Towards agricultural mechanisation
By MOHIUDDIN AAZIM
machinery manufacturing has been growing on increased demand
in domestic market. But in the absence of industry-specific
policy, sustainability of the trend looks uncertain.
From tractors and front-end loaders to wheat and maize
thrashers to potato diggers, there is a long list of
machines that are produced locally.
Refurbishing of old,
imported ginning and rice mills is also not uncommon.
“But there’s no exclusive policy package for this industry,”
says a Punjab-based agricultural machinery manufacturer.
“We want improved supply
of electricity, some tax incentives and cooperation from
government agencies to help consolidate this sector.”
The use of solar technology is catching up among growers
across the country and solar-powered tubewells and
electricity-generating panels have been a great relief in
recent years for a number of progressive farmers.
Faisalabad’s Agriculture University is trying to develop
solar-powered machine for drying of crops, distillation of
essential oils and roasting of nuts. So, a craving for
mechanisation on modern lines is there, but a policy push is
needed to capitalise on it.
Unfortunately, though, in our context “mechanisation concept
doesn’t go beyond the use of tractors,” laments a former
director general of agricultural extension services of Sindh.
“Hundreds of farm machines and implements are being produced
And over past few years, their production has picked up.
Some of them are also being exported. But it’s difficult to
track the trend.”
Data shows that production of
tractors is done in large-scale manufacturing sector.
Production of sugarcane machines, wheat thrashers and chaff
cutters is offcially recorded.. However, stats on production
and sales of multipurpose thrashers, potato diggers, soil
levelers, pit diggers, tiller drills, water sprinklers and
several other agricultural machines are barely available.
Farmers, benefited by higher support prices of key crops in
recent years, are believed to have invested a good amount of
money in mechanisation of their farming activities.
But in the absence of stats
on a wide range of products, there is no way to ascertain
it. On the other hand, production of tractors, sugarcane
machines, wheat thrashers and chaff cutters rather shows an
inconsistent growth trend.
In all the four categories, production had hit historic
highs in FY11 but declined in FY12 only to show a modest
rise in FY13, data released by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics
Provincial government schemes to supply cheap tractors to
farmers on installments had boosted tractor sales in 2010-11
to an all-time high of 71,200 units. But imposition of 17
per cent general sales tax in 2011-12 (which was cut to five
per cent for some time only to be raised again in phases)
reduced tractor production by 32 per cent.
From January last year, tractor manufacturers had been
paying GST at 10 per cent and the tax-rate effective from
January this year is 17 per cent again. However, despite
tax-rate changes and even amid energy crisis, Millat
Tractors is about to start exporting semi-knocked down
The machine, tools and
automation exhibition held every year and agriculture, food
and livestock fairs have increased awareness about benefits
of mechanisation of farming activities.
But now they also provide
local manufacturers a fair chance of marketing agricultural
machinery and implements. Sadly, none of these activities
are properly documented.
Organisers of such events boast of big on-spot sales of
machinery and implements. But they don’t bifurcate sales of
foreign and local exhibitors. Nor do they inform which kinds
of machines were sold out, on-spot or through contracts.
Nevertheless, “these exhibitions are becoming increasingly
useful for us in marketing our products,” opines a Sindh-based
manufacturer of sugarcane machines adding that in addition
to making local sales he has exported a few dozen units of
these machines to Central Asian states.
Mechanisation in agriculture has become all the more
important with fears looming large about sustainable food
security. One big aspect of mechanisation is that it helps
in boosting per-acre yield and reduces post-harvest losses.
“Seed planters of various
types and disc plough, together, ensure optimal utility of
seeds (thus higher yields of crops) and shelling, husking
and processing equipment cut post-harvest losses,” says a
progressive wheat and veggies grower in Sindh.
He says that the use of such machines has increased over the
years, underscoring the need for data collection on trends
of agricultural mechanisation.
Pakistan spends about $100 million annually on import of
agricultural machinery and implements. Officials of
institutions like Engineering Development Board and Pakistan
Agricultural Research Council believe net imports can be
reduced with a little effort to boost local production.
“PML (N) government has pledged to modernise agriculture but
so far nothing seems to have been done in this regard,” says
an official of EDB adding that three things are needed to
obtain this objective.
“We need to have an umbrella
body to coordinate all efforts on this front, a policy
framework and manufacturing SMEs must be taken on board.”
The recently-launched PM’s business loans scheme for the
youth identifies agricultural processing as an eligible
activity for concessional loans, but vendors of agricultural
machinery parts have been overlooked even in this scheme.