Subsistence farmers: Prime Minister asks ministry to devise plan for credit line


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to come up with Integrated Rural Development Plan for building affordable credit line for subsistence farmers through formal financial institutions.

Appreciating the ministry''s broad policy framework and diversification plan, proposing reduction in reliance on staple food grains and increased focus on high value products through holistically addressing technological, climate change and water resource issues, he pointed out some areas of concerns requiring ministry''s attention in order to expand production base of agriculture base in the country.

The prime minister asked the ministry to prepare a comprehensive presentation on the subject, incorporating foregoing observations, within a week. He viewed that in our labour-intensive agriculture sector, adoption of innovative technology or new practices involved direct costs as well as risk of failure. He said for subsistence farmers, the utilisation of such interventions may not be feasible without robust institutional support. Commercial banks consider agriculture sector risky and unprofitable, in turn giving Arhtees (Commission Agents) oligopolistic control of rural credit market, interlinking credit and output transactions, thereby minimising net agricultural income, he added.

The prime minister stressed the need for material improvement in agriculture research, notwithstanding, the ministry should have suggested concrete and verifiable accountability mechanism for proposed restructuring of research institutes, hence justifying demand for special pay scales. He observed that the private sector seed corporations and marketing companies needed to be encouraged in order to reap productivity gains through development and availability of high-yield, pest-resistant seeds suited to local climate conditions and resource.

He also called for simplifying the marketing of new seed varieties for private sector firms. He observed that the Provincial Agriculture Extension services wings had failed to deliver requisite services to farmers, so the ministry should present alternative modes of provision of services, possible through Public-Private Partnerships with agriculture input suppliers.

The ministry''s policy paper suggested 3-5 years timeline for impact assessment of climate change on crops, development of climate smart crops and adoption of resilient crop productions technologies to mitigate impact of climate change. However, the prime minister observed that the document was silent about how progress for each component would be tracked especially while all three components were mutually exclusive and could not be implemented simultaneously.

The Water Resource Conservation focuses only on Ground Water and implementation plan consisted of platitudes instead of delineating measurable indicators against each planned outcomes. The prime minister also called for steps to enhance crop productivity for achieving maximum biological potential, address marketing issue, compliance with WTO dictates and identification and development of floriculture potential.

He said the viability of establishing farmers Commission and Agriculture Technology Park for use of information technology in this sector should be explored. The prime minister said the action plan should highlight the potential of various areas for high value crops like olives and grapes for Potohar, pulses for Kalat and Khuzdar, dates for Makran coast, apples for Quetta and Zhob Divisions, and wheat for Dera Ismail Khan Division.


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