By Imran Nazir Abbasi
ISLAMABAD, Feb 20 (APP): In view of the increasing population and food items demand, the government is embarking on a holistic approach for sustainable agriculture growth to improve output of all major cash crops and save precious foreign exchange being incurred on their import.
With special focus on enhancing per-acre yield of major crops like wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, oil seeds and pulses; modern and innovative cultivation technologies are being introduced to maintain eco-system and depleting water and soil resources.
The government has started the Prime Minister’s National Agriculture Emergency Program (NAEP) worth Rs. 309 billion on cost sharing basis between the federal and provincial governments. It would transform agriculture sector with revitalizing farmers and help meet domestic food demand.
“Under this program, the government has provided Rs1,514.855 million for wheat productivity enhancement, Rs313.763 million for sugarcane and Rs1,073.542 million for rice,” said Javed Hammayun, Senior Joint Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research.
“The government has also provided Rs. 482.665 million for national oil seeds enhancement program, Rs156.56 million for cage cluster development project, Rs. 486.151 million for promotion of trout farming in Northern Areas and Rs15.197 billion for different agriculture sector projects initiated under the PM NAEP,” Hammayun told APP.
The government also provided 210,400 bags of certified rice seeds to growers across the country on subsidized rates during last year besides establishing 1,820 wheat seeds demonstration plots for enhancing output of wheat.
Javed Hammayun said about 59,141 tons of certified wheat seeds were distributed among farmers on 50 percent subsidy besides provision of subsidized weedicides for 2.964 million hectares.
“Significant progress is being made to transform agriculture sector and enhance per acre yield to local meet the food requirements,” Hammayun said.
National uniform yield testing trails were conducted across 48 locations across the country also conducting 90 mega gathering and farmers days to mobilize farming communities to achieve the maximum productivity targets.
Under the NAEP, 353 field implements were provided to farmers on subsidy to promote better cultivation techniques and farm management while 10,131 farmers have been trained to participate in wheat competition and other project activities like calf, lamb Feedlot Fattening.
Hammayun said 46,466 calves and 49,150 lambs were registered so far under the “Calf Feedlot Fattening in Pakistan Project” with an aim of enhancing local output of milk and meat.
Over 5,011 water courses were maintained and developed to conserve water for irrigation and bringing more land under cultivation. Moreover, 1,200 water tanks were also constructed to harvest rains water for irrigation purposes.
After successful experience of providing Sehat Cards for the people, Kisan card is another flagship program of the government to ensure easy access to credit and subsidies for small scale farmers enabling them to timely purchase inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
“More or less 780,000 Kissan Cards were provided to farmers in Punjab and 100,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Hammayun said. “The government desires to extend Kissan Card to one million farmers by end of the current financial year as Rs 4.1 billion has been paid to farmers in Punjab under this scheme and over 5.5 million transactions have been made to directly pay them subsidies.”
The KPK government has also disbursed Rs. 475 million under this scheme as it was also keen for providing 50,000 loans by the mid of this year. So far over Rs 650 billion has been paid through Agriculture Credit Facility.
Out of the total amount, almost Rs500 billion interest free loans have been paid to farmers in Punjab and Rs100 billion in Sindh with around 3.4 million borrowers taking benefit of this credit facility.
“Provision of quality seeds to farmers alongside better knowhow and collaboration with Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences can prove to be a game changer in this arena,” Hammayun said.
The government has also paid special attention on research and development with sufficient funds allocation to develop high-yielding seeds varieties of major and minor crops.
“Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) had launched five years project under Public Sector Development Program to achieve sufficiency in pulses production,” said Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali Chairman PARC.
“Scope of this project was to increase average production of pulses including chickpea, mung been, mash, lentils and beans by 30 percent, reduce production gap and increase farmers profit,” he added and mentioned to holding training workshops and seminars for promotion of pulses and increase production capacity.
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammad Mansoor, National Coordinator (Pulses) said another achievement of this project was to promote bean cultivation and six varieties of beans have been developed for general cultivation in the country.
“Availability of 4,000 local and foreign lines of different pulses will be ensured for development of high-yielding variety. With our efforts mung production has already improved and we hope the same in other cases,” he said.
Dr Shahid Riaz Malik, Program Leader, Department of Pulses said that expansion of area in Balochistan for cultivation of pulses was one of our main objectives and area under mash cultivation had increased by 1,482 acres, chickpea by 2,717 acres and lentils by 247 acres.
Olive cultivation is another area of special focus of the government to reduce reliance on imported edible oil and save foreign exchange.
“The government in very keen to promote oil seeds cultivation and provided special incentives to farmers in this area,” said National Project Director (olive) PARC Dr Muhammad Tariq.
“So far 4,130,000 olive plants had been cultivated so far over 34,359 acres across the country under different projects,” he said. During current season, 5,300 acre had been brought under olive cultivations besides holding 26 workshops and training over 2,147 farmers and stakeholders.”