PROVINCES TO ROLL OUT WHEAT RELEASE POLICY SOON
The Newspaper’s Reporter Updated 30 Jun 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Sindh and Punjab governments will roll out their Wheat Release Policy in line with the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet’s decision to ensure availability of wheat and flour at reasonable prices across the country.
At a meeting chaired by Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) Secretary Omar Hamid Khan on Monday, the Punjab Food Department said the provincial government will vet its policy by Tuesday. The Sindh Food Department said the province will unveil the policy in next 10 days.
For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the ECC had decided that Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) will assess their immediate requirements, and arrange to improve supply of wheat as per agreed targets.
The ECC has asked Punjab to release 900,000 tonnes of wheat to mills in the province during next two months at a release price as proposed by the provincial government in order to prevent surge in prices of the commodity and flour.
The Wheat Monitoring Committee under the MNFSR has so far issued import permit to seventy importers for a quantity of 355,950 tonnes to be brought into the country. Provinces were also directed to ensure free movement of wheat across the inter-provincial borders.
The ECC has already decided that movement of wheat will be facilitated between Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. To ensure that wheat flour does not flow out to Afghanistan, cross-border movement at the points of exit should be monitored, it was stressed.
The import of wheat by the private sector, by obliterating duties and taxes was also discussed during the meeting.
In acquiescence of the ECC decision, Passco and KP government have signed an agreement for releasing 100,000 tonnes of wheat from the former’s stock to the province.
Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020
CHINESE SEEDS TO ENHANCE COTTON CROP YIELD, SAYS FOOD MINISTER
The Newspaper’s Reporter Updated 28 Jun 2020
ISLAMABAD: Technological advancement is imperative in order to increase per acre cotton yield in the country, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam said on Saturday.
Talking to a delegation of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), Imam said that his ministry was working on transfer of Chinese seed technology for enhancing crop yield, besides securing funds to reduce cost to make cotton production a profitable business.
The PCGA delegation, led by chairman Sohail Javed, apprised the minister about issues and challenges faced by the local cotton sector and said the declining production was affecting ginning the most.
They added that other issues like piled-up tax refunds, slower buying of cotton by All Pakistan Textile Manufacturers Association, and liquidity crisis hampering the ginning sector adversely during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Imam said the ministry would take up the taxation issue with the Finance Division and leave no stone unturned to get relief for the ginning sector.
NA informed Plant Breeders Act not being implemented properly
He also asked PCGA to send a set of proposals for modernising the ginning sector and upgrade technology to improve the quality of lint produced in Pakistan.
The delegation informed that over 1,300 ginning factories are installed across the cotton belt and these have the ability to gin 14 million bales but due to short production for a few years, only 800 were in operation last year.
It’s a seasonal business and that’s why most of the ginning factories also have oil extraction units to utilise the cottonseed — a byproduct — and convert into oil and cottonseed cake.
Meanwhile, speaking during the National Assembly session, the minister said the Seed Act and Plant Breeders Act have become laws a couple of years ago but were still not being implemented properly.
Pakistan is lagging behind in research which is also resulting in low cotton output, he regretted.
Imam stated that universities and research departments should be groomed and advanced technology be applied for the benefit of agriculture.
The minister said there is no doubt that Pakistan is an agro-based country but we have not focused on it as we should have over the years.
Roughly 24m hectares of area is under cultivation of our total agriculture land.
“We should have grown between 35m and 40m tonnes of wheat now. The country is importing the crop as we are lagging behind our needs. Even after almost ten years, our price is less than the international market,” he said.
About the drawbacks in tackling the desert locust crisis, he explained that pace of the operation was slow due to non-availability of micron sprayers. Now the Food and Agriculture Organisation and Department for International Development have supplied twenty of those, which would help boost the operation.
Similarly, the plant protection department was facing a shortage of trained manpower to handle the anti-locust operation at large scale. “At present we have only thirty experts whereas 300 are required to carry it out,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020
US FARMING BODY AND ZAMBIAN FIRM PARTNER AIM TO BOOST CROP YIELDS
Reuters 22 Jun 2020
LUSAKA: An American non-profit organisation has launched a $40 million joint venture with one of Zambia’s top farm suppliers to boost crop yields and food security as farmers struggle to access finance amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the local company said on Sunday.
The chairman of African Green Resources (AGR), Zuneid Yousuf, said the private sector deal with U.S-based African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) included a scheme supporting 250,000 mainly subsistence farmers to double their maize yields and help feed around 10 million people in Zambia and the southern African region.
“AFAP’s role is not only sourcing fertiliser guarantees and credit lines, but to also act as an adviser for downstream activities like value addition,” Yousuf told Reuters in his Lusaka offices. Credit packages for seed, fertiliser and training will be provided to the farmers, while plans are also being made to use soyabeans and maize to produce animal stock feed, among other products, Yousuf said.
In the 2018/2019 crop season, Zambia’s national average yield rate for maize was 2.52 tonnes per hectare, far below Egypt at 8 tonnes and South Africa at 4 tonnes.
Zambia’s 2019/2020 season maize production is projected to increase to over 3.3 million tonnes from around 2 million tonnes in the previous season but is still below potential, Yousuf said.
The southern African nation is rebuilding an agriculture sector hit hard by a recent drought, with small-scale subsistence farmers who produce over 90% of Zambia’s maize, losing access to markets and seeing a dip in productivity as they battle the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. Zambia has reported 1,416 confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.
MANGO EXPORT MAY DROP BY 70PC
June 14, 2020
KARACHI: The export of mango during this year is likely to witness 70 percent drop in volume as compared to the previous season due to hurdles in exports to Iran and higher air freight cost to the European markets.
Logistic issues coupled with difficulties in having access to the international markets is posing stiff challenge to the exports of mangoes thus multiplying the problems of mango exporters day by day, All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) patron-in-chief Waheed Ahmed said.
The PFVA is effectively highlighting these serious issues to the high–ups by exploiting immense potential of the media which has certainly assisted in prompt resolution of various issues as well, however two major issues need quick decisions on national level which include barriers in mango export to Iran and various issues related to the national carrier for export to the Europe.
The nonstop efforts of the PFVA have ultimately drawn attention of the members of National Assembly. The special committee of the National Assembly (NA) on Agriculture in its session to be held on June 15, would discuss two serious issues related to problems being encountered in mango export to Iran along with issues related to PIA in exports of mango to the European markets.
This NA body meeting would be chaired by the NA Speaker Asad Qaiser. The significance of this session can be well gauged by the fact that the federal ministers, MNAs, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Aviation along with secretaries from the concerned ministries and high officials would participate while Waheed Ahmed from the PFVA would represent exporters and members of the organizations representing growers.
Waheed Ahmed said the foreign carriers hold 90 percent share of mango exports volume by air and hence the freight charges paid to these airlines in the form of huge amount of foreign currency in repatriated out Pakistan. The PFVA always strongly desired that their exporters shall have business with the national carrier, however these sincere efforts by the Association have never been fruitful because of unrealistic business strategy and sub –standard freight services.
“During the current year while the foreign carriers have enhanced their freight charges exorbitantly and our specific sector (fruits and vegetables) in particular is experiencing lot of problems in export perishable cargo (fruits and vegetables) to different countries of the World, the role of our national carrier has assumed paramount importance but unfortunately the national carrier is not only following the foot-steps of the foreign carriers in charging high cost of freight but it also seriously lacks in technical expertise required in handling export consignments of mangoes”, Waheed Ahmed said.
The PFVA had a meeting with concerned officials of the PIA on May 21, requesting for provision of better service and reasonable freight cost for operating chartered flights for mango export, however this request could not be materialized due to insufficient resources and higher freight cost by the national carrier.
These issues have been brought into attention of the federal government as well the concerned ministries but nothing has so far been done to seriously address and resolve the issue. “However it is strongly anticipated that the special committee of the National Assembly along with other ministries would find realistic and durable solution so that our weak economy which is badly affected by Covid-19, can be provided adequate support by generating foreign exchange through exports”, he said.
He said the mango exports to Iran via land route are also suffering badly due to various serious issues. The number of trucks carrying Pakistani mangoes to Iran through Taftan border are piling up with each passing day whereas the less number of trucks coming from Iran to Pakistan and with restriction on limited number of working days as well short time frame available for the each day for the mango trucks to get into Iran, the huge number of trucks carrying mango consignments worth of millions of USD to Iran are forming long queues at the Pak-Iran border and as a result of that the mangoes have started getting spoiled due to in-ordinate delay in movement to cross the Taftan border.
It’s an irony that despite high demand of Pakistani mango in Iran, Pakistan is unable to avail this golden opportunity. The concerned government authorities have been apprised of these issues and requested that number of working days as well duration of time frame for each day be extended for mango and other perishable fruits and vegetables making it easier to facilitate trade through Pak- Iran border.
Waheed Ahmed said the NA special committee would focus its attention on these issues. “We hope, these issues would be amicably resolved with close co-ordination of the concerned ministries, keeping the supreme national interest in view”, he added.
‘LOCUST ATTACKS COULD CAUSE LOSSES WORTH $3BN’
June 12, 2020
KARACHI: A former chairman of the standing committee on agriculture produce of the FPCCI and Secretary-General (Federal) of the Businessmen Panel Ahmad Jawad has said Pakistan imports a substantial quantity of soya beans to feed its poultry, and now “we can be seen catching locust as a good replacement of soya bean because it has more protein”.
Amid the rising locust threat in Pakistan, he said that Prime Minister Imran Khan backed an idea for dealing with the locust threat in the country under which the government would provide financial incentives to the people for catching locusts and then selling these insects to poultry farmers who could use them as poultry feed. The prime minister endorsed the proposal while chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet two days back.
Locusts could be captured at night, and feed mills may utilize them as a byproduct and purchase from the community. The processing cost of drying and milling locusts is only 30 rupees per kilogramme, he said.
A pilot project had been successful in this regard at Okara district. Now catching techniques may publicly be announced by the provinces for the rural and local community.
He warned that if we didn’t control locusts properly this year the country could suffer about US$3 billion loss due to locust attacks, and a reduced harvest could increase inflation in the country.
Currently the entire country was under the threat of an attack by desert locusts but around 37 percent area of Pakistan was more vulnerable to such attacks.
“If the desert locust is not contained, Punjab and Sindh may become summer breeding zone of the pest. There is also a need to evolve a regional mechanism for collaboration in South Asia to exchange information to fight such cross-border ecological and natural disasters. An urgent virtual meeting of agricultural ministers of Pakistan, India, Iran, Oman and Afghanistan may be convened,” he added.
In this regard Ahmad Jawad said Pakistan may consider accepting an Indian offer on locust cooperation.
Six meetings between locust officers were held every year (June to November) either at Munabao or at Khokhrapar for exchanging information on locust situation, he said.
Wireless communication between Jodhpur and Karachi is also maintained every year during this period (June to November) for exchange of locust information between the two countries. Locust infestation 2019–20 has impacted more than 10 countries in Africa and South Asia, and Iran, India and Pakistan are currently affected by the crisis.
FARMERS REJECT ADVANCE TAX ON TOBACCO CROP
A Correspondent 08 Jun 2020
SWABI: The tobacco growers here on Sunday rejected the federal government’s plan to impose additional advance tax of Rs500 per kilogramme on tobacco crop in the upcoming annual budget and warned to march on Islamabad if the decision was not withdrawn.
The issue was discussed at a meeting convened by Tobacco Action Committee, which included Anjuman-i-Kashthkaran, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kisan Board, Kashthkar Coordination Council (KCC) and various other unions of the growers.
Leaders of various political parties not only participated in the gathering, but supported the growers and opposed the government policy. They warned if the government failed to review its decision of imposing tax they would have no other option, but to march on Islamabad after the budget.
The participants said whenever the government imposed new tax on tobacco that was passed on to the growers by the multinational and national companies and business community.
Masood Jabar of Qaumi Watan Party said harming tobacco growers might lead to unemployment. Rizwanullah, KB provincial president, said that instead of taking steps for the welfare of farmers the government was bent on harming their interests.
Liaquat Yousfzai, KCC central general secretary, said the government should take immediate steps for improving the position of growers. In unanimous resolution, the participants demanded of the KP government to play its due role in resolving issues of tobacco growers.
FUEL STATIONS SEALED: The district administration sealed 15 petrol stations and fined several others here on Sunday.
When contacted, additional deputy commissioner Gohar Ali said the administration had taken notice of petroleum shortage following public complaints.
The consumers were being given petrol in small quantity of one or two litres at some fuel stations. The officials claimed that supply of petroleum products would be improved in the next two days.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2020
POULTRY BODY REJECTS ‘PROPAGANDA’ OF CORONAVIRUS IN CHICKEN
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter 04 Jun 2020
LAHORE: The Pakistan Poultry Association has expressed concerns over the rumours of chicken carrying coronavirus, and termed them false and baseless. It condemned the “baseless propaganda”, stating that people should continue consuming chicken and other poultry products without any fear.
“Coronavirus has not been reported in any chicken product in any part of the country. Besides, poultry has not been reported to be linked with transmission of the virus to humans in any part of the world. All the rumours being spread or circulated on social media in this regard are absolutely wrong and baseless,” the association’s northern region vice chairman, Chaudhry Fargham, told journalists during a press conference here on Wednesday.
Flanked by the association’s office-bearers, Mr Fargham said the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (Livestock Wing) and Poultry Research Institute Punjab had also refuted this “baseless propaganda” through official notifications, which have been published in the media. He pointed out that poultry sector was one of the most organised sectors of the agro-based industry.
The poultry sector has been serving the nation since 1962 and providing affordable poultry products to the people to fulfil the requirements of animal protein. It contributes 40 per cent of the total meat consumption and generates employment and income for thousands.
“Therefore, chicken meat is healthy, nutritious and safe for consumers,” he assured.
Meanwhile, the Lahore poultry traders association president, Tariq Javaid, on Wednesday asked the chicken wholesalers and retailers to prepare for another round of strike in the next couple of days after Chief Minister Usman Buzdar sought sale of chicken meat at Rs260 per kilogramme.
“A day before, in a meeting with Lahore Commissioner, Rs300 per kg rate was agreed mutually. But now after the CM’s announcement, it seems that we will have no option but to observe a strike in case we don’t get relief from court on Thursday (today). You all must be ready for another round of strike since we cannot follow the government rates due to capping of the prices and arrests of wholesalers and retailers,” Javaid said in a statement.
LDA: The Lahore Development Authority on Wednesday demolished various structures built unlawfully on sites meant for construction of schools, sewerage disposals, dispensaries etc in various private housing schemes.
The demolition was carried out at Punjab University Housing Scheme (Phase-2), Govt Superior Service Housing Scheme and New Lahore City Scheme, according to a spokesman.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2020
LOCUST ATTACKS MAY CAUSE RS800BN LOSSES TO AGRI-ECONOMY
03 Jun 2020
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to face up to Rs800 billion in financial losses, if the ongoing locust attack in various parts of the country is not controlled in time, which can also create food security situation.
This was the crux of a discussion with government officials, retired and in-service, representatives of farmers and agricultural experts, all of them urging the relevant federal and provincial departments to shun politics on the matter and join hands to deal with the situation.
They said that collective losses to agriculture economy could reach Rs800 billion mark as it was not only posing a serious danger to paddy, maize, sugarcane, fruits, cotton, vegetables crops but fodder crops for livestock are also under serious threat.
According to agricultural experts, it can become more fatal a pandemic than coronavirus as presently locusts was attacking India, Pakistan, Iran, Oman and other countries, at a time when most of the crops such as cotton, paddy, maize, fodder and vegetables are in initial stages, and have soft plants.
If the problem is not treated properly and immediately it will destroy standing crops on millions of acres and cause a famine-like situation.
Therefore, to deal with the locust problem regional efforts are also needed.
As another expected more bigger attack coupled with present swarms will destroy standings crops in Iran, Pakistan and India.
This will result in almost 1.5 billion people facing serious food security threat.
They said that livestock sector of the country was also facing serious threat as locust attack on fodder crops, which are essential food for millions of livestock of the country and contribute approximately 56 percent of value addition in agriculture, and nearly 11 percent to the gross domestic product, with major contribution to agriculture value-added services from providing raw material to leather products.
Current population of farm animals in Pakistan consist of 23.34 million buffaloes, 22.42 million cattle, 24.24 million sheep, 49.14 million goats, 0.77 million camels and 319 million poultry population.
If any serious damage is caused to the fodder, survival of livestock will become impossible.
They said that desert locust is a polyphagus gregarious, pest, multiplies in millions and can stay alive in harsh environment.
It may cause famine and once settled in any ecology, it is difficult to eliminate completely.
Most of the time, it multiplies in non-crop area, un-noticeably and moves to crop area in big swarms, sometime as big as it takes hours to pass.
According to them, locust management includes intensive monitoring, movement of swarms, early warning, pesticide applications ground operation or aerial operation.
According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Pakistan, at present 52 districts of Pakistan are under locust attack, which include 31 districts of Balochistan, 10 of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 of Punjab and seven of Sindh.
The 31 affected districts of Balochistan are known for fruit growing and livestock growing areas, the farming community has urged the federal and provincial governments to take necessary steps, otherwise standing crops of cherry, grapes, peaches, almond, pine nuts, apples, pomegranates, vegetables and fodder will be ruined by the locust swarms.
The swarms of locusts have also attacked mango and cotton belt areas of Punjab including Multan, Shujaabad, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalnagar, Jhang, Kot Addu, Layyah, Rojhan, and other areas.
While it has also attacked and damaged cotton, mango, sugarcane, maize and other farms growing areas in parts of desert and semi deserts districts of Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Recent reports issued by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned the locust invasion may cause a potentially serious food security crisis in Pakistan.
The report has mentioned Pakistan’s total 38 percent of the area, of which 60 percent in Balochistan, 25 percent in Sindh and 15 percent of Punjab, are breeding grounds for the locust.
The first report issued early in May 2020 and again updated on May 27, 2020 said that adults are forming groups and small swarms in spring breeding areas in the southwest Balochistan and the Indus valley in Punjab.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020
LOCUSTS MAY INFLICT HEAVY LOSSES ON AGRICULTURE IN SUMMER: EXPERT
The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter 01 Jun 2020
KARACHI: Concerted efforts on the part of all federal and provincial departments are essential for the elimination of locust swarms, which are now in billions.
This was stated by Dr Choudhury Inayatullah, adviser to the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, chief executive officer of the Worldwide Action for Revitalizing Sustainable Development, consultant of the EU and former assistant resident representative of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). He has worked on the locust issue in Sudan and other South African countries.
He was delivering an online lecture on Sunday on ‘Locust Attack and Issues of Food Security’, organised by the Sindh Social Scientists Forum and attended by other agriculture experts and representatives of the Sindh agriculture department and civil society activists.
“Pakistan may lose $8.71 billion worth agriculture crops during the summer season in case locusts destroy 75 per cent of the standing crops,” he said. It was estimated that if 25 per cent of the crops were damaged during the current session, the loss would be $2.9 billion and if 50 per cent crops were eaten up, the loss would be around $5.8 billion, he pointed out.