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Federal govt identifies priority areas for support

The government has lowered the growth target for the agriculture sector for 2019-20 owing to insufficient water and a drop in the fertiliser off-take.

The growth target for the sector is now 3.5 per cent, which is based on the expected contribution from important crops (wheat, rice, sugar cane and maize) at 3.5pc, “other crops” 3.1pc, cotton ginned 2.5pc, livestock 3.7pc, fisheries 4pc and forestry 2pc.

The sector’s performance during the last two seasons (Rabi and Kharif) remained subdued. It grew 0.85pc, significantly lower than the target of 3.8pc.

Targets for wheat and cotton will likely be achieved if the quality and quantity of inputs are ensured in addition to the consistent availability of water, certified seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and agriculture credit facilities.

The National Agriculture Emergency Programme aims to spend Rs290bn in the next five years to boost the crop yield, develop fisheries and livestock and improve water conservation

The government is planning to rationalise the area under cultivation for wheat, rice and sugar cane. Pakistan is self-sufficient in these crops. Thus, the area under cultivation is going to be reduced to grow cotton, pulses, oilseeds and high-value horticultural crops to reduce their imports.

The production targets for 2019 Kharif and 2020 Rabi seasons have been finalised. The wheat production target will be 25.55 million tonnes, rice 7.4m tonnes, sugar cane 68,583,000 tonnes, cotton 15m bales and maize 6,357,000 tonnes.

As for minor crops, the target for gram is 550,000 tonnes, onion 2.23m tonnes, sunflower 200,000 tonnes and potato 4.2m tonnes.

The annual development plan document shows that water availability at canal heads for 2019-20 is expected to be 108 million acre-feet (MAF) to support crop production.

The drop in the fertiliser off-take by 7.3pc was because of its high price, not a shortage of input. In 2018-19, domestic production of fertiliser increased 2.6pc. It was mainly because two urea manufacturing plants were functional owing to the supply of LNG at subsidised rates. At the same time, fertiliser imports increased 4.8pc. Thereby, its total availability rose 3.2pc in 2018-19.

The government is going to focus on improving agricultural input and output markets. It is also strengthening the capacity and infrastructure to conduct agriculture research.

Although the private sector plays a major role in the input supply chain, the government’s role as a regulator will be strengthened in order to ensure the supply of quality inputs in a timely manner. There are indications that an organisational setup at the federal level is on the anvil for the implementation of the amended Seed Act as well as the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act through the establishment of a registry.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research will get an allocation of Rs15 billion as development budget.

The ministry has identified 20 priority areas for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) in 2019-20. Major projects include Better Cotton Initiative, National Programme for Improvement of Watercourses, National Oilseed Enhancement Programme, enhancement of the command areas of small and mini dams in Barani areas, promotion of research for productivity enhancement in pulses, wheat, rice and sugar cane, promotion of rural poultry, olive cultivation on commercial scale, satellite-based mapping of cropping zones and monitoring system, and the national pesticide residue monitoring system.

There are indications that an organisational setup at the federal level is on the anvil for the implementation of the amended Seed Act as well as the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act through the establishment of a registry

According to the annual plan document, the programmes under the technology-driven knowledge economy will receive separate allocations.

In addition to the federal government, the provinces are also investing in agriculture using their own funds. Last year, investments by the provinces were Rs93bn, which is expected to go further up during 2019-20.

The federal government recently announced the National Agriculture Emergency Programme, which aims to spend Rs290bn in the next five years to boost the crop yield, develop fisheries and livestock and improve water conservation.

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