ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday announced the launch of Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Programme worth Rs309.7 billion to uplift the agricultural economy.

As many as 16 projects in the agriculture sector would be launched at a cost of Rs309.7 billion under the prime minister’s agriculture programme to boost yields of major crops.

The prime minister’s programme will drastically increase agricultural spending over the next five years, by 360%. The share of federal government spending will be Rs85 billion, share of provincial governments will be Rs175 billion and the share of farmers will be Rs50 billion.

Under this programme, 16 projects will be initiated in the agriculture sector in five areas. Four of these projects will be launched at a cost of Rs44.8 billion, which would have a provincial share of Rs7.4 billion, in a bid to boost yields of major crops and encourage the production of oilseeds.

Three projects, costing Rs220 billion, will be focused on conserving and increasing water productivity. Another three projects, which will have a cost of Rs13.9 billion, will harness the untapped potential of fisheries.

The government plans to invest Rs44.8 billion with a federal share of Rs7.4 billion in four livestock projects for small and medium-scale farmers. Two projects worth Rs23.6 billion will be started without federal share to transform Punjab’s agriculture produce markets.

However, Sindh is shy of participating in the Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Programme as it has not responded despite repeated calls by the federal government.

At a joint press conference with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Jehangir Tareen, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Mehboob Sultan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken initiatives to bring improvement in the agriculture sector.

He said more than 100 meetings were held in major cities across the country to formulate a strategy in consultation with the provinces to implement the emergency programme.

The minister lamented that previous governments had ignored the sector and allocation of funds for agriculture.

He added that Pakistan was importing cotton via Afghanistan and the government was negotiating with textile millers regarding duties on cotton import.

Speaking on the occasion, Tareen said the agriculture sector was Pakistan’s lifeline, however, it had been ignored by previous governments in the last 10 years.

He said post-18th Amendment in 2011, the total agriculture development spending started decreasing drastically by 60%. Provinces did not play their due role in taking initiatives meant for increasing crop yields, he said.

Pakistan’s import bill for major agricultural commodities peaked to around $4 billion last year, he said, adding that they would spend Rs309 billion under the emergency programme to enhance yields.

He invited Sindh to participate in the programme and set aside its political differences for the betterment of the sector.

“If Sindh participates, it will get an additional boost of Rs15 to Rs18 billion in agriculture development spending over five years from the federal government,” said Tareen.

He declared that as the farmers were suffering, the present government would increase funds in the next five years for their welfare. He said the government also planned to set up five new markets and the existing 56,000 markets would be upgraded to give farmers access to the markets for better return.

“The present volume of fisheries’ export is $250 million and the government wants to tap the potential by launching different projects.”

Responding to a question, Tareen said the price of sugar had gone up due to the increase in sales tax, but added that action would be taken against those who were involved in hoarding.

He said the government was giving subsidy on electricity to the farmers and the cess rate on gas supply to fertiliser plants had been reduced to half.