Govt proposed Rs41.3 billion for agriculture sector

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ISLAMABAD: The government has proposed Rs41.3 billion block allocation under the next fiscal year’s budget for agriculture sector interventions that are expected to bring double-digit increase yields of major crops.

The allocation, under the agriculture transformation plan, aimed at improving warehousing with Rs8 billion spending, genetic improvement in cattle projects (Rs1.1bln), revision for mechanisation (Rs1.2bln), shrimp farming (Rs1bln), construction of silos (Rs5bln), fertiliser subsidy (Rs12bln) and cotton procurement by Trading Corporation of Pakistan (Rs9bln), according to an official document. The proposed interventions are expected to increase wheat yields by 41 percent, rice (40pc), cotton (65pc), maize (40pc), sugarcane (22pc) and other crops (30pc).

Currently, average yield per acre for wheat in Pakistan is 29 maunds compared to 51 maunds in India. Likewise, the average yields of rice (50 maunds) and sugarcane (656 maunds) are lower than 64 and 796 in India, according to the document. For maize per acre yield is 57 maunds compared to 42, while cotton yield per acre is same an average 18 maunds.

The government constituted a subgroup of Economic Advisory Council to review the proposed agriculture transformation plan, propose changes and advise on implementation to ensure food security , help build commodity warehouses and cold storage chains, propose measures to reduce and stabilize domestic agriculture prices and targeting of food subsidies, review deregulation proposals and provide a two-year plan in collaboration with the federal government and provinces, recommend measures to reduce farm to market access, reduction of the role of the middlemen and building of storage warehouses, propose restructuring and change of economics of Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation, Trading Corporation of Pakistan, and provincial food departments, proposed measures to reduce commodity debt, and build strategic reserves for 4 to 5 key commodities. The council’s subgroup proposed immediate interventions, including seed sector reforms, digital subsidy mechanism, mechanization, water efficiency, access to credit, revamping extension services, post-harvest storage and restructuring research institutions with targeted sectors including cotton revival, olive, soybean, palm production, genetic improvement in livestock and fisheries.

Parallel interventions under food security innovation fund include agro ecological zoning, international cooperation, value chain development, food and vegetable clusters, storage of perishable produce, land consolidation, organic farming, sub-montane agriculture, horizontal expansion, and food processing.

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