Country unlikely to achieve agri target

LAHORE –– The government has not been achieving agriculture production target for the last several years mainly due to mismanagement of the federal as well as the provincial agriculture departments.

The agriculturalists and representatives of farmers bodies said that the crop per acre yield has decreased by at least 20 percent in the province since 1999, as wheat cultivation has depressed to 25 maund per acre from 29 maund and cotton yielding has lowered to 19 maund per acre from 26 maund.

Agri Forum Pakistan Chairman Ibrahim Mughal has suggested the government to curtail the staff of agriculture department by at least 75 percent. He said that the construction of Kalabagh Dam should be started in 2011, as the dam with its installed capacity of 2400 MW (ultimate 3600 MW) would add to the system a very large chunk of cheap hydro-power. The energy generated at Kalabagh would be equivalent to 20 million barrels of oil per year. Kalabagh would reduce the frequency and severity of flooding along the Indus, he added.

He stated that the overall direct benefits of Kalabagh Dam would be around Rs 25 billion per annum, thus the investment cost of project would be repaid within a period of 9-10 years.

He said that due to water shortage the sowing of crop of wheat in September- October and Rabi crop in January-February always affected due to reduced flow of water. India has turned a deaf ear to our repeated requests for compensation and failed to provide data about water storage and release of Baglihar Dam, he stated. He said India has already built 14 hydroelectric plants on Chenab River and is building more plants which will enable it to block entire water of Chenab for 20-25 days.

These dams have also enabled India to release huge quantity of water downstream to not only cause damage to standing crops but also to our canal systems. Chenab River provides water to 21 canals and irrigates about 7 million acres of agriculture land in Punjab, he maintained.

He said pesticide companies are befooling the farmers and stressed need for taking stern action against them. He rejected the withholding tax on agri produce, urging the government to mention weight and price on urea sacks.

He demanded the government to direct all public sector banks to issue agri loans on soft terms for the enhancement of agri production in the province.

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