Give farmers proper incentives and they work wonders. This has been incontrovertibly proved by the fact that the maiden agricultural policy of the Punjab government, introduced in 2019, has started to give more than expected results within a short time. In 2020-21, the province has had record harvest of wheat, paddy, sugar cane and other crops. Some of the incentives being provided to the farmers are interest-free loans; the government is also paying them premiums on crop insurance, subsidies on purchase of basic inputs, agricultural machinery and laser land levelers. The subsidies amount to billions of rupees. Moreover, growers are assured of a minimum support price fixed for wheat and sugar cane. The MSP for wheat is Rs1,800 per 40kg and for sugar cane it is Rs200 per 40kg.
In order to avoid hassles and delays in the payment of subsidy money, it is being directly deposited in farmers’ bank accounts. Thousands of acres of barren lands have been made arable and this too has given dividends, as farmers have earned an additional income of Rs3 billion. With a view to increasing agricultural yields in water-deficient areas, Rs3.62 billion have been earmarked for purchase of drip and sprinkler irrigation equipment. The government will provide a 60% subsidy to farmers on purchase of these machines. Many new grain markets have been registered and farmer platforms have been set up in more than 100 grain markets. Roads leading to grain markets have been improved to facilitate farmers’ access to grain markets. Work on many agricultural projects are underway costing Rs300 billion.
Since the incentives scheme for farmers has yielded tremendous results in Punjab, it needs to be replicated in other provinces too. It is all the more necessary to end the import of wheat, sugar and other foodstuffs. The benefits of the increased agri output should not be limited to farmers only. If the common people don’t get food items at reasonable prices, it would undo the efforts gone into raising farm output to a considerable extent
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2021.
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