ISLAMABAD, Oct 31 (APP): Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Monday announced a special package of Rs 1800 billion to promote agriculture sector and provide farmers, particularly in the flood hit areas free seeds, inexpensive loans and to bring down prices of fertilizers and electricity for tubewells.
Announcing the agriculture package while addressing a press conference here, he said the economic progress of Pakistan was dependent on agriculture sector and Rs 1800 billion spending on agriculture would be an increase of Rs 400 billion as compared to the last year.
The Finance Minister would ensure the delivery of loans to the farmers, he said adding Rs 10.6 billion were allocated for small farmers across the country while Rs eight billion would be given to the small farmers in the flood-affected areas.
In the rural areas, unemployed youth in the agriculture sector will be given loans of Rs 50 billion and Rs 6.5 billion will be given for subsidy to waive off mark up on these loans.
He said the prices of DAP would be reduced by Rs 2500 per bag, resulting in a benefit of Rs 58 billion to the farmers. The price of a DAP bag would come down to Rs 11250.
He said the prices of DAP were brought down after tough negotiations with the fertilizer sector, adding DAP had an important role in increasing the per acre yield of crops.
Shehbaz Sharif said 1.2 million bags of certified seeds worth Rs 13.20 billion would be distributed among the farmers and the federal and provincial governments will share the funds required for it.
The landless farmers in the flood affected areas will be given Rs five billion, he said adding small and medium enterprises working in the agriculture sector would also be given loans of Rs 10 billion for modernization schemes.
He said second-hand five-year-old tractors will be imported with a relaxation of 50 percent in duties and the government would also encourage the entry of new tractor manufacturers by decreasing duty on completely knocked-down kits from 35 percent to 15 percent.
He informed that half a million tonnes of urea will be imported at a reduced price. 200,000 tonnes of urea had already been imported and the government will give subsidy of Rs 30 billion to give the fertilizer to the farmers at a lower cost, he added.
He also said the government would import 2.6 million tonnes of wheat. “One million tonnes was already imported while 1.6 million tonnes of wheat will be imported soon.”
The prime minister said one million tubewells in the country were run on electricity and under the new package the government would provide interest free loans for 300,000 tubewells for their solarization so that farmers would get free of cost electricity.
Despite all the difficulties, the government had decided to fix electricity cost at Rs 13 per unit for these tubewells and it would also pay subsidy of Rs 43 billion to help the farmers in paying the loans for the solarization, he noted.
The PM recalled that the last government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif also gave financial support of Rs 100 billion to the small farmers.
The new package would help in the rehabilitation of farmers, particularly those whose standing crops including rice, sugarcane, wheat and dates, on four million acres were destroyed by the floods, he observed.
He said financial assistance of Rs 88 billion was already given to the flood affected people, adding Rs 70 billion were given through the Benazir Income Support Programme while the remaining amount was given for material help like food, tents and blankets through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
While responding to the questions of journalists, the prime minister said the government was working to provide relief to the electricity consumers.
Hamza Shehbaz Sharif as chief minister Punjab allocated Rs 100 billion to give relief to the consumers who were using 100 electricity units, he added.
He said fuel adjustment charge on electricity bills was deferred by the federal government and the finance minister would convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the issue.
He asked the provincial governments to break cartels and bring down prices of edible items and make the price control committees active to stop price gouging.
Shehbaz Sharif said the agriculture package would help reduce food imports and would encourage the local farmers.
To a question about the auto sector, he said the government would look into the issues related to the auto sector to make it more beneficial for the consumers.
He said there was massive pilferage of taxes in the unorganized sector of the tobacco industry
He invited foreign and domestic investors to invest in the manufacturing of tractors.
Shehbaz Sharif said the government had no control over the imported inflation, adding he was monitoring the prices of oil and gas in the international market for providing relief to the consumers.
To a question, he said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had provided financial assistance in the flood-affected districts of South Punjab and the record was available for all to see.
He pointed out that it was the responsibility of the Punjab government to force industrialists to start the sugarcane crushing season and eradicate fake insecticides.
He said the agriculture package addressed the concerns of the farmers who came to Islamabad to demonstrate for their demands.