HYDERABAD: Sindh's farmers have asked the provincial government to subsidise cultivation of oilseed crops to help mitigate the effects of water shortage on agriculture and reduce the country's import bill.
The Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), a farmers' lobbying group, demanded on Saturday a Rs1 billion subsidy, similar to the amount being provided by the Punjab government for the last two years, for cultivation of crops on 200,000 acres.
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"By promoting oilseed crops and by subsidising the sector, only Sindh can help reduce the country's annual import bill of $3 billion by $1 billion," claimed Nabi Bux Sathio, the senior vice president of the SCA, at the chamber's meeting. A sum of Rs5,000 per acre has been suggested by the SCA.
According to Sathio, the sunflower or soybean farming plummeted during the last decade due to low price of the crop. "The cost of growing these crops is more than Rs20,000 per acre and farmers get almost the same price after selling their crop." The crop is sold for around Rs2,000 to Rs2,200 per maund while the yield is around 10 maunds per acre, he shared.
Last year, the oilseed crops were grown on 65,000 acres in Sindh while a decade ago more than 300,000 acres of land was dedicated to these crops, he added. According to him, the country required 3.27 million tons edible oil every year but the local farmers contributed only 0.24 million tons to the national demand.
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An official of the Imperial Chemical Industries Pakistan Limited, which produces agricultural inputs and seeds, Abdul Ghaffar Khanzada, briefed that the sunflower crop could be grown with less water yet the crop's yield remained high. He said that the Punjab government was subsidising this crop besides also carrying out a campaign for oilseed farming.
The SCA's Mir Abdul Kareem Talpur observed that Sindh's farmers are already coping with a shortage of water. "It will be timely for Sindh government to promote oilseed crops and provide subsidy so that the farmers can grow less water intensive crops," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2018.
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