Govt eyes over 3pc growth in agri sector with Rs250bln injection

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ISLAMABAD: The government is expecting more than three percent growth in agriculture for the current fiscal year as it is pouring in around Rs250 billion to help the sector with around 19 percent contribution towards GDP snap five years of stagnancy, finance adviser said on Thursday.

“We are expecting an over 3 percent growth in the agriculture sector, which has remained stagnant for the past five years and we are further injecting about Rs250 billion in this sector to enhance crop productivity and improve water management,” Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Hafeez Shaikh said.’

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He was talking to a group of foreign investors, representing international banks and financial institutions looking to invest in capital market, a statement said. Agriculture sector’s growth was estimated at 0.85 percent in the last fiscal year, the latest economic survey said.

Shaikh said the government has overcome immediate challenges to the economy by taking right decision. “Focus has now shifted to accelerating the pace of growth by creating an enabling atmosphere for businesses and boosting growth in key sectors such as agriculture.”

The finance adviser gave the visiting investors an overview of various policy measures adopted by the government in recent months to tide over the economic slowdown, and spoke about the positive outcomes as reflected in surging exports, improved revenue collection, increase in number of tax filers, enhanced non-tax revenues and various other measures to facilitate businesses, including immediate sales tax refunds to the tune of Rs22 billion to exporters and payment of all income tax refunds to the limit of Rs100,000.

Shaikh further briefed the delegation on various steps for improving ease of doing business scenario, “which will pave way for investment and growth of businesses”. The delegation appreciated the intention and practical steps taken by the government to facilitate businesses and improve the environment for encouraging foreign investment in capital market.

Meanwhile, the finance adviser asked its officials and private sector to propose ways to ensure competitive prices for cotton growers. The finance adviser was talking to representatives from All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, Pakistan Cotton Growers Association and Kissan Ittehad to hold meetings with the officials of the Federal Board of Revenue and the commerce ministry to discuss their issues and finalise realistic proposals within the next few days to help the government take a decision that could address the concerns of all stakeholders, particularly the cotton growers in getting better prices in the upcoming season.

“The government is aware of the difficulties being faced by cotton growers in getting better prices, which not only offset their cost of production but also provide them with incentives to use more inputs and increase the crop area for enhanced productivity,” Shaikh said.

“The government is actively considering various options and hopefully we have an arrangement which addresses the concerns of cotton growers and helps them fetch good prices for their produce.”

The country produced 1.35 million of cotton bales till September 1 with production from the Punjab having sharply declined due to rains and water influx from India. No data of cotton arrivals was collected by this time last year. Of total, 375,813 bales arrived from the Punjab and 979,897 bales from Sindh, the first fortnightly report released by the PCGA showed earlier this week.

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The federal committee on agriculture fixed cotton production target at 15 million bales for the ongoing season, which appears ambitious considering the last year’s output of 12 million bales, below the target of 14.37 million bales.

The finance adviser said that he had seen an unprecedented focus on the growth of agriculture sector by the current government, “which not merely sees agriculture as providing the main pivot to the growth of economy but also allocating vast sums for its further growth”.

(This news/article originally appeared in The News on September 6th, 2019)

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