Less agriculture output blamed on old harvesting techniques

Minister claims food processing plants, training of farmers and construction of small dams are in pipeline


APP January 29, 2020
A Reuters file photo of an agricultural field.

ISLAMABAD: Government of Balochistan was taking steps to enhance the export of fruits and vegetables to boost the agriculture sector through establishing food processing plants in order to preserve agriculture production across the province, said provincial Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives Zamrak Khan while talking to APP.

According to the minister, the provincial government was in process of ensuring the availability of cold storage near main production areas to facilitate local farmers.

Regretting the low production of agricultural products, Khan said, “Old harvesting techniques and non-availability of appropriate packing of corps remained main reasons behind less production.”

The provincial minister ensured government’s efforts to the sector as many projects were in pipeline in order to sensitise farmers about modern agricultural techniques for better production.

“The provincial government has initiated research based programmes in collaboration with international agricultural organisations. Besides, measures have been taken to prevent smuggling of fruits and vegetables to neighbouring countries,” said the provincial minister.

Emphasising development projects in Balochistan, Zamrak said that the government had initiated various infrastructure projects to connect production fields to markets in order to provide easy access to farmers.

The provincial minister said, “Government has built vegetable markets across the province to increase revenue which has already escalated to Rs100 million in the current financial year.”

He blamed water scarcity and prolonged drought in the province for destroying agriculture sector.

Zamrak said the provincial government has initiated radical steps to modernize the sector through introducing latest equipments and techniques to cope with the drought hit areas of the province.

Briefing on the details of the project, the provincial minister said, training on latest paramentres would be imparted to the officers of agriculture department at divisional headquarters in the first phase.

“The trained officers will educate and support farmers to transform agriculture practices to modern methods of farming in the second phase of the project,” said Zamrak.

He added that modernising farming methods was a priority of Balochistan government to increase agriculture output and facilitate farmers.

Overcoming other factors affecting production of crops in the province, Zamrak said, “Power outage during peak season of crops affecting the output of the products. The government is working to convert tube wells on solar energy to overcome load shedding crisis.”

He vowed to review the progress of the project in next cabinet meeting.

The minister claimed that agriculture was the backbone of Pakistan’s economy providing 50 per cent employment opportunities to the country’s workforce.

Addressing the issue of water shortage in Balochistan, the minister said, “Government is in process to construct more dams in order to improve underground water level in the province.”

Zamrak said the provincial government had decided to construct small dams spreading over a large area of the province to resolve water scarcity issues in Balochistan.

“Government has considered a plan to build dam on Bolan River with a cost of Rs1.5 billion to conserve water wasted in the province,” he said.

The provincial minister added the government had initiated the Balochistan Green Tractor Programme to distribute locally produced tractors among farmers working on small level in the province.

Talking about allocation of funds in agriculture sector, the minister said, “The provincial government has allocated Rs1 billion for a project to purchase 25 bulldozers in order to flourish the agricultural land and facilitate farmers especially in drought hit areas.”

The minister said the Balochistan government was working to develop irrigation system in the province in collaboration with the federal government with a cost of Rs32 billion

Encouraging farming of olive in the province, Zamrak said, “Balochistan government has allocated Rs100 million for development and boosting of olive farming in the province. Besides, it is working to encourage farmers for cultivating olive trees.”

Zamrak added that around 65,000 olive trees had been planted last year in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2020.

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