Bumper crops cotton and rice are likely to contribute $3 billion to $5 billion in Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves by cutting import and enhancing export, the Sindh Abadgar Board, a group lobbying for farmers’ rights, expressed this hope on Sunday at the board’s meeting in Hyderabad, chaired by its Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah.
The farmers said the country is set to witness an exponential leap in cotton production from 4.7 million bales in 2023 to almost 12 million bales in 2024.
Likewise, Pakistan will be exporting a larger quantum of rice in this fiscal compared to the previous year in which crops were destroyed by torrential rains and floods, the growers said.
The growers, however, lamented that the government is not reciprocating efforts of their community in supporting the economy as inflation, black marketing of the inputs and exploitation in the form of low prices continue unabatedly.
They said the hoarders are stockpiling pesticides, fertilisers and other inputs.
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Shah pointed out that urea, which is the largest utilised fertiliser in Pakistan, topped the list of the black marketed products. He recalled that until a year or so ago a bag of urea was being sold at Rs1,650. However, currently, not only the official price has spiraled up to Rs3,400 a bag, the hoarders are extorting farmers by seeking up to Rs4,200 price tag for a bag.
“By conservative estimates between Rs50 billion to Rs70 billion are being paid over and above the official prices by the growers,” he said. According to him, engineered shortage of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) has also been created to raise its price.
He said the SAB has time and again taken up these issues with the government but any meaningful steps to redress their grievances are yet to be taken.
Additionally, the farmers are also being made to suffer at the hands of the millers and the middlemen who continue to deny the rightful price for their produce. The government had fixed Rs8,500 per 40 kilograms price for cotton but the market is paying as low as Rs5,000 to the farmers.
Similarly, the price of rice has dropped from Rs4,200 per 40 kg to Rs2,800. The downward slide is expected to slump to Rs2,600 during the days ahead. “Adding to this misery is the illegal deduction by the cotton and rice millers,” Shah alleged.
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The farmers bewailed that they have suffered massive losses because of a diseases which affected onion crop but the government remained indifferent to their situation. They claimed that the authorities have still not even properly diagnosed the disease. The onion shortage will be met by the commodity’s import.
The SAB called for fixing Rs4,912 per 40 kg wheat procurement price for the next harvest season. The Sindh government in 2022 had doubled the wheat price from Rs2,000 to Rs4,000 per 40 kg to help the rain and flood stricken farmers to recover losses and to make profit.
The growers asked the government to seriously respond to their complaints and to take immediate measures against the black marketing and illegal deductions. They requested the authorities to reign in the middlemen who are not only exploiting the agriculturists but are also manipulating the retail prices of the commodities.
The SAB recommended to Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to organize exposure visits for export oriented farmers to the target countries. They said Pakistan may find great opportunities in horticultural exports.
The board’s office bearers and members including Dr Zulfiqar Yousfani, Amir Bux Mehar, Syed Nadeem Shah, Dr Bashir Nizamani, Aslam Marri, Imran Bozdar and others attended the meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th2023.