ISLAMABAD, Jun 08 (APP):Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam Monday informed National Assembly that he would propose to the ministry of finance to waive off loans of farmers whose crops were destroyed due to climate change and locust attacks.
Speaking in the House, the minister said enough credit was not given to agriculture sector by banks despite its substantial contribution in the gross domestic product.
He said the locust was attacking Pakistan since April last year, adding last time the locust attacked Pakistan 27 years back in 1990s and before that in 1960s.
Locust started from the horn of Africa and spread to other parts of the world, he added.
He said Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was helping Pakistan in creating awareness about the locust.
The minister said surveillance was needed to control the pest, adding aerial sprays through use of aircraft could only be done in desert areas when the locust hatched eggs. Aerial spray could not be done on the cropped area.
Fakhar said due to locust, crops were damaged in all the four provinces but “we are still awaiting data from the provinces to know the extent of damage”.
He told that the locust travelled in small and big swarms at a speed of 90 mile per hour, ate green leaves and multiplied its numbers very fast. It had a life cycle of 84 days.
He said the government had four aircraft for spray and one of them crashed while five helicopters were given by the army.
He told that China gave assistance of 4.9 million dollars and thousands of liters of spray to clear locust. China was also giving ground sprayers and drones, he added.
He was responding to calling attention notice of Member National Assembly Afzal Khan Dhandla and others who invited attention of the minister to the locust attack in Thal area especially in district Bhakkar.
Afzal said the government should pay the agri debt of farmers whose crops were destroyed.
He said agriculture was the backbone of the country and the government should focus on settling issues of farmers.
Riaz Hussain Pirzada said the locust attack had damaged the crops and fruit orchards and nothing was done to resolve the issue.
He said the government should announce a programme within two weeks to resolve the issues of farmers concerning fertiliser, lack of water and pest.
Khawaja Asif said Parliament should take ownership of the agriculture policy and help improve condition of farmers.
Ehsanullah Tiwana said Bhakkar had been declared calamity hit area for the last five years.
He objected to the way wheat was forcibly procured by the administration in Punjab this year.
Fakhar Imam said Punjab produced 85 percent of the total wheat of the country, while 36 percent of the area was used for wheat cultivation.
He said flour crisis emerged due to problems in distribution system. “We have to improve the research in agriculture and increase the per hectare yield,” he added.
Sanaullah Mastikhel said the government should sit with the members National Assembly and find solutions for problems faced by agriculture sector.
Syed Naveed Qamar said all crops and mango orchards were affected by the locust attacks.
He said locust was spreading in different districts of Sindh. Plant protection department had only four vehicles and massive aerial spray was needed. “We have to make massive investment to control the locust and for growth of agriculture sector.”
He said farmers should be protected and wheat should not be imported, adding State Bank allocated quota for agriculture credit but private banks did not give adequate loans to farmers.
MNA Javed Latif raised the matter of not including Kashmir in the map of Pakistan during a programme of Pakistan Television.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan said the relevant ministry would look into the issue related to the PTV programme.
He said Pakistan had a clear policy that Kashmir issue should be resolved according to UN security Council resolutions and by holding a plebiscite, adding India should stop human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan did not accept changes made by India in its constitution to alter the status of Kashmir, he added.