZ MUHAMMEDBALOCH,PAKISTAN—Though she grew up as a peasant’s daughter, landless and illiterate, Zainab was a dreamer. She hoped one day she would get married, have a son, and perhaps, if the stars aligned, make a pilgrimage to the holy city ofMecca.

Considering her circumstances, that was dreaming big.

There was no way the 46-year-old could have imagined she would join the ranks ofPakistan’s landowners. Yet two years ago, Zainab was given 1.6 hectares of prime farmland in rural Sindh.

“My friends couldn’t believe it,” said Zainab, her gravelly voice filling her modest two-room home.

“They said you are the lucky one.”

Zainab is among 5,729 peasants in the PakistaniprovinceofSindhwho have received a combined 38,445 hectares of farmland over the past two years under a provincial government program. The rulingPakistanPeople’s Party gave away another 37,231 hectares in March.

About 4,500 of those involved in the land grant program so far have been women, and the March allotment was reserved for women only. The only hook, government officials say, is that the new owners can’t sell their land for at least 15 years.

For President Asif Zardari’s party, which has been deluged with criticism in recent months for everything from its poor handling of last summer’s floods to its half-hearted response after a politician was murdered earlier this year by a religious extremist, news of land reform, even in a small corner of the country, is a rare good-news story.

Aid workers praise the program as significant, consideringPakistan’s checkered history when it comes to the equal distribution of land.

While neighbouringIndiapassed a series of land reforms in the early 1950s that saw millions of hectares of valuable rice, wheat and corn fields distributed among itinerate labourers,Pakistan’s feudal lords prevented that from happening in their own country.

Ever since, land-reform promises from numerous Pakistani leaders have fizzled out.

In 1998, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif pledged his government would seize more than 400,000 hectares from feudal lords and give it to peasants. The feudal lords, Sharif said, were being punished for “betraying the nation in favour of the British” during the period of the British Raj.

But Sharif, like other leaders here, failed to follow through on his promise.

Then, just weeks after his wife Benazir Bhutto was murdered in 2007, Zardari instructed the ministry of revenue to begin the land disbursals.

“It hasn’t been without hitches but it’s been a real feather in his cap and something we’d like to see expanded across the country,” said Claire Seaward, an official with the British aid agency Oxfam.

“It’s helping people who otherwise would never get a leg up get into a position to make their own decisions and own something.”

For 50-year-old Zuhra, a woman with striking eyes and strong opinions, the 2.4 hectares she was given two years ago are allowing her to contemplate buying several cows and goats and trading in her thatched straw home for a new cement-walled model.

“This is the first time I know of that a woman is equal to a man,” she said, rubbing her long fingers, calloused and scarred from decades of working the earth.

“I pray to God for blessings and he has given them.”

Before moving to her own land, Zuhra and her family worked for a nearby land baron and were paid one-quarter of what the crops they tended brought in.

Of course, this beingPakistan, the land disbursal program has had its problems.

Last year, 4,000 tenant farmers were supposed to receive land. But only 1,700 did because rich landlords filed legal challenges — claiming there were water access issues or their families had some ancestral tie to the lands. At one point, 40 per cent of the disbursals were delayed by a legal claim, a figure that has since fallen to about 20 per cent.

“This is change we are trying to bring in and not everyone likes it,” said Faisal u Qaily, a revenue ministry official responsible for the program.

“This is a step towards land reform. I can’t claim it’s going to end poverty, but at least it’s the start of something.”

In an audit of the program, a local aid agency wrote there have been complaints of political favoritism in the selection of beneficiaries, as well as inequalities in the lands distributed.

Last year’s devastating flood was another setback.

Zuhra, a mother of five sons and three daughters, borrowed 25,000 rupees to buy rice seed. If the flood hadn’t drowned her land, the rice would have sold for 180,000 rupees — enough to pay for wheat seed for this summer and perhaps a few livestock.

For now, Zuhra and her family are going back to the other skill they know: stitching. They sell brilliant two-metre square blankets to wholesalers for 150 rupees apiece.

“Things are not perfect, but they are okay,” Zuhra said with a grin. “I own land.”

 

Dip in wheat prices

Post Source: Dawn Economic & Business Review

By Ahmad Fraz Khan

WHEAT harvesting is gaining momentum in Punjab, espec- ially in the southern part. According to official estimates, nearly 40 per cent of harvesting in these areas has been completed. But thrashing has not gone beyond 10 per cent. But wheat price in the market has started falling. According to farmers, the price ranges between Rs790 and Rs830 per 40kg in the southern area. The officials, however, put the price slightly higher. But they do concede that it was below the official procurement price of Rs950 per 40kg.

The price is crashing because the only buyer in the market at the moment is the miller. The Punjab Food Department and the Pakistan Agriculture Service and Storage Corporation (Passco) have delayed their procurement drive to the end of April on the pretext that weather has delayed crop maturity and its harvest by 10-15 days.

No one really understands the logic behind their decision. They had made all preparations – purchase of gunny bags, setting up of procurement centres, moving their staff to such centres and launching media campaign to inform the growers that they were in the field to procure wheat and help stabilise its support price. Obviously, the move must have cost the two bodies a bit extra to demobilise their staff which they had moved to the centres.

What was the harm in starting the drive on time even if the crop arrival was negligible? By doing so, they could have assured the farmers and other players that they were there to procure wheat and ensure its support price. By opting to pull out, they have not only pushed the market down but also left the farmers vulnerable to millers manoeuvring.

Now, by all practical purposes, both the organisations would start procurement in the first week of May because end of April is a weekend and the month starts with May Day.

Thus, by the time their staff settles down, wheat harvesting would have gained enormous momentum and they would start the drive with a glut, which they, in no way, would be able to handle because of the cumbersome and time consuming process.

Growers fear that the price crash would continue throughout the procurement drive as official calculations about the crop size are grossly underestimated. They are being made to suite the procurement plans, rather than suite the crop size.

The Punjab Crop Reporting Wing maintains the crop size at 18.165 million tons, which is around the same size as that of last year (17.90 million). Whereas farmers insist that the crop size this year would be much higher, may be around 20 million tons. They count many factors that might have boosted the size of the crop on average from three to five maunds per acre this year.

According to farmers, if the yield goes up by one maund over last year`s production, Punjab would have 18.56 million tons of wheat. If it goes up by two maunds, the end yield would be 19.22 million tons, and if it goes up by three maunds, which is more likely, the crop size would grow to 19.88 million tons.

If the last scenario turns out to be true, there would be a huge glut in the market. Out of 19.88 million tons, the food requirement is around 10 million tons. Another 800,000 tons are needed for seed purposes and about 500,000 tons for miscellaneous purposes.

The Passco would purchase 1.3 million tons and the Punjab Food Department 3.5 million tons. It takes care of around 16 million tons, leaving a tradable surplus of around four million tons in the market. Historically, the millers and traders never purchase more than 1.5 million tons. Even if they buy 1.5 million tons, there would still be a massive 2.2 million tons in the market. That is precisely the point where the farmers` fears lie and they have been pressing for higher official targets.

Instead of raising procurement targets, all official efforts are riveted on downsizing the crop size estimates this year. No grower or farmers` body agrees with the estimates of the Crop Reporting Wing, but the entire official planning is based on them. The official logic is that out of 18 million tons, around six million tons would become tradable surplus, out of which Passco and the Food Department would purchase 4.8 million tons and private buyers another 1.5 million tons and the entire crop would be taken care of. Which scenario turns out to be true, only time would tell.

But if the farmers are proven right, the political and social cost for the government would be massive. It needs to cover its flanks and have a second defence line ready if the crop size exceeds its projection.