Farmers in Sindh have completed an estimated 97 per cent of sowing target of 1.1 million hectares for wheat by end-December without the government’s support price announced this season.
Officials of the agriculture department expect that sowing could exceed the target as the upper Sindh farmers are still busy cultivating late sowing varieties of the crop.
The department did carry out its annual exercise and proposed a sowing target of 1.1 million hectares and production target of four million tonnes. But the Sindh government did not announce it.
Both Sindh and Punjab chose not to announce any support price, disappointing farmers that they did not get any increase for their crop this season. Wheat is a major crop on which they are dependent for their livelihood. Last year’s support price at Rs1200 per 40kg remains unchanged. Similarly indicative prices for sugarcane have not been raised.
Last year 10,58,400 hectares were brought under wheat cultivation, yielding 3.59 million tonnes of wheat in 2012-13. The provincial agriculture department expects a harvest of four million tonnes this season.
There are strong indications that per acre wheat yield might be affected primarily on account of high prices of urea fertiliser, an important farm input in short supply. Currently, urea is being sold for Rs2,000 to Rs2,100 per bag against its controlled price of Rs1,750 or so. Then, weather conditions were not so conducive for the crop at the time of sowing.
Even at a higher price, this important crop ingredient is not available to all growers due to lack of official oversight of market trends prevailing among them. Especially, small growers find it hard to get or afford it.
Farmers have no option but to grow wheat, for sunflower crop has recorded a drop in acreage because of some hybrid seed related issues. The sunflower production had lately emerged as an alternate for wheat and oilseed.
The freezing of support price is being termed as a bad omen for agriculture by farmers. They point to a recent FAO report which hints at considerable increase in Pakistan’s wheat imports in 2013-14.
“We are constantly demanding increase in support price in view of rising cost of production. This cost can easily be calculated. It is in sharp contrast to prices of wheat and sugarcane. This year government has frozen indicative price of sugarcane and support price of wheat. We feel depressed”, reacts Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president of Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB).
“There will be a drop of around five maunds per acre in wheat production due to urea fertiliser factor. Our small farmers will not be in a position to buy it [urea] or they will not give required quantity of this nutrient to the crop”, he contends.
He says that on an average 34 to 35 maunds per acre of grain is produced. “Suppose, if we are growing wheat on 2.5 million acres then five maunds per acre wheat productivity loss will be huge for our economy”, he says.
Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) general secretary Nabi Bux Sathio believes that even if Sindh comes up with four million tonnes of wheat, the crop would be smuggled to Afghanistan and India.
“The imported urea is not that effective as compared to that locally produced, but its prices have been going up”, he says. Support price of wheat, however, has been increased from Rs625 in 2007-08 to Rs1200 in 2012-13, resulting in an overall increase in crop acreage and production in the province.
Sindh produced a bumper wheat crop of 4.28 million tonnes in 2010-11 season as an increased area of 11,44,000 hectares was brought under wheat cultivation. In August 2010, floods had inundated entire katcha area which was also used for wheat cultivation.
According to one provincial study, the cost of wheat production in Sindh is Rs1,272 per acre and the growers deserve a support price of Rs1,399 or Rs1,400 per 40kg for 2013-14. An official of the provincial agriculture department disagrees with the figure of Rs1,100 per 40 kg for Sindh assessed by the federal ministry of food security and research.
(Source – http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/pakistan-late-sowing-to-help-exceed-wheat-target-in-sindh)