. .



Water shortage
New targets for major crops

The major crop that is going to be hit severely by water shortage is cotton.

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad
Apr 16 - 22, 2001

The acute water shortage for irrigation and unusually long dry spell is likely to cause a loss of about Rs.95 billion during the current Rabi and Kharif seasons. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture has set fresh targets for major crop production bringing them down, on an average, by 20 per cent.

Briefing the newsmen after chairing the 74th Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) meeting on Saturday, Federal Agriculture Minister, Kher Mohammad Junejo, said that the impact of water shortage on agriculture was estimated to the tune of Rs.95 billion.

The meeting reviewed the Rabi crops and fixed targets for Kharif apart from looking into the availability of inputs for Kharif. "Compared to last year we had to revise the targets downward since the reports pouring in from the provinces and what we have been informed in FCA meeting by the provincial representatives, realistically we had to revise downward the production targets for the coming Kharif crops", Junejo said.

"Though these estimates are very much conservative, for the time being we would like to stick to them, but later with the blessing of mother nature, we believe the results would be better than what we see today," the minister maintained.

The major crop that is going to be hit severely by water shortage is cotton. "Considering the situation, we have decided to set the target for cotton at 8.66 million bales against the earlier target of 10 billion bales." Last year the country had a very good crop of 10.6 million bales, he added. For the new target, Punjab would give 7 million bales from 8.3 million bales last year against the target of 7.5 million bales. Sindh would contribute 1.56 million bales, and this year Balochistan is expected to contribute 0.1 million bales.

Regarding cotton from Balochistan, the minister said that the area is being increased from 35,000 acres to 100,000 acres for cotton sowing in Patfeeder area, where earlier the stress was on rice. "We have asked the Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan (ADBP) to provide soft-term loans to farmers in Balochistan encouraging them to grow more cotton in Patfeeder area."

'This year the provinces have been asked to convince the farmers to grow more cotton than rice since it consumes less water, and we hope 0.5 million acres more would come under cotton sowing in Punjab, he said, adding, "8.66 million bales would be enough for local consumption but there would be no surplus for export".

The minister said that target for sugarcane has also been revised downward from 44.2 million tons last year to 58.1 million tons this year. This would leave with a sugar production at 2.27 million tons after taking 30 per cent of the cane production for seed and gur. "The domestic consumption is estimated at three million tons a year, it means we would have to import sugar next year too", he added.

For rice, he said the new target has been set at 4.2 million tons. Last year the target was 4.8 million, tons and the production was 5.1 million tons. "The major affect of water shortage is on wheat crop in the outgoing Rabi season, which we estimate would be 17.46 million tons against the 21.89 million tons last year. Out of 17.46 million tons, Punjab would contribute 14.23 m tons, Sindh 2.0 million tons, NWFP 0.73 million tons, and Balochistan 0.5 million tons".

To mitigate the suffering of the farmers' community and to augment the supply of water on warfooting, the Ministry of Food & Agriculture has prepared a new agriculture strategy involving an expenditure of over Rs. 6 billion. The Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf has approved the programme envisaging an expenditure of Rs.6 billion on Provincial water projects and Rs.100 million credit line for farmers. Talking to newsmen after his presentation to the cabinet charge Chief Executive, the Minister told the newsmen that the government would seek assistance from UAE, Saudi Arabia and China for building of more water reservoirs in the country. Minister for Agriculture Kher Mohammad Junejo disclosed that in order to seek assistance feasibilities have already been prepared and duly sent to these countries.

"The Chief Executive, during the presentation informed that formal correspondence is in progress with these three countries and now their team are expected to further discuss the feasibilities of building more water reservoirs in the country", the Minister said.

However, the minister said, the proposal is only for making small reservoirs, and the only bigger project in this proposal is to raise the capacity of Mangla Dam by at least 40 to 45 feet. "We would be looking for making small water reservoirs in Balochistan and also a barrage at Sehwan," he said.

Apart from this, the minister maintained Rs.1 billion will be provided for skimming wells, karazes (Balochistan) particularly in drought area. The strategy involves installation of 10,000 tubewells in provinces. "For these tubewells, the provincial agriculture departments will come out with priority areas and would submit a comprehensive plan to the Planning and Development Division," the minister said adding, "the CE has assured immediate implementation of this plan".

Further, it has been decided that efficient water conservation technologies will be encouraged and provinces will take lead in adopting water-saving techniques viz. land levelling, brick lining, and water course improvement.

The Minister said that they have made a request for enhancement in the allocation in Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for agriculture development projects in the next budget for fiscal 2001-2002, and the agriculture ministry will identify the priority areas. "It has been agreed that there would be an increase in allocation for agriculture development projects in PSDP and we have asked for at least 4 per cent of PSDP under this head," he said adding, "in the current PSDP it was meager 0.45 per cent, which was less than half a billion of rupees".

Listing the other decisions, the minister said it was decided that production of wheat, cotton, and tea will be increased and the expansion will be both horizontal and vertical. It was also decided that area under rice and sugarcane, wherever possible will be reduced since these two crops are heavy on water consumption. These crops are advised to be substituted by crops like cotton, sugar beet and pulses in view of water shortages. On experimental basis sugar beet was sown in areas of Sindh and Punjab and results were very much encouraging the minister said, adding, sugar content was more than 11.2 per cent which is the average best we get out of sugarcane, further the size of the crop is also good as far as weight is concerned.