Sindh prepares agriculture policy

Initial draft has been prepared after which revisions will be presented before Cabinet


Hafeez Tunio October 10, 2017
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KARACHI: For the first time in Pakistan's history, the Sindh government is going to launch an agriculture policy to set laws in order to achieve targeted results in domestic agriculture.

Since the creation of Pakistan, there has been no notified policy in the country on agriculture, the sector which contributes around 20% of the GDP and offers employment to about 43% of the labour force in the country. After the 18th Amendment, Sindh will be the first province in the country to take the lead in drafting and notifying the policy. "We have finalised the first draft and the final draft will be ready by October 15," said Dr Fateh Marri, project coordinator of the Sindh Agriculture Growth Project.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Marri shared salient features of the policy. After the policy's implementation, the agricultural sector will provide better income to the farmers and people working at processing, transport and storage facilities and at the same time it will provide nutritious and cheap food to urban and rural populations, he claimed.

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"Agriculture contributes 24% of the provincial economy in Sindh. We have made the policy and its final draft will be presented in the Cabinet session," Dr Marri said, adding that since the birth of Pakistan, no government has considered forming such a policy.

 

Key points

According to the draft available with The Express Tribune, the key objectives of the policy include achievement of four to 5% growth rate in the agricultural sector, reduction of rural poverty to half of the current level, addressing malnutrition, ensuring efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, minimising negative environmental impacts of the excessive use of fertiliser and fighting climate change.

To achieve these objectives, the government will increase credit flows into activities related to agriculture, livestock and fisheries and associated off-farm rural activities. Measures will be taken to develop new financial instruments for the agricultural sector, such as warehouse receipts, and build links between the formal and informal sources of credit. The government will ease restrictions on the sale or lease of agricultural land and the establishment of rural enterprises and bring reforms in the legal and regulatory system governing agricultural marketing.

‘New techniques will enhance crop productivity’

The government will remove price caps and support prices, promote competition, enhance transparency and facilitate new modes of business such as electronic trading and direct sales to private markets and supermarkets, reads the draft. It adds that proper attention will be given to improve legislation, regulation, labeling and quality oversight in the market for seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, animal feed and medicines.

The draft reveals that the government will attract private investors - both domestic and foreign - to invest in rural areas by offering fiscal incentives. The government will make easier laws for public-private partnerships, establish processing parks and special zones in major production clusters.

In order to reduce poverty, according to the draft policy, the government will provide inputs and services to the poor and those living in remote areas and will encourage nutrition sensitive agricultural production. The government will also facilitate the poor through microfinance programmes.To help landless farmers, the government will introduce clear, transparent and legally enforceable tenancy agreements, according to the draft.

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A dissenting voice

Sindh Abadgar Board General Secretary Mehmood Nawaz Shah told The Express Tribune that the board had expressed reservations regarding some points of the policy, adding that he hoped the government will redress the grievances. "We suggested the government devise a cost-controlling mechanism for various crops," he said, adding that the burden on small and medium growers should not be increased.

According to Shah, there has been no mention in the policy of efficient use of water and, similarly, there has been no word about wetlands, which also contribute to agricultural economy. "We suggested they incorporate some clause in the policy about the rehabilitation of wetlands," Shah remarked.

He added that there has been a surplus production of wheat. However, the growers have not been given due compensation. Shah alleged that some people had a monopoly in wheat production.

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"The same thing happens in the case of sugarcane pricing. The government must address these issues in the policy," Shah said.

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