LAHORE: Pakistan’s farmer community is urging the government to devise a strategy, which could help them find better margins and export markets of the crops they produce.
They claim that the vested interest groups, sitting at high positions, made policies in a manner that favour some crops or sectors, while leaving others at the mercy of international market prices. As per Pakistan Kissan Ittehad President Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, every government, unfortunately, has given least priority to the agriculture sector and its development.
“Seed Act and Plant Breeder Right Act took almost 12 years to pass through the Parliament, whereas similar acts were enacted 16 years ago in the neighbouring country. This is the root cause of Pakistan not being able to acquire modern seed technology and, eventually, relying on Rs2 billion worth of imported seeds,” Khokhar said.
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He said the seed companies today are reluctant to invest due to lack of legal protection and theft of their research and development.
According to farmer lobbies, agriculture contributes over 19.5% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and earns over 70% in foreign exchange from cotton and other agri-commodities.
It is also a source of livelihood for 48% of our country’s labour force. According to Khokhar, over Rs100 billion are paid annually to cotton pickers as picking charges and, similarly, over Rs30 billion are paid to families who harvest sugarcane during the crushing season and much more in rice, wheat and other crops’ production and harvest.
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Arshad Ghaffar, a Multan-based farmer, said current policies are favouring very few crops. “Favouritism has resulted in development of some crops at much higher rates than international markets,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2019.
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