Economy's mainstay... By M. Ahmad
05 July, 2012
Agriculture is one of the major contributors to our GDP. It is the sector to which a major bulk of our population is linked directly and indirectly and is a source of livelihood for them. It provides raw material to our industry and earns a considerable amount of foreign exchange in the form of exports of agricultural products. But the negligence of the government has thrown it in a continuous state of degradation. Unavailability of electricity, shortage of canal water, unchecked increases in the prices of fertilisers and skyrocketing prices of petroleum products have further aggravated the sufferings of middle and lower class farmers.
An interesting thing is that there has been a continuous fall in the prices of most of agricultural products for the last two or three years. For instance, the maize rates have gone down from approximately Rs900 to Rs1,000 per 40kg in 2010 to Rs600 to 650 per 40kg in the current year. Similarly, potato growers had suffered unaffordable losses at the beginning of the current year due to fewer exports this year than the previous year.
Neither the provincial nor federal governments have given any importance to the development of this sector as is obvious from their recent budgets. No proper regulatory authorities have been set up by the government to fix the prices of agricultural products. It is usually observed that the prices of a crop considerably fluctuate in the same season, and even day-to-day prices vary greatly within a specific area.
Besides, enough variations in the prices of crops have been noted in different areas the same day regardless of the quality of the crops. So, poor farmers are left at the mercy of intermediaries who exploit them. The agricultural sector needs special attention of the government. Prices of fertilisers and crops should be regulated by the government itself. An increase in the rates of crops proportional to the rates of inputs like fertilisers, electricity rates and petroleum products should be made. If the government takes serious interest in the development of this sector, it can save it from further deterioration and can provide relief to poor farmers.
M. AHMAD ARAIEN