February 2020




From the Newspaper February 24, 2020

Selling commodities makes money. But selling a commodity crisis helps make money overnight — and lots of it.

The job of the government is to watch who is selling a commodity and who is selling a crisis.

The job of the government is to facilitate trading and prevent crisis. Sadly, the PTI government, just like all previous governments, failed to prevent those who recently ‘created’ and ‘sold’ wheat and sugar crises. They made billions of rupees in a few weeks.

Consumers had to pay Rs10 and Rs15 per kilogram more on wheat flour and sugar. At the peak of the crisis, wheat flour was sold for as high Rs70 per kilogram and sugar for Rs85 per kilogram, up from Rs60 and Rs70 before the crisis erupted.

Perpetrators of the two crises had identified communication gaps between federal and provincial authorities. They took advantage of those gaps and built smokescreens: they stitched together all tactical details behind the smokescreens of the wheat ‘shortage’ and ‘increased prices’ of sugar cane.

It is time for the federal and provincial governments to devise a mechanism to prevent a food commodity crisis

If a prevention policy was in place, the twin crises could have been prevented. But there was none apparently. So the federal and provincial governments could not do much to provide relief to already inflation-battered consumers. To design such a policy, the PTI will have to learn to work in close contact with all provincial governments.

At the root of the wheat crisis lay the lack of desired coordination between the federal and provincial governments — and the hype created about the continuation of wheat exports after they were banned.

Though exports in violation of a ban are totally unacceptable, the way the hype was created obscured some other factors from the public view. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the country exported 44,134 tonnes of wheat in July last year. It is not clear how much of that volume was exported in violation of the ban imposed on the 17th of that month.

In August, we saw no exports at all. On Sept 19, 2019, the federal cabinet again decided to continue the ban on wheat exports. But then quite mysteriously 2,060 tonnes and 1,887 tonnes were exported in September and October, respectively. No wheat was exported in November and December.

If PBS figures are correct, then less than 4,000 tonnes of wheat exports in September and October in violation of the ban could not have created a full-blown wheat crisis in January. It simply could not because when the crisis hit the government informed the nation that the country had four million tonnes of wheat stocks. Even if we assume that a large part of 44,134 tonnes of wheat exported in July 2019 was shipped out after the export ban on July 17, it could not have led to a crisis after a lapse of five months.

So what caused the wheat and wheat flour crisis? Massive smuggling? To a large extent, yes. A Dawn report says Customs Intelligence is still probing under what circumstances 505 containers were cleared without the payment of duties and taxes at the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Hoarding? Of course. During the crisis, the media reported some cases of hoarding in both Punjab and Sindh. Reports also surfaced about the missing wheat bags from official warehouses.

The delayed release of subsidised wheat from provincial food departments to genuine millers might also have contributed to the wheat flour crisis. Out of 900-plus wheat flour mills in the country, an estimated 300 are not operational. But many of those that exist on paper only manage to get subsidised wheat. Dozens of 600 functional mills also get subsidised wheat in excess of their quotas. They are the people who dictate markets when the wheat crisis hits.

The sugar crisis hit markets when the wheat crisis had started subsiding. The panic-stricken PTI government was fire-fighting on the wheat front when reports of the sugar crisis emerged. Sugar stocks available in markets gradually disappeared, supplies from millers became costlier and thinner and retail prices skyrocketed. And then began endless blaming and counter-blaming.

Fingers were pointed at some powerful, politically affiliated sugar millers, including a close friend of Prime Minister Imran Khan who owns half a dozen mills. But he told a private TV channel that although the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan had found evidence of cartelisation in the wheat flour industry, it found no such evidence about the sugar industry. What he implied was the wheat flour crisis was created by flour millers and not by powerful wheat traders and corrupt government officials. He insisted that sugar prices shot up only because growers were selling sugar cane at higher prices owing to a fall in the cane output.

It is true that the sugar cane production has been on the decline for two years. But it is hard to believe that our politically powerful sugar millers were actually paying Rs220 to Rs250 per 40 kilogram to cane growers — as claimed by members of the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association — against the support price of Rs190 per 40 kilogram in Punjab and Rs192 per 40 kilogram in Sindh. Growers in Punjab and Sindh denied selling sugar cane at such high prices.

It is time for the federal and provincial governments to devise a mechanism on how to prevent a food commodity crisis and mitigate its effects if prevention efforts are somehow dodged. Such a mechanism must envisage the specific roles for all authorities concerned. Post-crisis promises of bringing the perpetrators to task are just that: promises. —MA

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, February 24th, 2020



By AMJAD ALI SHAH on February 24, 2020

Mixed trend in prices of essential food commodities, like vegetable, pulses, live chicken/meat, sugar, flour and other was witnessed in retail market, according to a survey carried out by Business Recorder here on Sunday.

The survey noticed price of live chicken/meat has decreased at Rs168 per kg which was selling at Rs171 per kg in the previous week. A dozen of egg is being sold at Rs100-110 against the price of Rs120-130 per dozen in the last week. Cow meat is being sold at Rs400-450 per kg, while mutton beef was priced at Rs900-1000 per kg.

According to the survey, price of sugar was remained stable in local market as available at Rs80 per kg in retail market. Flour prices also reduced in retail market as being sold at Rs55 per kg which was selling at Rs60 per kg in few days back.

Tomatoes are being sold at Rs50 per kg which was selling at Rs40 per kg in last week, showing an increase at Rs10 per kg, whereas onion price was remained unchanged as available at Rs60-70 per kg. Ginger was priced at Rs400-450 per kg. Garlic is being sold within range of Rs250-260 per kg. Carrots are being sold at Rs40 per kg. Green chili is being sold at Rs120 per kg. A bundle of radish is being sold at Rs20.

Capsicum was available at Rs120 per kg, peas at Rs90-100 per kg, arvi at Rs100 per kg, Cauliflower is being sold at Rs70-80 per kg, cabbage at Rs60 per kg, bringle is being sold at Rs50-60 per kg. It further noted that red colour potato is being sold at Rs80-90 per kg while others available at Rs50-60 per kg against the price of Rs40 per kg. Bitter gourd (Karela) is being sold at Rs120 and Rs150 per kg.

A noticeable surge in price of gram flour (baisen) was witnessed in retail market as the commodity is being sold Rs190-200 per kg which was selling at Rs160 per kg in the previous week. It added prices of almost all brand and quality of cooking oil and ghee have unchanged in retail market.

The survey noticed the prices of pulses/food grains remained high-side in local market as Dal mash price is being sold at Rs240 per kg. Likewise, it further witnessed dhoti dal is available at Rs240 per kg which was selling at Rs-190 per kg in the last week.

It added white lobiya is being sold at Rs200 per kg against the price of Rs160 per kg. Dal black (chilka) was available at Rs220 per kg against the price of Rs180 per kg, while dal green (chilka) priced at Rs200 per kg against the Rs170 per kg, showing an increase of Rs30 per kg.

Similarly, a substantial increase in price of Moonge was noticed in retail market as available Rs200 per kg, which was selling at Rs160 per kg. Good quality rice (sela) is being sold at Rs150 per kg against the price of Rs140 per kg in the previous week, whereas toota rice brown color is being sold at Rs80 per kg and white colour at Rs70 per kg.

Chinese red bean is being sold at Rs190 per kg against the price of Rs180 per kg while Tajikistani red bean was available at Rs170 per kg. Dal channa is being sold at Rs180 per kg which was selling at Rs170 per kg in the previous week. Big size white channa is being available at Rs140 per kg while small-size white channa priced at Rs110 per kg.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 24, 2020

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has disposed of 15,000 liters substandard milk after sealing three food businesses including two dairy units and an ice factory while carrying out a grand operation to control the supply of adulterated milk in Punjab.

The dairy safety teams (DSTs) have inspected 49,000 liters milk by placing screening pickets round-the-clock in Sargodha and Mandi Bahauddin. The authority has disposed of 10,000 liters tainted milk in DG and 5,000 liters milk in Sargodha.

PFA Director General Irfan Memon said that team inspected dairy farms, ice factories and milk supplying vehicles during the crackdown. He said that milk was discarded due to having low lactometer reading, proved contamination of harmful chemicals, powder, urea and water which used for increasing the thickness and quantity of milk.

Meanwhile, In Mandi Bahauddin, Gondal Dairy and Madina Dairy were sealed for producing adulterated and fake milk. Further, the PFA watchdog team shut down Madina Ice Factory for storing fake milk in ice blocks in the name of ice. The authority also registered a case against the accused on account of adulteration. He further said that the use of tainted milk adulterated is posing a threat to the users’ health epically children. He said that PFA’s teams are inspecting milk carrier vehicles daily.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



February 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD. The government has decided to start an early campaign for wheat procurement for the crop season 2019-20 to maintain strategic reserves of the staple food as well as to facilitate growers to sell their produce on fixed official rates.

“The procurement campaign in Sindh will start from March 5, while wheat harvesting has started in lower Sindh,” said Food Security Commissioner Dr Imtiaz Ali Gopang. Gopang said the wheat procurement drive in Punjab would start from April 5 with an aim to facilitate the growers particularly on small scale.

“The Economic Coordination Committee in its recent meeting had accorded approval for procuring 8.25 million tonnes of wheat during current procurement campaign,” he said.

“The Punjab government had been tasked to procure 4.5 million tonnes to fulfill the domestic requirements as well as keep strategic reserves of food grains,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government had been assigned to procure 1.4 million tonnes of wheat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 0.1 million tonnes during the current procurement drive. The food security  commissioner maintained that the provinces had been assigned procurement tasks after due deliberations and their food departments had agreed to them.

He said that the federal government had also asked the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to procure 1.8 metric tonnes of wheat.

“The provincial food departments have already established their procurement centres in different areas and divided them into zones for which staff will be deputed as the drive starts,” he noted.

The Passco would also establish its centres in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan.



OUR CORRESPONDENT February 24, 2020

HYDERABAD. The Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), a farmers’ lobbying group, has opposed the federal ban on the export of onions and called for a review of the decision. Pointing out that onion production is higher than the national demand, SCA members claimed on Saturday that farmers will sustain financial losses as a result of the ban. They added that the federal government’s agricultural policies have been causing financial losses to growers. SCA president Syed Meeran Muhammad Shah referred to the government’s decisions regarding wheat and tomato imports as “flawed policies.” According to him, the wheat harvest in Sindh’s Mirpurkhas division has already begun, while the crop imported from Ukraine will arrive in Karachi at the end of March.



February 24, 2020

HYDERABAD. The Sindh Food Authority (SFA) raided and imposed fines on multiple eateries and bakeries in different areas of Hyderabad on Sunday afternoon.

According to a press release, SFA director general Amjad Ali Laghari led the raids in City, Latifabad and Qasimabad talukas, issuing issued notices to 50 restaurants, bakeries, general stores, marts, dairies and grocers to obtain business licenses from the authority. They later de-sealed four restaurants and two bakeries after imposing fines and collecting license applications.



By Asif Mehmood Published: February 24, 2020

LAHORE: The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has launched an agri-tech smart farming pilot project in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the private sector to bring innovation to the country’s agriculture sector.

An Artificial Intelligence (AI) system will be used in this initiative which would help in obtaining information about crop health and its requirements in real time, The Express Tribune learnt. An artificial intelligence system has been installed at a farmhouse located on Bedian Road in the provincial capital.

On one side of farms, a pole with a few electronic devices has been installed and several sensors attached to it. Some sensors are installed under the soil while some are installed with leaves of the crop. This system is known as a gateway.

At a distance of 500 metres from the gateway, a node has been installed along with several sensors connected to it. The data from this node is automatically accessing the gateway and the information is displayed on the dashboard and can be seen on laptops and computer screens.

Umair Razzaq, a representative of a private company which designed the system, said that the system works with solar energy, various devices and sources connected to the system. “The system collects information such as wind speed, humidity, rainfall status, quantity of minerals in soil, the health of the crop, the time when crops need fertiliser, water and supplies.”

A node can be installed within a radius of one kilometre around the location at which the gateway is to be deployed. Up to 16 nodes can be used simultaneously with a gateway, which can reach and collect the data of 16-km area.

For every crop, a segregated node would have to be used. This system will update the data after one hour via internet service or 3G and 4G data. PITB representative Atif Ali Shah said that under the pilot project, work has started in Vehari, Sargodha and Layyah.

The system will reduce the cost of production for the farmers while the production will be more and healthier, he added. “If a farmer has problems related to access to a laptop or computer, or if he does not own a laptop and computer, we will convey all information to the farmer via a simple text message.”

Local landowner Rana Mubashir Hassan said that he has an area of more than 150 acres of land where he cultivates various crops and has pastures.

He added that he used to water the crops after analysing which fertilisers to use on his own that resulted in a loss many times. “However, due to this system we are able to get accurate information. We follow directions without any hesitation.”

This is showing improvement in crop growth and is expected to be better and more productive in the long run, he further said. PITB Chairman Azfar Manzoor said that for the first time in the country, technology for smart tech farming is being initiated with the cooperation of the agriculture department.

“Currently, this system is being used in Ukraine, Turkey and Nigeria. We are trying to show successful results to farmers from this experiment.”

Under this pilot project, it will be easier to demonstrate the growth of crop to the rest of the farmers in the districts in which the system is being used, he added. In response to a question, he explained that better-off farmers can buy the system for themselves too. “The government is focusing on average farmers in order to provide them relief.”

In this regard, the agriculture department will set up a Punjab programme and a scheme will also be created for the farmers as subsidy on fertilisers. “Other machinery is being provided to the farmers.” The chairman further said that machinery for this system is being requested from abroad while the software is being prepared by the PITB. “We will also have backup data for this system. This initiative will be another step towards modern agricultural innovation in Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2020.



A Correspondent February 25, 2020

BAHAWALPUR: The Cholistan Development Authority (CDA) has demanded the Punjab government allocate for it 10 vehicles and 15 spray machines for anti-locust operation in the coming months in the desert areas, considered to be most vulnerable for breeding of locusts.

Talking to Dawn on Monday, CDA Managing Director Rana Muhammad Aslam said the Punjab government had recently announced a national action plan (NAP) to combat the locusts across the province but no separate provision of funds for the CDA was mentioned.

The government had announced allocation of Rs500m to launch NAP in the affected areas of the province but the CDA was a separate independent body, which should have been sanctioned separate financial budget.

The Punjab government had been asked to grant vehicles and spray machines to fight locusts in the coming months, which were the most dangerous, Mr Aslam and added that the experts had issued a warning when breeding of the locusts in other parts of the province was going on.

According to his claim, the CDA, during the last years, had been carrying out anti-locust operations frequently in Cholistan with the result the locust had been successfully eliminated from the desert while its adjacent green areas and crops were also protected against the attack.

Mr Aslam further said the seven committees, headed by the assistant commissioners (ACs), were carrying out scrutiny of over 62,000 applications filed with the CDA for allotment of land in Cholistan under chief minister’s package.

He said after submission, all the applications were scanned and its copies were provided to the Punjab Board of Revenue (BoR) and divisional commissioner’s office for records to avoid any sort of fraud to change the applicants’ credentials at any stage in connivance with the government officials.

He said the committees might take three months for completion of scrutiny after which a list of eligible applicants along with the schedule to hear the appeals would be issued by the CDA. The process of the allotment of land might take over six months, he added.

To a question, the MD said the scrutiny committees’ members were free to visit and personally check the credentials of any applicant at their living places.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020



Muqaddam Khan Updated February 25, 2020

SWABI: A total 2,000,000 kanals arid land in the district would be irrigated through Pehur High Level Canal Extension Project (PHLCEP), sources told Dawn here on Monday.

They said that Asian Development Bank (ADP) would provide funds for the project. The total cost of the project, which will be completed within three years, is Rs18 billion. Work on the project was inaugurated in August but recently more areas included in it.

Sources said that the extension project was divided in three main regions and in each area a flawless mechanism would be set up to irrigate both in summer and winter different crops that were expected to be grown in the barren land of the district.

In Jhunda-Boka part, a total 3,492 acres land would be irrigated through the project, said sources. They added all arid land in the region and its suburbs would be brought under the canal irrigation system.

Project to be completed within three years at a cost of Rs18 billion

In Anbar, 669 acres infertile land would be irrigated through pressure pipe system, said the sources. They added that a total 15,437 acres barren land was expected to be irrigated in Indus Anbar region.

Keeping in mind the increasing irrigation requirements of the crops, it has been planned that under this project more 10,932 acres land can be irrigated in future as well.

Sources said that 100 exhibition agriculture flats would be established and women would be given 10 per cent representation in it. They said that women would be enabled to earn their livelihood with dignity and honour.

They said that water association would be formed at every water course level and participation of women was must in it. It has also been planned that clothes washing points would be built along the canal to provide an opportunity to the womenfolk of the region to wash their clothes comfortably.

Sources said that 77.8-kilometre road at the edge of the extension canal would be constructed to facilitate people to take their yield to the market easily. The farmers would be benefited from the road and improved communication system.

Meanwhile, Kasthkar Coordination Council (KCC) set up a protest camp at Karnal Sher Khan Chowk against alleged exploitation of farmers by tobacco buyers and rejected the rate of Rs200 per kilogram tobacco fixed by government.

Talking to journalists at the camp, KCC president Azam Khan said that all the benefits of the crop went to national and multinational companies.

The camp would remain intact on Tuesday and Wednesday.

KILLED: Two people were killed and four received injuries in three different road accidents here on Monday, said police. They said that a man identified as Peer Mohammad was killed and three others were injured when an auto-rickshaw collided with a roadside power pylon on Shakrai Road.

Similarly, Salman Khan was killed when a tractor-trolley hit him on Swabi-Mardan Road.

Also, Masood Khan was seriously injured when a van hit him on Shewa-Asota Road.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020



Majeed Gill Updated February 25, 2020

BAHAWALPUR: A team comprising personnel of intelligence agencies, police and officials of the provincial industries department on Mon­day raided a sugar mills owned by the Sharif family near Channigoth, about 70kms from here, “recovering more than 55,000 sugar bags hoarded there”.

Police and other sources confided to Dawn that the raid was conducted on a tip-off provided by the special branch of police.

The sources said a team led by the assistant commissioner of Ahmedpur East and comprising district officer of the industries department and personnel of special branch of police and other law-enforcement agencies raided the mills’ godown and seized the sugar.

They said the team sealed the godown after seizing the sugar bags worth millions of rupees.

The sugar mills at Channigoth belonging to the Sharif family had not operated during the recently-concluded crushing season, as it had been lying closed due to litigation.

None of the government departments officially issued any press release about the recovery of the allegedly hoarded sugar stock.

However, a spokesman for the district police officer, Jam Sajid, confirmed that a raid was conducted on the mills. He said the godown was sealed after the raid.

He claimed that local police had not been informed about any action to be taken against the mills management. He said the district administration was handling the matter.

A private TV channel quoted the Ittefaq Sugar Mills general manager as saying that the stock was more than two seasons old and could not be used due to litigation. He rejected the hoarding element, according to Geo News.

In September 2017, the Lahore High Court ruled that Ittefaq Sugar Mills (Channigoth), Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills (Muzaffargarh) and Chaudhry Sugar Mills (Rahim Yar Khan) — all owned by members of the Sharif family — be repatriated to their previous locations within three months.

The LHC announced the verdict on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader and JDW Sugar Mills owner Jahangir Tareen, who argued that the mills were shifted to new locations despite a ban that had been previously imposed on relocating the sugar mills.

Earlier in March 2017, the LHC had ordered sealing of two of the three mills owned by the Sharif family.

The Supreme Court had, in September 2018, dismissed appeals filed by the Sharif family challenging the LHC verdict that ordered relocation of the three sugar mills from south Punjab to their previous locations in central Punjab.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 25, 2020

Solo deal was reported on the cotton market on Monday as leading participants were on the sidelines owing to lack of interest, dealers said.

The official spot rate maintained week-end level at Rs9000, they added. In the ready session, a single deal of 2000 bales of cotton from Sadiqabad finalised at Rs9000, they said.

Rate of seed cotton per 40kg in Sindh low quality was at Rs2800, while the best quality was unchanged at Rs4100, and in the Punjab prices of low quality were at Rs2800 while the fine type was available at Rs4600, they said.

In Sindh, Binola prices per maund were at Rs1400-1800, in Punjab rates were at Rs1650-1800, they said and the rate of polyester fibre was at Rs173 per kg, they added.

Market sources said that leading participants were not active toward new deals. It looks that cotton market is totally in grip of coronavirus, this has affected the business activity of the globe.

Cotton analyst, Naseem Usman said that volume of business likely to show improvement in the coming days.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By Rizwan Asif Published: February 25, 2020

LAHORE: Punjab government has started appointment of 1,690 political leaders and party workers in the market committees of the province. Clearance is being sought from the Special Branch for the selected names for the 13-member board of each market committee.

As per Pakistan Muslim League Q (Quaid e Azam Group)’s power-sharing formula, the political workers and leaders nominated by the party will be included in markets of four districts, whereas the Board of Directors are obliged to elect the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Market Committee from among its members after a voting process. However, the names for the two positions have already been chosen unofficially and all board members are being urged to vote for the pre-decided names in advance of the balloting process.

According to sources, the board of about 45 market committees has been notified and elections for Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson have also been conducted. In addition to that, under the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Authority Act (PAMRA), a consensus has been made between the middlemen and the Agricultural Marketing Department (AMD) to set the market fee rate at 0.6% through which the annual revenue of market committees is estimated to increase by 350% to Rs 4 billion. Under the new law, a legal consultant is also being hired to draft the new rules for the market committees.

Moreover, a third change is expected to take place at PAMRA’s Director General (DG)’s office in the near future whereas earlier, first DG PAMRA Ali Arshad was also changed a few weeks after the appointment. PAMRA’s current DG is expected to attend a senior management course in the near future and sources close to DG Hafiz Shaukat, who was posted a few days ago, revealed that he is likely to be included in the course as well.

As per details, on 15 September 2019, the government of Punjab signed an act to abolish the outdated system of market committees in the province and implement the new Agricultural Marketing System, and the gazette notification of the act was issued later on 26 September. Under the new PAMRA regulations, the market committee will be constituted of 13 members and two farmer representatives, as well as representatives from the labourers working in the market and Middlemen Association.

In addition to that, the committee will also include a representative from the District Consumer Council, a member of the EADA of the Department of Agricultural Marketing as well as the secretary of the market committee and the tenure of the market committee officials will be three years.

Punjab government had issued a notification to set up the 28 new market committees consisting of new areas after restructuring market committees and abolishing 32 out of 135 market committees which were set up in the province.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister have been under pressure to accommodate political activists and leaders in the market committees. According to informed sources, some thousands of names were recommended in the list, especially for the Chairperson of 130 market committees which garnered over 500 recommendations. In some districts, different names were recommended from various Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) power groups, which created a confrontational situation. Meanwhile, the restructuring of market committees and the drafting and development processes have led to delays of over several months. However, now the government has started selecting names for the 13-member board in the market committees and notification of members of the 45 market committees has been issued and clearance for the selected names from the Special Branch is underway, before being notified of the appointment of the board members.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Chairperson PAMRA Naveed Bhindar said that government has started appointment of board members of market committees. “The government is particularly appointing those individuals who can work for agriculture marketing for the economic development of the rural community and farmers.” Bhindar maintained that consensus has been made to fix the 0.6 % market fee rate and hoped that annual revenue will increase up to about Rs 3 billion. “For the betterment of the system, we hope to hire a qualified person from the private sector at the post of DG of PAMRA,” he concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2020.



Amin Ahmed Updated February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government has sought technical advice and guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations on international best practices and use of pesticides with safety standards, as Punjab is facing a locust attack.

FAO representative in Pakistan Mina Dowlatchahi held a meeting with Minister for National Food Security and Research Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar here on Tuesday and discussed with him the current locust situation in Pakistan.

It was a follow-up meeting on the first national locust coordination meeting held last Friday.

The discussion focused on better understanding of the unusual behaviour of locust in Punjab, options for chemical and biological control measures and locust surveillance system being introduced by FAO.

FAO director general Qu Dongyu concluded his three-day official visit to Pakistan last week. During his stay in Pakistan, he pledged to help Pakistan fight its desert locust emergency after seeing first-hand the unusual impact of the locust attack in Punjab.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research and FAO signed last week a $500,000 technical cooperation programme to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts in order to strengthen their capacities to combat the desert locust infestation and improve locust management.

FAO is supporting the ministry to ensure availability of locust surveillance data in real-time. The data is being made available as part of the regular food security nutrition and information system for early warning and early action. Locust monitoring and timely control operations are vital to ensure food security and protect agriculture.

On the concern express­ed by Mr Bakhtiar over the use of chemical pesticides, FAO representative said that FAO had technical experts in its headquarters in Rome who could share their expertise with the government on the issue.

The minister asked for recommended chemical and bio-pesticides with minimal impact on environment.

Mr Bakhtiar emphasised on the urgent supply of e-locust devices for effective surveillance of locust in the affected areas.

The FAO representative affirm­ed to provide locust devices which required GPS facility in the affected areas.

“The supply of correct pesticides is extremely important and we do not want to end up with the procurement of wrong pesticides,” Mr Bakhtiar added.

Mina Dowlatchahi inform­ed the minister that FAO as a neutral coordinator was planning to organise a coordination meeting of locust-affected countries in the region, including Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan, early next month in Abu Dhabi.

The minister appreciated the efforts of FAO and called for developing a common work plan for controlling locust without any time lag.

Meanwhile, a team of locust experts from China has arrived in Pakistan to assess the situation and needs of Pakistan.

Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing held a meeting with Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan and said that the locust team was currently visiting Karachi and visiting affected areas of Sindh.

Dr Azeem Khan discussed the possible control measures for locust in the short term as well as long term.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent Updated February 26, 2020

QUETTA: The Balochis­tan cabinet on Tuesday approved the wheat procurement policy for this year and decided to purchase one million wheat bags from the provincial food department.

The provincial finance department will provide interest-free loan to the food department for the purchase of wheat and it would return the loan amount to the finance department after the selling of wheat.

The cabinet headed by Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani also directed the food department to establish wheat procurement centres in the wheat-growing areas during the first week of April which he said will just be in time for the purchasing of required wheat from Nasirabad division.

The food department was further directed to prepare a comprehensive mechanism for wheat procurement, its storage and sale to the flour mills within the next 10 days.

Regarding minerals, the cabinet directed the Department of Minerals to obtain royalty set for various minerals and approved auctioning of contract and directed to decrease the period of the contract from one year to six months on an experimental basis.

The cabinet approved several amendments in the mineral sector such as the issuance of mining licence and renewal of fees and an increase in royalty rates of the lease.

The cabinet also approved to increase Chief Minister’s Special Support Programme funds and award honorarium to the employees of District Judiciary from Grade 1 to 18.

The cabinet approved the appointment of the chief officer of the municipality from grade 16 to grade 17 while the cabinet also approved the establishment of Balochistan Parks and Horticulture Authority.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020



AFP Updated February 26, 2020

LONGYEARBYEN: A “doomsday vault” nestled deep in the Arctic received 60,000 new seed samples on Tuesday, including Prince Charles’ cowslips and Cherokee sacred corn, increasing stocks of the world’s agricultural bounty in case of global catastrophe.

Mounting concern over climate change and species loss is driving groups worldwide to add their seeds to the collection inside a mountain near Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen Island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres (about 800 miles) from the North Pole.

The “Noah’s Ark” of food crops is set up to preserve plants that can feed a growing population facing climate change.

“As the pace of climate change and biodiversity loss increases, there is new urgency surrounding efforts to save food crops at risk of extinction,” said Stefan Schmitz, who manages the reserve as head of the Crop Trust.

“The large scope of today’s seed deposit reflects worldwide concern about the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on food production,” Schmitz added.

Among the seeds are beans, squash and corn from the Cherokee Nation — the first Native American group to send crops to the vault — including their sacred White Eagle corn.

Britain’s Prince Charles, who is known for his environmental advocacy, sent the seeds of 27 wild plants, including cowslips and orchids collected from the meadows of Highgrove, his country home.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020



Naeem Sahoutara February 26, 2020

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the additional deputy commissioners of five of the six Karachi districts to personally appear in court along with their respective replies regarding action taken against usage of sewage for vegetable farming.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed also directed the counsel for the Sindh Food Authority (SFA) to submit a reply in this regard till March 13.

The directives came on a petition filed by a public interest litigant, who impleaded the provincial and local authorities as respondents for their alleged inaction against the usage of the hazardous industrial and sewerage water for farming by a private company.

The petitioner submitted that water of industrial units and sewage, which was toxic and hazardous to human health, was being used for the purpose of agriculture in the Malir, Korangi, East, West and Central districts of the metropolis without any check by relevant authorities.

The petitioner submitted that the respondents, including the chief secretary, SFA and deputy commissioners concerned had allegedly turned a blind eye towards the practice due to which the health of the people consuming such vegetables was at risk.

Court summons additional DCs of five Karachi districts to explain their position

The court was asked to issue directives to the respondents to take remedial measures to stop the practice and also act against the private farming firm.

During the proceedings, Advocate M.S. Bukhari filed power of attorney on behalf of the SFA.

Additional Advocate General Jawad Dero also requested for time to submit a reply in this regard.

The bench directed the office to issue notices to the additional deputy commissioners of the Korangi, Malir, East, West and Central districts to appear in person on the next date to show what action they had taken so far in this regard.

Mohammad Anwar Kumbar, the mukhtiariar of district Korangi, appeared before the court and requested for time to submit his reply in this regard.

Allowing the request, the bench also directed him to submit a progress report in respect of his district as to whether sewage was being used for the purpose of vegetable farming and what action had been taken so far in this regard.

The bench also directed the counsel for the SFA to submit a reply and adjourned the hearing till March 13.

The same bench granted three weeks time to the assistant director (legal), bureau of supply and prices, to submit a reply to a petition seeking enforcement of the Hoarding and Black Marketing Act, 1948 to regulate and enforce the prices of essential commodities in the province.

The bench granted time on the request of Mohammad Saleem, the assistant director, and fixed the matter for March 18.

Advocate Mohammad Tariq Mansoor had filed a petition against the federal and provincial authorities for allegedly not enforcing the law meant to control hoarding and black marketing of essential commodities and for not appointing special judges to conduct summary trials of the violators of the law.

The petitioner argued that the people were suffering as relevant authorities had failed to enforce the law and take remedial measures in pursuance of the provisions of the law due to which the prices of daily use items, including eatables, were skyrocketing.

The court was asked to direct the respondents to enforce the law and appoint special judges under Section 14 of the act in the province.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 26, 2020

Excellency, Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador has met with Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, PARC at PARC HQs, Islamabad. Detailed discussion was carried out about the investment of agriculture sector in Pakistan under CPEC. His Excellency suggested for further materializing the understanding between Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences and PARC to work on the improvement of Rice, Wheat, Sugarcane, Cotton, Vegetable and Livestock using modern technologies.

Chinese Ambassador briefed about their Locust expert team arrival in Karachi and their visit to affected areas to assess the situation and needs of Pakistan. Chairman, PARC discussed the possible control measures for Locust for short-term as well as long-term. Keeping in view the environmental aspects of pesticides to knock down Locust they also discussed capacity building at national level both for the scientists and technicians to improve the agriculture production and poverty elevation.

In the meeting, Pak-China experts also exchanged the agricultural information and discussed the areas of mutual interest to accelerate the development of Agriculture sector in Pakistan.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By Muhammad Ilyas Published: February 26, 2020

LAHORE: As part of a massive-scale crackdown against hoarders across 36 districts in Punjab, the provincial government has begun a search for sugar stockpiles.

Per sources, the cost of sugar reached Rs85 per kilogramme (kg) after hoarders created an artificial shortage to gain benefits. As a result, the Punjab government has launched a grand operation against sugar hoarders and action is being taken by the district management in various parts of the province, including Lahore.

As part of the drive, several storage facilities have already been sealed, while penalty worth millions of rupees has been imposed on hoarders.

The Punjab government also prepared a report based on the crackdown against hoarders which shows that 1,082 raids were conducted in different whole-seller warehouses across nine divisions. Per the report, the government has taken action against 86 shopkeepers, while cases were registered against seven of them. Besides, 28 warehouses and storage facilities have been sealed and a penalty of Rs156.5 million has been imposed on the hoarders.

The report also shows that around 82,153 bags of sugar weighing 50 kg, 2,000 tons of ghee, 700 bags of rice and 10,000 bags of wheat have also been seized from various mills on account of hoarding. The highest number of raids were conducted in Sargodha and Multan, however, only 400 bags of sugar could be recovered from Sargodha while nothing could be found in Multan. Meanwhile, 71 raids were carried out in Lahore through which 2,037 bags of sugar were recovered.

Out of the seized stock, the Punjab government has sold 2,900 bags in the open market across various districts of the province.

Sources revealed that to control the ongoing crisis, the Punjab government is not only directing its administration to take action against the hoarders but in the next phase of the crackdown, a subsidy of Rs15 billion will be given to Utility Stores on a federal level to control the prices of food items so that they could be sold on the government’s fixed-prices.

Even though the move of the government comes as a sign of relief for the public that had to bear the brunt of the artificially-created shortage, action against hoarders have been taken on a very small level whereas big sugar mills are still to be inspected.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2020.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: February 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Members of the cabinet have expressed serious doubt about the projection made by the Federal Committee on Agriculture for the output of different crops and have called for providing reliable data of the agriculture sector, sources say.

They expressed their reservations after a presentation was given on expected production of key crops in a cabinet meeting on February 11.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research presented relevant data of the harvest of crops but some cabinet members raised questions about authenticity of the data and estimates for financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The minister for national food security acknowledged that the figures were on the higher side, to which the cabinet members suggested that more authentic and reliable data of the agriculture sector should be presented. In the presentation, the cabinet was told that the government had set cotton production target at 15 million bales for 2019-20 but the actual harvest would be 9.4 million bales.

The cotton output would also be lower by 5.1% when compared with the production of 9.9 million bales in 2018-19.

The tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government – from 2013 to 2018 – was said to be the worst when cotton harvest dropped to a low of 9.9 million bales in 2015-16.

However, now when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is running the government, cotton production is going down further and is estimated to hit 9.4 million bales in the current crop season.

Textile barons, being the sole buyers of cotton produced in the country, were said to have caused a loss of Rs52 billion to farmers by offering lower prices and monoplising the market, according to the Ministry of National Food Security.

However, rice production was projected to increase 6.9% compared to the output of last year.

The cabinet was informed that the government had set rice harvest target at 7.4 million tons but actual production would be 7.7 million tons in crop season 2019-20 compared to 7.2 million tons in the previous year.

Sugarcane production target had been set at 68.6 million tons for 2019-20 but actual output would be 67.4 million tons. Its production stood at 67.2 million tons in 2018-19. Officials call agriculture one of the most neglected sectors of Pakistan as the textile sector has created a monopoly and cotton farmers have not been given better returns and have switched to other crops like sugarcane.

However, sugar millers also enjoy a monopoly over the market and in this case too farmers are denied a fair return.

Recently, the country experienced severe wheat flour shortages, though the food security ministry had been telling economic managers that enough wheat stocks were available. Investigation is under way to determine the cause of the scarcity.

Consequently, the government had to ban wheat export and allow its import to stabilise prices of wheat flour in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2020.



Aamir Shafaat Khan Updated February 27, 2020

KARACHI: Tetra milk producers on Wednesday increased prices of one, 1.5 liter and 250ml packs without citing any reason for the increase.

Karachi Retail Grocers Group General Secretary Farid Qureishi said the price of one and 1.5 litre milk packets have been raised to Rs150 and Rs200 from Rs140 and Rs180 respectively whereas the 250ml pack will now be sold at Rs38-40 as against Rs35.

Qureishi said the price list issued by the companies did not mention any reason for the increase.

A Nestle Pakistan Limited official, while speaking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity attributed the price hike to rising input costs, high transportation charges on account of diesel rates and packaging rates.

He said the animal feed costs had also gone up because of rising soybean prices. The share of animal feed in milk production cost is 65 per cent.

Overall net sales of the Nestle Pakistan dropped to Rs116 billion in 2019 from Rs120bn in 2018 while it was Rs125bn in 2017, he added.

Highlighting the reasons of sales drop, Nestle in a statement said that challenges in the economic and business environment had impacted purchasing power of people, while during the year, imposition of sales on milk powders and federal excise duty on beverages also necessitated adjustment in prices.

Due to deteriorating purchasing power of consumers and competitive pressures, the company did not fully pass on the above increases which negatively impacted the margins and net profit for the year.

Two-wheelers: Barring CD-70cc, Atlas Honda Limited (AHL) on Wednesday increased price of two-wheelers by Rs1,000-5,000 effective from Mar 1.

The prices of CD-Dream, Pridor, CG-125, CG-125 Self, CG-125 Special Edition, CG-125F, CG-125 Special Edition and CB150F have now been increased to Rs80,500, Rs105,500, Rs126,500, Rs149,900, Rs151,900, Rs175,500, Rs177,500 and Rs219,500 respectively.

The price of CD-70 has been kept unchanged at Rs 75,500, a dealer told Dawn while adding that the company did not give any reason for the price hike.

The price hike comes despite an increase in overall bike sales during July-January FY20. Sales of Honda bikes during the period fell to 610,189 units from 638,903 units in the corresponding period last year.

Surprisingly, there has been no negative impact of exchange rate as rupee gained strength in the last seven months. In last week of June, one dollar was available at Rs164 as compared to Rs154-155 now.

Bike manufacturers have raised prices multiple times despite achieving over 94 per cent localisation.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 27, 2020

European wheat futures fell on Tuesday to a seven-week low as fears about the spread of coronavirus outside China hung over the market after also sparking heavy losses on Monday.

Benchmark May milling wheat on the Paris-based Euronext was down 1.25 euros, or 0.6%, at 188.25 euros ($204.60) a tonne at 1657 GMT.

The contract earlier slipped to 187.75 euros, its lowest since January 6, but found chart support around that level. Short-covering in front-month March futures in the run-up to their expiry next month also created selling pressure on the May contract, dealers said.

“We’re following the trend in wider markets with the virus,” one futures dealer said. “It’s not necessarily justified in wheat but people are anticipating an overall impact on trade.”

May futures on Euronext had ended nearly 2% lower on Monday after hitting a three-week low during the session, as new outbreaks of the coronavirus in several countries stoked fears of a global pandemic.

The sharp fall in the Russian rouble against the dollar would make rival Russian wheat cheaper in export markets when competing with EU supplies and was also a depressing factor, traders said.

In Germany, cash premiums in Hamburg remained supported by hopes of more export sales coupled with a busy programme of ships loading wheat in German ports.

Traditional German wheat customer Saudi Arabia bought 715,000 tonnes of wheat in a tender on Monday.

“There are hopes up to half of the latest Saudi deal will be sourced in Germany provided Russian wheat is not used,” one German trader said. “The 12.5% protein wheat mainly bought by Saudi Arabia is in tight supply in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia after their large export shipments recently, so Germany and Poland will be favourites to supply.”

Standard bread wheat with 12% protein for April delivery in Hamburg was offered for sale unchanged at 5.0 euros over the Paris May contract. Buyers were offering up to 4.0 euros over Paris.

Traders reported a lack of selling interest after the overnight fall in Paris prices, while a steady stream of supplies were being called up to load ships in German ports.

Copyright Reuters, 2020



RECORDER REPORT February 27, 2020

KARACHI: Subdued business was witnessed on the cotton market on Wednesday as ginners showed no interest in fresh selling, dealers said.

The official spot rate maintained week-end level at Rs9000, they added. In the ready session, only one deal of 400 bales of cotton finalised at Rs8350, they said.

Rate of seed cotton per 40kg in Sindh low quality was at Rs2800, while the best quality was unchanged at Rs4100, and in the Punjab prices of low quality were at Rs2800 while the fine type was available at Rs4600, they said.

In Sindh, Binola prices per maund were at Rs1400-1800, in Punjab rates were at Rs1650-1800, they said and the rate of polyester fibre was at Rs173 per kg, they added.

Market sources said that most of mills and spinners failed to make any deal as ginners were not ready to oblige them, the ginners have limited stock of unsold cotton, so they preferred to be on the sideline in expectations of rise in profit.

Cotton analyst, Naseem Usman said that partial sowing started in lower Sindh, but the growers were facing difficulties due to unavailability of cotton seed.

Adds Reuters: Cotton futures extended losses on Tuesday, after touching a more than two-month low in the previous session, as a sharp rise in the new coronavirus cases outside China sparked worries of a global economic slowdown.

Cotton contracts for May fell 0.78 cent, or 1.2%, to 66.78 cents per lb as of 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT). It traded within a range of 66.52 and 67.75 cents a lb. Cotton fell 2.1% on Monday, in biggest one-day percentage decline since Jan 21, on the virus woes.

Total futures market volume fell by 51,226 to 25,529 lots. Data showed total open interest fell 1,805 to 196,787 contracts in the previous session.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: February 27, 2020

LAKKI MARWAT: A couple of weeks after the government had declared an emergency over the locust attack in nine southern districts of the province, standing crops in the Lakki Marwat district faced another attack from swarms of the pests on Wednesday.

Locals claimed that the fresh attack could potentially cause tremendous damage to crops, claiming that the district administration had failed to heed their warnings.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2020.



By ​ Our Correspondent Published: February 27, 2020

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a 4-year US $8.2 million cooperative agreement with the Balochistan Department of Livestock & Dairy Development.

Department Secretary Dostain Khan Jamaldini and USAID representative Dr Fahim Abbasi  signed the agreement. Balochistan Minister for Livestock and Dairy Development Mitha Khan Kakar, Inayatullah Kakar, Dr Shahid Amin and others were also present on the occasion.

The project, named Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activities (PATTA), aims to increase the productive capacity of animals through the use of modern technology which would enable cattle owners to gain financial stability and improve their quality of life. To achieve this, small owners would be provided convenient access to markets as well as training to enhance their capability, management and technical skills.

In addition, contacts of cattle owners will also be established with equipment manufacturing companies so that the owners are able to purchase the latest equipment and use it themselves to enhance the sector. On the occasion, Jamaldini, welcomed the agreement and said that it  would provide direct economic benefits to the cattle  owners of Balochistan and would also help develop the sector.

Meanwhile, Kakar thanked USAID and said that the project would encourage small owners. He also said the project would not only make small cattle owners prosperous, it would also provide stability to Balochistan’s economy.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2020.



A Correspondent February 28, 2020

TIMERGARA: Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said on Thursday that government would overcome the problem of price hike and inflation soon as national economy was improving.

He was addressing a public gathering in Chakdara after inaugurating work on a bypass road project along with lawmakers from Lower Dir. The workers of ruling PTI from different parts of the district and local elders attended the function. The chief minister directed officials to work hard and honestly as per vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He said that government employees were service providers and they should either improve their performance or leave the province.

He announced to upgrade the tehsil headquarters hospital Chakdara to Category B hospital. He also announced to hand over the Gulabad-Sar Bala-Asbanr road to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Highways Authority for its better maintenance.

The chief minister said that feasibility of Chakdara-Chitral expressway was prepared and he would invite the prime minister to inaugurate work on the project. He said that Chakdara would be included in the beautification programme while scenic spots in Lower Dir would also be included in the tourism development programme.

Taking credit for regularising the services of 9,200 special police officers in the province, Mr Khan said that he fulfilled one of his pledges. He said that after the merger of former tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he was the first chief minister to govern such a big province. He also announced Rs50 million for construction of walking track along the Swat River, jeep-able track at Dir scenic spot and staff for dialysis centre in Chakdara hospital.

Mr Khan said that government released Rs500 million for construction of Sanam Dam in Asbanr area of Adenzai. The total cost of the project is Rs1.45 billion.

He said that government would establish at least one university in each district. “Till this July, almost all the population in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will have Sehat Sahulat Card,” said the chief minister.

He said that an industrial zone would be set up near Koto hydropower station in Lower Dir. He criticised Jamaat-i-Islami and said that the party kept Dir in the dark. He said he would soon visit Jandol area to announce mega projects.

On the occasion, the Afghan traders in the area kept their businesses closed on the directives of local administration.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated February 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Natio­nal Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research on Thursday expressed its complete dissatisfaction over the government policies relating to the agriculture sector.

The committee, led by its chairman Rao Ajmal Khan, further asked the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) to come up with proposals for the revival of agriculture sector in the country.

The committee observed that the country’s agriculture remained the most neglected sector during the last few decades resulting in the deterioration of farmers’ conditions with the passage of time.

During deliberations, it was observed that the agriculture sector was the only source which could bring prosperity in the country by generating maximum revenue.

The committee directed MNFSR to take stringent measures to bring benefits of their policies at grass root level by developing proper liaison between the ministries and departments working on parallel grounds.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter February 28, 2020

KARACHI: In order to provide technical assistance and equipment to fight locusts in the country, China is there to help Pakistan get rid of the locust swarms that pose a serious threat to agriculture.

At a press conference at a hotel, Chinese experts along with Consul General Li Bijan spoke about the situation created by the swarms of locusts in various regions of Pakistan.

They said 30 million hectares of land was affected by locusts in Pakistan of which 900,000 hectares were surveyed.

The Chinese team had returned to Karachi after visiting Thar, one of the most affected regions.

The Chinese experts met the relevant government officials and spoke about the issue in detail to get updated about the current situation in Sindh.

The team was scheduled to leave for Balochistan and Punjab later.

The Chinese experts advised the government to strengthen its surveys further, saying that locust swarms could severely damage crops that could result in food scarcity in the country.

Wang Fengle, who headed the delegation, spoke about their visit to Thar to gauge the gravity of the situation.

He said the visit was carried out to plan for an emergency response to control deadly swarms with sustainable mechanism.

The reporters were informed that the Chinese government would provide 50 vehicles that would spray 16,000 hectares per day, 50 units of drones would be provided that would spray and monitor 1,333 hectares per hour while aircraft would also be provided as the overall package was finalised.

They said a vast area of the country was yet to be surveyed; thus, they could be able to provide total value of the package after the whole country was surveyed.

Mr Fengle said his team would work with the federal government’s plant protection department and other experts to control locusts as well as take steps to prevent its recurrence.

The Chinese experts said locust was sensitive to temperature and rainfall; and it could affect wheat and maize crops and eat up leaves of citrus fruits.

Li Bijan said the Chinese government had sent the team of its experts to fight the crisis on the request of the government of Pakistan.

He said at the time when China was fighting an epidemic, Pak­istan was fighting with a crisis.

Replying to a question vis-à-vis coronavirus, the Chinese diplomat said coronavirus was a threat to the whole world and China was fighting against it with all its energies.

He said the virus was curable and controllable and scientists in China were working hard to prepare a vaccine for it.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020



Hanif Samoon February 28, 2020

MITHI: The head of the committee formed by Supreme Court for monitoring government measures to provide relief to calamity prone Thar residents on Thursday ordered officials of food department to buy wheat as per demand of the area to pre-empt a repeat of current flour crisis in coming months.

The committee chairman Riaz Ahmed Siddiqui, provincial secretary for implementation and coordination services and general administration, said during his meetings with heads of different departments at deputy commissioner’s office that the public health engineering department officials must put all reverse osmosis plants into operation ahead of harsh summer season in the desert district.

He called for a clear policy to run RO plants in a smooth manner so that the area people continued to get water without any hindrance. The officials should write to their high-ups asking them to clear dues of the private firm which was hired by the government to install, run and maintain the costly plants. The firm shut down the plants after its contract expired in October last year.

He urged the government to either renew the contract with the same firm or employ some other company at the earliest so that people were not deprived of clean drinking water.

Mr Siddiqui directed officials of irrigation department to complete work on under-construction small dams for rainwater in Parkar region before the onset of monsoon season. It was the need of the hour to promote bio-saline agriculture in the district and officials concerned should guide farmers in this regard, he said.

He asked officials of forest department to launch tree-plantation drive, especially in the 10 designated areas and take more effective measures to protect existing trees in Thar. No excuse would be accepted for laxity in fight against climate change, he warned.

He directed Tharparkar district health officer Dr Irshad Memon to provide more facilities in Mithi Civil Hospital and other health units at the earliest to avoid deaths of infants and pregnant women.

He asked the official to write a letter to secretary of health for purchasing medicines and vaccines required for the two rehabilitation centres he was running for the malnourished newborns in order that the issue was resolved by the next meeting of the committee.

He said that there was still great need to create awareness among Tharis about birth control and other methods of family planning so that the unhealthy trends like child marriage could be discouraged. “Lady health workers can play a great role in creating awareness among area people about birth control and birth spacing,” he said.

He directed the DHO to have his report that claimed a significant drop in deaths of infants verified by other sources. Dr Memon had claimed that newborns’ mortality rate had gone down over the past few months as compared to figures of the past.

He said that National Institute of Health, Islamabad, must be approached for required vaccines before possible outbreak of viral infections in Thar. The officials of Thar Foundation should hold a meeting with the DC and make an effective mechanism for coping with any emergency in the district, he said.

Mr Siddiqui expressed deep concern over report of education officers that there were still 426 schools lying closed across the district and warned them to reopen all such schools without further delay.

Mirpurkhas Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shaikh, who is also a member of the committee, said that he was in constant touch with Thar DC and other officials to do more to help end multiple crises in the vulnerable district.

He said that they were especially focusing on issues of healthcare, education and provision of safe drinking water to Tharis in the light of the mandate given to them by the apex court last year.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020a



By TAHIR AMIN on February 28, 2020

The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on Thursday recommended imposing ban on cotton import in order to protect and safeguard the interest of the local farmers. The committee met with Muhammad Ajmal Khan in the chair here on Thursday where cotton import and production were reviewed.

The committee asked for taking special measures to encourage the local farmers to bring more areas under cotton cultivation that would help in saving the precious foreign exchange reserves of the country that consumed on the import.

The meeting also asked for finalizing all the modalities to announce minimum support price for cotton crop by March 15th, which would encourage the local farmers to grow crop on more areas. The committee expressed its deep concerns over the declining cotton production in country that had reached 8.5 million bales and asked for taking all possible measures to enhance the output of the crop.

“Cotton import summary was submitted to the ECC and the MNFSR had opposed it, however now, the cotton has been allowed without any time frame,” said Secretary Dr Hashim Popalzai, adding that there was still cotton available with farmers as they were facing some problems in its sale.

He further told the meeting that last year, the government had fixed the time frame for the import of cotton but this year it had not given any time limit for the import of crop that would affect the local farmers. He said that the farmers from south Punjab was facing problems in selling their produce, adding that cotton was still available with farmers but it was not purchased by them due to different reasons.

However, he told that a meeting was held under the chairmanship of prime minister, which had suggested several measures to promote cotton on large scale. He said that a committee was also constituted for announcing support price for cotton crop for coming season, besides import of PB Robs to control the attack of pink ball worm and seed sector reforms.

The committee chairman astonished that how cotton import was allowed despite the opposition of the MNFSR. He said that due to some people’s policies inflation is rising. How is it possible that cotton import was allowed without any timeframe?

He further stated some irrelevant policies regarding agriculture are hurting the sector and voice would be raised in the assembly in this regard. Secretary Food told the committee that the government had banned the import of apples, New Zealanders are asking to open apple imports, but the production of our own apples is enough.

The committee pointed out that Pakistan’s agriculture remained the most neglected sector during the last few decades consequently the condition of growers deteriorated with the passage of time. The committee deemed that the agriculture sector was the only source, which could bring prosperity in the country by generating maximum revenue.

The committee directed that M/o National Food Security and Research may take stringent measures to bring benefits of their policies at grassroots level by developing proper liaison between the ministries/departments working on parallel grounds.

The committee directed that Ministry of National Food Security and Research may come up with the proposals for the revival of agriculture sector so that the committee could take them at appropriate forum for their amicable solution. The Secretary National Food Security and Research apprised the committee about the measures adopted by them to facilitate the farmers and problems faced by them in this regard.

The committee accorded the approval for proposed Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2020-2021 worth Rs23.32 billion of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research for 14 new and 28 ongoing development projects.

Officials at the Ministry of Food Security say olive cultivation is under consideration for commercial infrastructure in Pakistan at a cost of Rs53 million next fiscal. The committee also expressed its displeasure on consecutive absence of minister for National Food Security and Research in the meeting of the committee.

The committee noted with grave concerns that it was the third meeting of the committee after assuming the charge by Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar as minister and which was not attended by him. The committee unanimously proposed to write speaker National Assembly regarding the continuous absence of the concerned minister in the meeting, besides urging the speaker to direct him to ensure his presence in the meetings for appropriate policy and legislation regarding agriculture sector development in the country.

The meeting was attended by Shaukat Ali, MNA, Rai Muhammad Murtaza Iqbal, MNA, Zahoor Hussain Qureshi, MNA, Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, MNA, Chaudhary Muhammad Ashraf, MNA, Chaudhry Faqir Ahmed, MNA, Shahnaz Saleem Malik, MNA, Syed Javed Ali Shah Jilani, MNA, Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Sherazi, MNA, Kamaluddin, MNA and officials of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and its attached departments.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 28, 2020

Secretary General (Federal) of Businessmen Panel (BMP), Ahmad Jawad has said Pakistan horticulture export policy is vital for boosting nontraditional exports. “In the last few years unfortunately we don’t have viable policy from the economic managers of the country,” he added.

He said, “Pakistan is blessed with exotic taste of fruits and vegetables and the kind of value we have in our fruits its second to none compared to other parts of the country and yet this sector was only contributed around $600 million dollars only, which is even below its potential. Our priority must be to increase this figure up to two billion dollars annually.”

Jawad said the world horticulture exports trade exceeds from 180 billion dollars and our regional competitors like China and India are one of the key players in this industry through value addition but in our last 70 years the concerned ministries didn’t work on it aggressively, the more down fall started when we devolve agriculture and its allied sectors to provinces through 18th Amendment.

He said yet country mangoes, apple, potato exports are in meager volumes which needs to be increased, including the precious fruits from Gilgit Baltistan (GB) are not even dully utilize for exports due to lack of infrastructure. Though JICA, USAID, European Union provided some grants for export infrastructure of these products but lack of assistance from the government time to time was one the basic hurdle.

Jawad said that our exports were stagnant from the last ten years due to our only reliance on the textile exports because of the heavy lobbying by the textile millers before the government.

The sooner textile industry was in hot waters, the country doesn’t have alternative plan for the continuity of the exports and in result even in the year of 2020 to cross $25 billion benchmark look like a magical figure for us despite massive devaluation of the rupee.

In past if we focused on horticulture exports and other potential sectors today we are in comfortable position, he remarked.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 28, 2020

Farmers are using pesticides worth Rs67 billion per annum in the country out of which 88.3 percent is used in Punjab, 8.2 percent in Sindh while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are using 2.8 percent of the total pesticides.

This was disclosed at the ‘Punjab Pesticides Conference 2020′ organized by the Punjab Agriculture Department (PAD) here on Thursday. Punjab Minister for Agriculture Malik Nauman Ahmad Langrial chaired the conference and hoped that this conference would help discussing the standards of pesticides, regulatory affairs and other issues being faced by the industry.

He further hoped that the conference would bring the public and private sector on one page to look for the remedies to challenges being faced by the farmers.

The Minister said that 176 pesticide inspectors are performing the duties to check the quality of pesticides being used in the province. However, he said that farmers’ complaints about fake or substandard pesticides still persists. He said the present government soon after coming in to power launched a crackdown against adulterated and fake pesticides.

He said that till to date agricultural task force had confiscated adulterated pesticides and fertilizers worth Rs150 million and got cases registered against the culprits. He disclosed that first time in the history government had launched a ‘complaint management system’ where people can lodge their complaints through SMS/WhatsApp.

Langrial assured that action would be launched against elements involved in heinous business of selling fake pesticides or fertilizers within 24 hours of lodging a complaint.

Secretary Agriculture Punjab Wasif Khursheed said that pesticides do help in lowering the production losses but its usage has also created many issues such as environmental pollution, emergence of resistance in the pests, residue of pesticides in crops, decrease of friendly pesticides, emergence of new pests and diseases.

He said that guidance and training of farmers is the responsibility of the department and the pesticides industry.

Additional Secretary Task Force Agriculture Rana Ali Arshad, DG Agriculture (Extension) Dr Anjum Ali Buttar, Chief Media Adviser Shahid Qadir and a large number of stakeholders attended the meeting.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



February 28, 2020

NEW YORK: Cotton futures slumped more than 4 percent on Thursday to their lowest level in over four months as fears about the economic impact of the spreading coronavirus dented risk sentiment among investors.

Cotton contracts for May settled down 2.97 cent, or 4.5%, at 62.5 cents per lb. It traded within a range of 62.47 and 65.47 cents a lb.

It slipped to 62.47 cents per lb earlier in the session, the level last seen on Oct. 11.

Investors are ignoring the good fundamentals for cotton and are trading on the panic of the coronavirus, said Keith Brown, principal at cotton brokers Keith Brown and Co in Moultrie, Georgia.

The export sales were positive, especially with China being one of the major buyers this time, Brown said.

Global financial markets extended their sell off as new infections reported around the world surpassed those in mainland China.

“The spread of the Wuhan (COVID-19) virus continues to plague our (cotton) market, as well as most other,” said Louis Rose, director of research and analytics at Tennessee-based Rose Commodity Group in a note.

“We remain skeptical of the aggregate appetite of specs to sell this market outright.”

Meanwhile, the United States Department of Agriculture reported net sales of 214,600 running bales (RB) for 2019/2020, which included 39,600 RB sales to China.

Total futures market volume rose by 25,279 to 64,946 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 817 to 195,727 contracts in the previous session.—Reuters



By RECORDER REPORT on February 29, 2020

Climate change is driving fisheries into Arctic and Antarctic Oceans – snow covered North and South Poles, as marine species are feared to deplete in warm water seas of the world, experts on Friday warned.

Giving a presentation at a fisheries seminar, titled “Emerging Investment Opportunities & Sustainable Way Forward”, which the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan (EFP) organized at a local hotel, Muhammad Junaid Hanif, an industry research analyst, warned that commercial fisheries were in danger in Pakistan due to the over trawling of juvenile fisheries and pollution.

Unfolding the challenges that the country’s fisheries sector is faced with, he said that there was a cold storage issue, fast depletion of the local species, falling down of resources since juvenile has become a priority catch for fishermen. Over-fishing and excessive boat fleet, he said, was responsible for the low fisheries sector growth, adding that the industrial waste also threatened mangroves existence.

He pointed out that there was no low-cost farming available in the country, which was the reason for struggling fisheries sector. He said that the climate change had forced the fish species to make exodus to the frozen Arctic and Antarctic Oceans from warm seas, which would further scale back the marine species stocks.

At the panel discussion, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, former Director General, Marine Fisheries Department, Faisal Iftikhar Ali, former Chief Executive Officer of Fisheries Development Board, Commodore (retd) Syed Obaidullah, Maritime Analyst, Dr Shahid Amjad, Head of Environment & Energy Department at the Institute of Business Management, and Mehboob-ul-Haq, Managing Director, Sindh Enterprise Development Fund, expressed their views on fisheries sector’s underdevelopment and future growth prospects.

Syed Asim Rashid, President and Chief Executive Officer of the CreativeSwan, served as moderator of panel deliberations.

At the panel discussion, Moazzam Khan said that the country’s fisheries sector needed only a fleet of 4,000 boats, whereas 16,000 vessels operate regularly to exploit the seas.

He said that the post-harvest loss stood at 80 percent, of which a majority of seafood still remained unfit for human consumption.

“Fish becomes unfit for human consumption soon after its catch within a 10 minutes span,” he said, adding that the seafood processing plants operated only up to 15 percent of capacity because the raw material was insufficient to cater to their needs at the local market.

He observed that freshwater fish farming was increasing in the country.

Faisal Iftikhar said that the industry felt the existing data available on fisheries sector was “untrue”, saying that HS code for tilapia fish was mentioned wrongly, which was declared for other products in Customs declarations. Squid and cuttlefish were excluded from the export list, he said, adding that the FTA would not have a significant effect on fisheries sector’s export to China. He feared that the high-value seafood products were facing depletion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 29, 2020

Cautious buying by mills and spinners was seen on the cotton market on Friday as most of the ginners were not ready to make any deal in a big way, dealers said.

The official spot rate maintained week-end level at Rs 9000, they added. In the ready session, 400 bales of cotton finalised between Rs 8950-9300, dealers said.

Rate of seed cotton per 40kg in Sindh low quality was at Rs 2800, while the best quality was unchanged at Rs 4100, and in the Punjab prices of low quality were at Rs 2800 while the fine type was available at Rs 4600, they said.

In Sindh, Binola prices per maund were at Rs 1400-1800, in Punjab rates were at Rs 1650-1800, they said and adding that rate of polyester fibre was trading at Rs 173 per kg, they said.

Market sources said that some needy mills and spinners are under pressure due to non-availability of fine quality cotton at the present levels.

The ginners, who have limited stock of cotton, are not keen to dispose off their stock in anticipation of better profit in the near future, they added.

Cotton analyst, Naseem Usman said that the government’s recent corrective measures likely to bring fruitful result in the coming days.

According to the reports, the government has agreed to withdraw notification of surcharge and taxes on export-oriented industry from Jan 2019 to June 2020. Now, the government will charge on 7.5 cents per unit tariff to export-oriented industry.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the textile sector to prepare a comprehensive report related to difficulties in the way of achieving goals within time. At the same time, the farmers and growers were hoping for Cotton Support Price very soon, other experts said.

Adds Reuters: Cotton futures slumped more than 4% on Thursday to their lowest level in over four months as fears about the economic impact of the spreading coronavirus dented risk sentiment among investors.

Cotton contracts for May settled down 2.97 cent, or 4.5%, at 62.5 cents per lb. It traded within a range of 62.47 and 65.47 cents a lb.

Total futures market volume rose by 25,279 to 64,946 lots. Data showed total open interest gained 817 to 195,727 contracts in the previous session.

The following deals were reported: 200 bales of cotton from Fort Abbas at Rs 8950 and same figure from Mian Chunnu at Rs 9300 (stock), they said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



By Daud Khan / Leila Yasmine Khan Published: February 29, 2020

Leila Yasmine Khan is an independent writer and editor based in the Netherlands. She has Masters’ degrees in Philosophy and in Argumentation and Rhetoric from the University of Amsterdam

In our February 9 article in The Express Tribune, we pointed out that the domestic wheat and atta prices are artificially high due to the government’s procurement/price-support system and the restrictions on imports. The high prices affect urban consumers, as well as the large proportion of the rural poor who are net buyers of food. We had suggested liberalising wheat imports as a means of reducing food prices — something that is, quite rightly, a top priority for the government. This would naturally also mean a reduction of wheat prices for the producer. This may cause problems to some farmers in the short term. However, we feel strongly that an artificially high price of wheat has not helped. In fact, it has hindered the move towards high value products such as oilseeds, fodder, fruits and vegetables, which are far more efficient users of land and water, and for which, demand, domestically and regionally, is growing fast.

Liberalising imports will have to go hand in hand with a reform of the procurement system, which in its present form costs around Rs35 billion. Such reform would include lower procurement prices more in line with prices in world markets. It would also include lower procurement targets. For example, the government may wish to limit procurement to meet food requirements of the forces and other government agencies, and build up a strategic stock of one to two million tons for emergency operations.

Many readers appreciated the thrust of the arguments but raised a number of questions. We are grateful to them and would like to try and address three important ones.

Firstly, should we be self-sufficient in wheat? The statement that “wheat is our staple crop and we must be self-sufficient” certainly has strong emotional appeal. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. No one eats grains of wheat. The wheat has to be harvested, threshed, transported, ground into atta and then cooked. All of this needs energy, machinery, and infrastructure. Many of these are imported or need imported inputs. We personally see no reason why the country should be self-sufficient in raw wheat but not in all the things that are needed to bring it to our table. In addition, we currently import other food items that are as essential as wheat in our diets — these include edible oils and oilseeds, pulses, animal products, fruits and vegetable — the largest being edible oils (Rs250 billion). Reducing the area under wheat would allow us to produce more oilseeds, fodder, pulses and horticulture products which have a far greater economic return to the limited water we have, particularly in the winter (rabi) season.

Secondly, can we make the transition from wheat to high-value crops? It could be argued that given the current state of the public-sector support services for agriculture it would be difficult to make this transition. It is true that apart from some exceptions, government services related to agriculture are poorly funded, very inefficient and badly organised. Moreover, what support services are available tend to focus on the “Big Four” (wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane) with relatively little being done for other products such as livestock, horticulture, oilseeds and pulses. But are such public-sector services essential for change to happen? Can we make changes in the absence of such services?

Structural transitions are mostly driven by the private sector responding to prices, technology and market opportunities. The availability of government services can help, but is not essential. Crops such as maize, potatoes and tomatoes spread around the world without the help of a single extension agent! In Pakistan, an excellent example is that of the poultry industry which has grown without any help and assistance from the government. What the government can and should do is stop interfering in the market and let prices reflect basic economic facts — and in the case of wheat, this means not propping up domestic prices and restricting imports.

There are also a number of other ways that the government can help this transition. One way would be to pursue trade deals with wheat surplus countries such as Romania, Ukraine or even Kazakhstan.

Thirdly, can we afford the foreign exchange to import wheat? Reducing domestic prices and increasing imports does not mean a complete stop in the production of wheat. More than half the wheat produced in Pakistan (say 12-15 million tons) is produced by small to medium farmers for self-consumption, either in the rural areas or for family members in cities and town. This wheat is not marketed and prices have no impact on the production. In other areas, land, labour, climate, and above all farm size may make it efficient to grow wheat. Our rough estimate suggests that even with prices 20% lower than current ones, wheat production would be around 22-23 million tons (studies show own-price supply elasticities of around 0.3) and import needed would be about two to three million tons. At an international price of $200 per ton, this would cost Pakistan about Rs60-95 billion. This could be more than compensated for if we can move land and other productive resources towards import substitution (oilseeds, pulses and fodder) or export promotion (fruits, vegetables and livestock).

Similar arguments also apply to the sugar sector. We are a short scare country but produce sugarcane, which has a very high water requirement, at prices above international levels. In many areas, sugar is replacing cotton. Liberalising imports of sugar would help lower prices and promote a shift back to cotton which Pakistan is now importing to keep its textile industry going.

Making structural shifts in the economy is not easy and will take strong political will. However, it is imperative that such changes are made. The recent spikes in atta and sugar prices make it a very opportune time to do this.

Go for it, Mr Kaptaan! Turn this crisis into an opportunity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2020.



By RECORDER REPORT on March 1, 2020

The poultry industry has urged the government to take serious measures for reduction in production cost as the sector is facing massive losses mainly due to unprecedented hike in input cost.

These views were expressed by the Pakistan Poultry Association vice chairman Ch. Muhammad Fargham while addressing a press conference here at Lahore Press Club on Saturday.

He said that farmers have lost heavily during last two years while most of the farmers have lost their entire working capital and are at the verge of bankruptcy and if any relief package is not given to the farmers at this stage it will result in to the closure of 40 to 50 percent of the farms.

Muhammad Fargham said that the cost of poultry feed has gone upward, reaching the highest level of last 10 years owing to huge depreciation of Rupee against dollar, record high markup rate and continued hike in power and gas tariffs. He said that the outgoing year has proved to be the worst year for poultry industry.

“During last 2 years there has been a gradual increase in the input cost of poultry production whereas, a steep increase has been observed during last two years. This recent escalation in input cost has rendered this business unprofitable for the last one year,” he added.

The vice chairman PPA said that the industry is passing through a period of heavy financial losses and need an urgent attention to take notice of prevailing situation.

Muhammad Fargham said, “Being a perishable commodity, farmer is not able to transfer this hike in price to the consumer as the prices are determined by supply demand basis. This high cost of production is also the main detriment in export of poultry products, which makes Pakistan Poultry non competitive in export market.”

Replying to a question regarding present trend of poultry rates, he said that poultry rates have not been increased as other kitchen items registered hike in prices during the last 30 years. Poultry products have been resisting inflationary trend, as they never go up as other products register hike in their rates due to high inflation.

Copyright Independent News Pakistan, 2020




LAHORE. Pakistan Poultry Association vice-chairman (North Zone) Muhammad Fargham has said that the country’s poultry sector is being hit severely by various issues and as a result, nearly half of the industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

“During the last two years there has been a gradual increase in the input cost of poultry production,” said Fargham, during a press conference on Saturday.

He further stated that this recent escalation in input cost has rendered this business unprofitable for the last one year.

It has been observed as the industry is passing through a period of heavy financial losses and needs urgent attention to take notice of the prevailing situation. Being a perishable commodity, farmers are not able to transfer this hike in price to the consumer as the prices are determined by supply-demand basis. This high cost of production is also the main detriment in the export of poultry products.

“Farmers have lost heavily during the last two years Most of the farmers have lost their entire working capital and are at the verge of bankruptcy and if any relief package is not given to the farmers at this stage it will result into the closure of 50% of farms.




Tariq Saeed February 17, 2020

TOBA TEK SINGH: Kinnow growers in the district are enjoying the sweet harvest in monetary terms as the per acre yield of the fruit is much better this year than it was in the last two years.

During the last two years, the kinnow farmers and traders faced financial losses because of the fact that the per acre yield remained low and they could not sell it at a profitable price. And the reason, according to orchard owners and kinnow traders, was that the government did not take interest in exporting it to the countries where Pakistan’s kinnow was in demand.

The traders had been forced to sell it at throwaway prices by picking it early and even without packing. The rate somewhat increased in the last days of the produce last year because of what traders said, shortage of the product in the market.

This year the kinnow orchard owners and traders are not only packing it in wooden crates but also having it graded after washing and polishing from the factories. Many factories have been sent up here during the last one decade to enhance the value of the fruit and add to its shelf-life, making it attractive for the customers.

Rana Muhammad Shahid (a resident of Chak 391 JB, Kanthan), whose family has six kinnow grading factories and gets contract from dozens of orchards every year, says fog, severe cold and untimely closure of canals for more than one and-a-half months affected the orchards but still the production remained much better than it was in the last two years.

He says both farmers and traders have earned a decent profit and they are now sending their produce to Karachi, Quetta and Hyderabad. The fruit juice factories, he says, have also started their purchases under the impression that orchards will be emptied much earlier than expected due to high prices.

A kinnow trader, Muhammad Naeem, says trucks are available at higher fares of Rs35,000 for Quetta and Rs40,000 for Karachi (due to diesel cost) to supply the fruit to the markets. Besides, he says, export to Malaysia and Arab countries is in progress and a crate containing 60 to 80 kinnow of B grade is sold at Rs700 or more while 50-kinnow crate of A grade is sold at Rs800 or more at Karachi and Quetta markets — almost double the prices than these were last year.

Agriculture department’s Deputy Director Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad Mahmood said Toba Tek Singh district was next to Sargodha in kinnow production and the taste of local fruit was unique.

He said severe cold had sweetened the taste of the kinnow and farmers were getting good profit due to its high price.

He said the district had kinnow orchards spread over more than 50,000 acres and the news of good profit had given confidence to farmers who had contacted his department for consultation regarding plantation of the fruit.

RAID: Gojra revenue tehsildar Hafiz Iqbal Mahmood Kathia on Sunday raided a grocery shop godown in the grain market and recovered 300 bags of sugar (50kg each) allegedly hoarded for selling on high rates.

Officials told the media that the Special Branch police reported to the assistant commissioner about hoarding. A team conducted the raid and sealed the godown whose owner managed to escape.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020



A Correspondent February 17, 2020

LAKKI MARWAT: Locusts entered the district on Sunday prompting the local administration and the line departments to rush to the infested areas to control the situation.

Local people and a surveillance team of agriculture department noticed the presence of pests and brought the matter into the notice of the authorities concerned. Afterwards, teams were sent to the area near Darra Pezu town.

“The locust movement was seen in a rural area bordering DI Khan district on Saturday evening, said a local resident. He said the flying insects spent the night in the mountainous area near Pezu town.

“We reached the infested area early morning and conducted spray,” said Latif Khan, an official of agriculture department. He said locusts had entered the district from Tank side, but a large number of them had been eliminated through continuous spray in the mountainous area.

“The insects did not cause any loss as the rural areas bordering DI Khan and Tank districts are mountainous and not agricultural,” he claimed, saying that the leftover pests flew onward to Dera Ismail Khan at noon.

He said that swarms of locusts were also seen flying over Darra Pezu town onward to DI Khan on Sunday evening.

Additional deputy commissioner Noorul Amin spent the day in the town and the border localities to supervise the pest control effort.

Officials of locusts’ management committee constituted by deputy commissioner Abdul Haseeb on the directives of the provincial government also visited the site.

“After discussing the situation with the administration officials the employees of agriculture department carried out spray and took other measures to eliminate the insects,” said Dr Mubarak, a livestock expert. He said locusts had been contained after successful operation.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated February 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As trade with India is under suspension for more than seven months, Pakistan is considering a one-time exemption for import of insecticides from India to fight ongoing locust attack on its agriculture.

This will be one of the key items on the agenda of the federal cabinet called to meet on Feb 18 to also deliberate on gas pricing and power bills to comply with requirements of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for disbursement of next tranche of $450 million.

The meeting to be presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday will have a comprehensive presentation for engagement of party parliamentarians in the Ehsaas programme by the special adviser to the PM on social protection and poverty alleviation.

Pakistan had downgraded its trade relations with India on August 10 to the level of Israel — no trade at all — in reaction to India’s decision to revoke Article 370 of its constitution that granted occupied Kashmir a special status.

The decision was taken by the federal cabinet following a proposal approved by the National Security Committee the same day.

The adviser to the prime minister on finance & revenue would also give a detailed presentation on regulatory duties and taxes on pulses in view of rising prices of essential food items.

The meeting will also take up a proposal of the Human Rights Division for creation of National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC).

The cabinet will also consider a summary of the inter-provincial coordination (IPC) division for establishment of a permanent secretariat of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in the ministry of the IPC as required under the 18th Constitution Amendment.

The meeting will also take up cases of overseas employment promoters’ licences, surrender, transfer and change of jurisdiction under section 12(2) & 12(4) of the Emigration Ordinance, 1979.

The cabinet would also consider appointment of a managing director/chief executive officer of the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) and give additional charge of the vacant post of chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

Another summary of the revenue division for proportionate adjustment of input tax by exploration and production companies operating as joint ventures would also come up for discussion at the cabinet meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent February 17, 2020

HYDERABAD: Sindh Minister for Agriculture Mohammad Ismail Rahu inaugurated a one-day ‘farmers market’ at Expo Centre here on Sunday and expressed the hope that people would get great relief from inflation and price hike by having an opportunity to buy vegetables, fruits and many other agricultural commodities directly from farmers at low prices.

Hyderabad Commissioner Mohammad Abbas Baloch, Deputy Commissioner Ayesha Abro, Agriculture Secretary Abdul Raheem Soomro and senior officials of the department, as well as a large number of farmers and traders attended the inauguration ceremony.

Speaking to the audience and later local reporters, Mr Rahu said it was for the first time that such an event had been held in any part of Sindh.

Appreciating the idea of holding such an event, the minister said it was beneficial for both farmers and consumers. He noted that farmers would get a reasonable price of their produce because the trading at the market had eliminated the role of middleman, who would otherwise claim their share in every small and big deal. Likewise, he added, buyers would also get commodities at a price much lower than what was being offered at regular markets.

Agriculture minister pleased to see people buying commodities directly from farmers at low prices

Dozens of stalls displaying vegetables, fruits, groceries and many other items of daily use were set up at the farmers market. A large number of people thronged the market in the morning and the brisk activity continued till the closing time.

Mr Rahu went round many stalls to check prices and expressed his satisfaction over the quality and rates offered to buyers. He observed that the prices offered by stall-holders were much lower than those offered at utility stores and regular markets. He expressed his pleasure over consumers’ satisfaction witnessed during the trading, and said the common man appeared happy because high inflation rate and price hike that prevailed across the country these days had devastated the low-income group.

He pointed out that people, especially salaried class, were already under immense financial burden due to an unprecedented increase in petroleum prices and gas and electricity tariffs.

In reply to a question, Mr Rahu said that development and administrative works for the New Sabzi Mandi in Hyderabad were continuing and would be completed soon. He hoped that the Mandi would be opened very soon.

The minister criticised the federal government led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) for failing to control prices of essential commodities and for increasing fuel prices and gas and electricity tariffs beyond the affordable limit of the masses. He said the federal government was pursuing flowed policies which had resulted in a serious economic crisis in the country.

He said the federal policies were causing great harm to the agriculture sector as it was badly affected by the hike in the POL prices as well as gas and electricity tariffs. Agricultural produce had resultantly shot up due to the increased tariffs, he argued, and said it was painful to him that the ultimate sufferers were members of the general public.

Ismail Rahu said it was obvious that agricultural produce depended on water and Sindh had acutely been deficient in water supplies over the past many years. Still, he said, an acute water shortage prevailed in the province but the provincial government somehow managed to help growers and ensure good wheat, rice, sugar cane and cotton crops.

Regarding locust invasion, the minister appreciated the measures announced by the federal government to help eliminate the swarms but noted that implementation of such measures was awaited. He said that the Sindh government was taking all possible steps in this regard.

Mr Rahi also expressed his shock and grief over the recent murder of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Shahnaz Ansari in Naushahro Feroze district, and said Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had taken serious notice of the incident and asked police to ensure arrest of her killers.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020



By RECORDER REPORT on February 17, 2020

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has sealed a factory producing fake carbonated drinks of different popular brands and discarded