The Pakistan farmers’ union, “Pakistan Kissan Ittehad” registered a protest at the federal capital on the announcement of Federal Budget 2017-18. The law enforcement authorities decided to use force against them. Police fired tear gas and unleashed water from water cannons to disperse protesting farmers.
The government has heavy-handed approach to suppress farmer’s demands is deeply concerning. Human Rights Watch condemned this act of law enforcement by concerned authorities. Instead of suppressing government should consider problems faced by “Pakistan Kissan Ittehad”
Agriculture once considered as the backbone of country’s economy but successive governments have turned their backbone (back) on this sector. Agriculture sector once gave employment to 70 percent of country’s populations but now, according to official statistics, this figure has been reduced to 44 percent. Its contribution to GDP has also dropped from 27 to 21 per cent. Its contribution of raw material to textile and other related industry has declined. The average annual growth of agriculture sector dropped from 5.4 per 2.2 per cent during 2011-16. The decline of average growth in yields for wheat and cotton.06 and 9 per cent respectively between 1980-90 to 1.4 and -2.2 per cent respectively from 2011-16.
This decline is also being seen in the current government as their major focus is on the industrial sector and their approach in policies towards agriculture sector as an “obsolete” area. This negligence has taken a circle on one of the most important sectors of our economy while continued fall in production has threatened largest foreign exchange earning sector. Lowest GDP in the region is also the result of this decline in the sector. Although Pakistan has an agricultural economy, rapid decline in sector has forced Pakistan into importing several food commodities to achieve its own consumption needs.
Pakistan has immense areas of fertile agriculture land, one of the best irrigation systems in the world, two third of the population living in rural areas whose major source of income is agriculture. Promoting agriculture to increase GDP, enhance industrial development, raise the income of the rural population and strong financial position of growers is of utmost importance.
Some of main problems faced by farmers in Pakistan include rising input costs, indirect taxed on farm operations and inputs, support price benefits not reaching to poorest in farming sector, lack of innovation in seed varieties, lack of modern technology to modernize crop harvesting, cultivation, storage and marketing, inaccessibility to agriculture credit and water shortages threatening irrigated lands.
Small farmers who are at the nucleus of an agriculture sector are often overlooked in agricultural policies. The government should make sure that landlords should not dominate an entire assistances and small farmers should also be given a due share in relief as it is vital for reviving declining agricultural sector. Government’s policymaking process should include small farmers so that if problems can be resolved and get wanted results. Regular monitoring of policies and its sub-sectors, financial position of farmers and contribution of agriculture can also help in this regard.
Agriculture should be patronized and all its sub-sectors should be granted additional attention to be the backbone of our economy. The government strongly needed to invest in agriculture research and follow footsteps of developed countries. Rest of the world has turned to precision farming, using GPS sensors, nitrogen sensors, and guidance system in agriculture farming but on the other hand, we have not even adopted basic farm machinery. Lack of interest on the part of government coupled with farmers’ resistance to change has led to a dismal state of the agriculture sector.
Regardless of the fact that, the government has announced special packages and fiscal incentives for agriculture sector over years but these are not enough for revival. These packages are nothing more than political stunts and cannot be an answer to structural problems faced by agriculturists.
The revival of the agriculture sector needs to lay an extensive and carefully formulated plan. All government bodies including Agriculture Ministry, Planning Commission, provincial agriculture, and planning departments need in order to join hands and put forward a comprehensive national plan. Federal and provincial governments must guarantee execution of the plan so that an agriculture sector regains its past glory.