The share of agriculture sector – crops and livestock – in the gross domestic product (GDP) was around 21-22% in recent years. “It (agriculture sector) may hardly retain a share of 18-19% in GDP this year (FY20),” said Agri Forum Pakistan Chairman Ibrahim Mughal.
Acute shortage of water did not let the agriculture sector perform well last year – FY19. This year, the availability of water was not an issue but a “massive increase in fertiliser (urea and DAP) prices by up to 25% has badly hit agricultural (crops) output as high prices discouraged farmers from using a good quantity of fertiliser.”
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The country’s annual requirement stands at around 150 million bags of urea and 130 million bags of DAP.
He estimated that production of almost all major crops of the 2019 Kharif (summer) season including cotton, sugarcane, paddy and maize “has dropped 30% on an average compared to last year.” Giving the breakdown, he said the production of food crops, including wheat, rice, maize, sorghum and millet, decreased 10-20%. “This is the reason why the price of wheat flour (No 2.5) has shot up 30% to Rs52 per kg this year compared to Rs40 per kg last year.”
He expressed fear that a wheat and wheat flour crisis was brewing. Last year, the government did not procure the required amount of wheat for its buffer stock, which was necessary to stabilise prices in the market.
“That’s why the wheat price has shot above Rs40 per kg against the support price determined by the government of Rs32.50 per kg last year.”
The government has set the new support price at Rs34.12 per kg for FY20. Cash crops, including cotton and sugarcane, have underperformed this fiscal year too. Cotton harvest is estimated to have touched a multi-year low in FY20 compared to 9.86 million bales – one bale is equal to 170 kg – in the last fiscal year. It was 17.5% lower than the 11.94 million bales harvested in FY18.
The country’s general cotton requirement stands at around 14 to 15 million bales, which was accomplished about five years in the past.
Same is the case with sugarcane. Its manufacturing is estimated to have dropped further this 12 months. The output fell 19.4% to 67.17 million heaps in FY19 in comparison to FY18.
Production of pulses and oilseeds has dropped 25-30%. “Not a single type of pulse is available for less than Rs150 per kg in retail, though the government has spent over Rs30 billion on their imports in the first five months (Jul-Nov) of FY20.”
Rice production is estimated to have lowered 15-20% in FY20 compared to 7.20 million lots in FY19, he said.
He held provinces liable for the ongoing poor performance of the agriculture sector since farming had develop into a provincial subject underneath the 18th Constitution Amendment in 2010.
“No agriculture policy, no planning and a lack of will at the provincial levels were behind the pathetic performance. Provincial authorities have given the agriculture sector in the hands of inexperienced people,” Mughal said.
Shah added that climate alternate had badly harm two main summer plants – cotton and paddy.
Temperature was once widely high, especially in northern Sindh districts of Dadu, Larkana, Qambar Shahdadkot, Shikarpur and Sukkur. “This has damaged 20-25% of paddy crop in such areas.”
Secondly, the torrential rains just before the primary round of cotton choosing hit the standing crop in fields in September.
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Farmers used to make three to five cotton choosing in a single season. However, the rains in the vary of 11 to 15 inches in a 40 to 45-day period in some districts broken a significant portion of the crop. Besides, high temperature within the cotton-growing spaces in Punjab also did not let farmers harvest a just right crop. “The situation did not allow achievement of the cotton output target for the season,” he said.
“The high temperature has also widely impacted the maize crop in Punjab,” he mentioned.
Only sugarcane crop has controlled to accomplish better this year. Its harvesting has began in recent days and weeks. “Torrential rains have positively impacted the sugarcane output (in Sindh) as the crop is rain-resilient (all over the world),” he stated.
The present 12 months has observed tomato and onion disaster as well. Their costs hit historical highs of Rs400 according to kg and Rs100 in step with kg in retail, respectively, within the year. “Rains have affected about 30-40% of the early crop of onion and damaged the entire crop of tomato, which is a very sensitive food crop.”
Apart from these, the arrival of locusts in Sindh and a couple of adjacent spaces in decrease Punjab has sparked fears some of the farmers.
“Locust attack has damaged the chilli crop, has added to the miseries of cotton growers and has the potential to impact the wheat crop, which is in the last stages of sowing these days,” he stated. Citing anecdotal proof, he believes the locust assault won’t badly affect the wheat crop on a wide scale. “However, whenever and wherever they attack, they completely destroy the crop. I know the farmers who planted wheat three times this season, but the locust attack devastated the crop on all occasions.”
For instance, if the locust attack damages 2% of the world cultivated with the wheat crop, it may appear small on the macro scale, however it will be large for the farmers who are suffering. Farmers have planted the crop over 2-2.2 million hectares of land in Sindh.
“If the wheat crop fails to find favourable weather, the locust attack may hit its production over a wide area like it did in the case of cotton.”
Both the federal and provincial governments have accomplished just about not anything to stave off the danger from the insect.
“There is no damage assessment after the locust attack. However, when you will pass through Mirpurkhas district, you will find locusts both at your right and left …and in Nawabshah and Sukkur towards border areas (with India).”
“In a nutshell, I don’t see any improvement in the agriculture production this year too, but a further decline. Poor output of cotton and maize will contribute substantially to the overall decline.” Economist Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan mentioned months ago if the agriculture sector failed to accomplish this year too, the GDP enlargement might slip below three%.
Economist Dr Hafiz Pasha mentioned if the sector persisted to underperform, it could be hard for the country to reach GDP growth of 2.4% anticipated by way of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for FY20.
The nation recorded a nine-year low GDP enlargement of 3.3% in FY19.