The goal-oriented reforms introduced by the federal government in budget 2018-19 for the uplift of agriculture sector is being appreciated in KP and Fata and is being termed it a leap step forward to make the country’s self-sufficient in food sector.
Senior agriculture and economic experts besides farmers here Thursday highly lauded the Federal Government’s agriculture reforms in the budget and termed it a significant step forward towards bolstering of agriculture production, infant industries, enhancing capacity of agriculture institutes and agriculture research in the country.
They welcomed announcement of a number of incentives including agriculture credits, exemption of customs duty on harvesters, removal of GST on imported sunflower and canola seeds etc in budget 2018-19 and termed the budget pro farmers and peoples friendly.
Senior economist and agriculture expert, Professor Dr. Muhammad Naeem highly welcomed the government’s announcement for establishment of Agriculture Research Support Fund (ARSF) with an initial allocation of Rs5billion and termed it a need of the hour.
He said the fund would help provide financial grants for research and development of modern plant and seed varieties for achieving higher crop yields in the country.
The fund will be jointly managed by Finance Division and Ministry of National Food Security and Research, and beneficiaries would get first hand expertise’s from these key institutions vital for increasing agriculture production on modern and scientific lines in the country.
Commending another proposal of the Government regarding setting up of a separate Agriculture Technology Fund (ATF) with an initial allocation of Rs5billion in the budget, Dr Naeem said it was a landmark decision of the Federal Government that will help promote indigenization of agriculture technology.
The Finance Division and Ministry of National Food Security and Research would jointly manage ATF that will closely work with the partner organizations to promote indigenization of agriculture technology.
Dr Naeem said potential of agriculture sector was imperative for sustainable higher GDP growth, promote perfect competition among companies and services units and discourage monopoly in open market.
“Certainly, Pakistan has all the potential to achieve self-sufficiency in food by encouraging investment in agricultural technology, research and cropping patterns besides financially helping farmers and growers in issues related to climate change’ mitigation and labour tenure practices.”
He said a radical transition of agriculture sector can only be achieved by moving away from subsidy driven approach to a market driven dynamic policy regime.
“The business of subsidies should be left to provincial governments by focusing on building a conducive policy environment for promotion of research and development, productivity enhancement, market access, improvements in management, labour practices and effective use of technology,” he remarked.
Misal Khan, a progressive farmer of Nowshera district highly praised PMLN Government for presenting pro-farmers and people’s friendly budget in which maximum relief was provided to all segment of the society.
“PMLN Government has won the hearts and minds of people by presenting a record sixth budget in five years and maximum relief was provided to farmers, livestock owners, poorers, government employees, businessmen, exporters and pensioners etc,” he explained.
Sumbul Riaz, agriculture and economics expert highly commanded the announcement of the Government that there will be a reduced uniform GST rate of 2% on all fertilizers from July 1.
She said this will eliminate distortions in tax regime and further reduce fertilizer prices and promote use of balanced nutrients, thus ultimately benefiting farmers and growers.
Riaz said the government had reduced sales tax on fertilizer from a high of 17% to 4% on DAP, 5% on Urea and 9-11% on others and has proposed to reduce GST on agriculture machinery from the current 7 percent to 5 percent besides giving further concessions in the taxes and duties for the dairy and livestock sector.
She said producing of high quality and large quantities of cotton was imperative for economic growth and exports and without it the dreams of sustained economic progress was impossible.
In terms of climatic conditions, water and soil availability, she said Pakistan enjoy a natural advantage of being ranked 5th largest cotton producing country in the world, but was unfortunately comparatively in low position in terms of exports textile products because of an inappropriate attention to agriculture sector by the past regimes.
“We need to improve both quality and productivity of agriculture crops to achieve higher exports values,” she said, adding great responsibilities rest on provincial governments to formulate and enforce a policy to halt conversion of cotton growing area into sugarcane growing area.
Riaz said after 18th constitutional amendment, agriculture was now a devolved subject and provincial government was now responsible to devise such policies for maximum agriculture production and helping farmers to counter the ill effects of climate change, global warming and desertification.
“Plant Breeders Rights Act, which was delayed for over last 15 years, has been recently enacted by PMLN government and Plant Breeders Rights Registry that was established under this law, will help in producing higher yield varieties of cotton and other crops locally through availability of better quality seed.”
She said availability of water was of paramount importance for achieving maximum crops production of agricultural lands and to achieve this objective, the government was presently providing electricity for agriculture tube well at reduced rates and this scheme will help continue in all those areas where the Provincial Governments agree to share cost of subsidy on 50:50 basis. She said dreams of self-sufficiency in food sector cannot be materialized unless revamping of agriculture research organizations:
While commending Govt. endeavours, she said, the ministry of national food security and research is working on a plan for restructuring and revamping of research organizations to convert it into world class state of the art platforms for research and development.
These goal-oriented reforms would immensely help promote agriculture sector besides increasing per acres production and achieve self-sufficiency in food sector in order to cater demands of the ever-growing populations.
Agricultural reforms in budget 2018-19 leap step forward to achieve autarky in food: Experts