Agricultural sector lacks policy
By Ahmad Fraz Khan
farmers, the first federal budget of the PML-N government
came as a ‘disappointment’.
It neither prioritises the
agricultural sector, nor sets any direction for it, in areas
of common concern to all the four provinces where national
policies are needed.
If the budget speech and
the document are something to go by, the federal government
seems to have simply washed its hands off the sector and
expects the provinces to take total charge of it.
The logic behind this
complete neglect of the sector is how the federation
conceives its role after devolution.
However, according to
farmers, there are certain areas which only the federation
can, and should, handle. But with its attention focused on
power crisis, it has simply lost sight of agricultural
sector, despite the fact that the sector can contribute a
great deal in bringing the country out of its current
It can ensure production
(critical for growth, incomes and food security, reducing
poverty and industrialisation) and close the ever-widening
trade deficit by increasing exports. All of these are
federal subjects, and yet the federation has ignored them —
jettisoning the agriculture sector.
The sector’s contribution to
the GDP, till very recently, was 21.9 per cent, which has
dropped to 21 per cent.This drop of 0.9 per cent means
trillions of rupees in national financial terms. Instead of
focusing on reasons leading to the drop and trying to find
solutions, the government chooses to ignore it.
Besides the long-term policy
measures that farmers had hoped for, the immediate context
of the budget was compelling enough to induce policy
preferences. As documented by National Economic Survey, the
sector grew only by 3.3 per cent last year against a target
of 4.1 per cent.
What made last year’s growth even more disappointing is the
fact that it had grown by 3.5 per cent in 2011-12. Last
year, wheat production missed its target by 5.1 per cent as
it yielded 24.2 million tonnes against a target of 25.5
In 2011-12, it grew
positively by 3.2 per cent. Rice did not perform well
either, yielding 5.54 million tonnes against a target of 6.9
million tonnes — a decline of 19.7 per cent.
Cotton production target was also missed, as only 13 million
bales were produced against a target of 14.5 million, a loss
of 10.3 per cent.
The livestock sector, which
has a 55.4 per cent share in the agriculture, grew by 3.7
per cent last year.
The fishing sector grew by 0.7 per cent as against previous
year’s positive growth of 3.8 per cent. Forestry sector
posted a nominal growth of 0.1 per cent as compared to 1.7
per cent in 2011-12.
According to the Annual Plan 2013-14, agriculture sector
would grow by 3.8 per cent in 2013-14.
This growth is expected on the basis of contributions of
important crops (3.1 per cent), other crops (4.5 per cent),
cotton ginning (6.1 per cent), livestock (3.9 per cent),
fishing (two per cent) and forestry (two per cent).
What the federation has done in the budget to achieve these
raised targets, no one knows — at least so far.
There are areas of common concern among the provinces which
need to addresses at federal level. Farmers are questioning
if the federation is not ready to help the sector, as proven
by its budgetary document, why is it setting these targets?
What makes this target setting doubly confusing for farmers
is that on the one hand federation is refusing to own the
sector, but it still wants farmers to perform as per the
standards set by it.
There seems to be huge
disconnect in the federal behaviour that needs immediate
correction, advises Tariq Bucha of the Farmers Associates of
The federal cabinet includes only one practicing farmer
i.e., Sikandar Bosan — minister for food security — with the
rest of the crowd coming from the urban centres, notes Hamid
Malhi of the Basmati Growers Association.
With such low representation and input from farming
community, the major input would inevitably come from
Thus, politicians have to make up their mind about the
sector, create a vision about it (its place in national
economy) and implement it with active political will..