The agriculture industry, on Tuesday, decried the delay in implementing the revised electricity tariff of Rs13 per unit fixed for tube wells as promised earlier by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Farmers demanded the power division notify the revision with immediate effect.
“The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), on Monday, approved the Prime Minister’s Agriculture Package but deferred a decision on providing subsidised electricity to tube-wells, due to the impact of the nearly Rs180 billion subsidy. This, however, is a 180-degree about-turn from what the PM had announced in his public address last month, said Ahmad Jawad, CEO of the Pakistan Business Forum (PBF).
As a result, the notifications in this connection have not been issued and relief has not been passed down to the waiting farmers.
“The farmers’ community will stick to what the PM had announced,” he said, adding that, “They are waiting for the notification. Secondly, they know the cabinet has the right to set aside the ECC’s decision.”
Speaking to the Express Tribune, Co-Founder of Agriculture Republic, Aamer Hayat Bhandara said, “If approved, the tariff will have widespread impact on the agriculture sector, especially in areas where tube wells are run on electricity. However, there is a dire need for a proper mechanism to execute this package efficiently.”
“There are some other things too that are not clear and can have a significant impact such as fertiliser packages and lending,” he said, adding that, “The government should give direct subsidies to the farmer vis-a-vis fertilisers and banks should be directed to give clean lending.”
He explained that currently farmers cannot get loans for machinery, such as tractors, from banks until they have big landholdings.
“Although loans are offered to general agri-entrepreneurs, the need of the hour is to fund smart farmers, whose practice based on technology. They could give better results to the government in the long run provided they produce solutions that the government will not have to give subsidies in the future. For example, funding the solarisation of tube wells will definitely improve agriculture in Pakistan,” said Bhandara.
Chairperson of the Balochistan Women Business Association, Sana Durrani told the Express Tribune that, “The farmers’ long-standing demand of a fixed rate for tube wells has been resolved to major extent. Now, the Rs13 per unit fixed electricity tariff will help them reduce input costs. But this announcement was made two weeks ago and has yet to be implemented.”
“Announcing the massive relief package for the farmers, with a promise to disburse loans worth Rs1,800 billion to revamp the agriculture sector, is a good initiative being taken by the PM. Afterall, farmers are the backbone of the country,” remarked the PBF CEO.
“Subsidised loans worth Rs5 billion will be distributed among flood-hit farmers who do not own agricultural land and small loans will be written off in the affected areas,” added Jawad.
“Similarly, Rs10billion has been set aside for small and medium sized enterprises (SME) in the agriculture sector and the import of used tractors has been allowed for a period of five years,” he explained.
He noted, however, that “the price of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertiliser per bag had also been reduced by Rs2,500. Another commitment that has yet to be notified.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2022.
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