ISLAMABAD: The government has enhanced allocation for the development of agriculture sector by 1,200% and has earmarked Rs12.5 billion in the federal budget for fiscal year 2019-20 compared to just Rs1 billion in the previous budget, said Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the minister said provincial allocations would also be enhanced to Rs50 billion for fiscal year 2019-20.
“In addition to this, no new tax or duty is being imposed on any agricultural input in the budget for FY20 as the government is determined to provide maximum relief to farmers for the uplift of agriculture and development of national economy,” he said.
“All previous governments neglected the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of national economy and a major source of industrial raw material and employment.”
However, the minister emphasised, the current government gave priority to the agriculture sector and enhanced spending for the development of agriculture and livestock sectors on modern lines in addition to identifying the areas to make the two sectors profit-oriented.
He disclosed that the government was going to launch 13 new development projects in these sectors in collaboration with provincial governments for increasing per-acre crop yield and alleviating poverty in rural areas.
“After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, agriculture has become a provincial subject and now it is the prime responsibility of these governments to take measures for uplift of the sector,” he pointed out.
“Out of the total allocation for these 13 projects, the federal government will provide Rs92.5 billion for enhancement of crop productivity, livestock development, aquaculture, seed supply, water lining and mechanisation of farms.”
The food security minister said projects would be initiated by the start of next fiscal year as they had been approved by the government. The projects would mainly focus on crop yield enhancement, oilseed supply, pulses production and fattening of calves as well as fish farming.
He pointed out that special measures would also be introduced to harness the potential of international halal meat market.
Sultan highlighted that a ban was imposed on the export of live animals and a memorandum of understanding was also signed with China to capture the market as it was importing meat worth $15 billion annually from across the globe.
He said steps had been initiated to exploit the aquaculture potential along about 1,120km-long coastal line by promoting the fish caging culture as well as trout farming.
“About 90% of the total available water is used for agriculture production, of which about 47% is wasted due to inefficiencies in irrigation,” he expressed concern. “Such inefficiencies will be removed by farm mechanisation, water course lining and management.”
Small and medium dams would be constructed and command areas under these dams would also be enhanced, he revealed.
He reiterated the government’s determination to ensure proper prices for all major crops, claiming that under the current government, farmers of wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton received proper fixed prices for their produce.
“Electricity charges for tube wells, which were enhanced from Rs5.35 per unit to Rs6.85 per unit, will be reduced and general sales tax on other agriculture inputs will also be slashed by taking provincial governments on board,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2019.