MAKING BALOCHISTAN SELF-RELIANT IN WHEAT
Mar 16 - 22, 2009
Balochistan faces the problem of food insecurity. It requires 900,000 metric tons of wheat annually to feed its population of 6.8 million people. Each year the provincial food department sets a procurement target of 50,000 million tons from Naseerabad zone, but it hardly purchases 20,000MT to 25,000MT. It is because of the less support price fixed by the government. Private traders and flour mill owners even from other provinces lift maximum wheat of the province, as they offer a price to the local growers, which is more than the government's support price.
The province excessively depends on Sindh and Punjab to meet its wheat requirement. There is no perennial system of irrigation except in Naseerabad district. Wheat is grown over an area of 408,913 hectares in the province. The experts are of the view that agricultural growth is key to curtailing poverty, as agriculture is the mainstay of rural economy and over 75 percent population of the province depends on this sector for earning their livelihoods. A long-term strategy needs to be devised to make the province self-reliant in wheat.
WHEAT YIELD POTENTIAL
With four agro-ecological zones, Balochistan has tremendous wheat yield potential. Unfortunately, the province has wheat varieties yield potential of 6.5MT/hectares, but it is getting only 2.4 MT/hectares. The experts identify scarcity of water and proper management of available water as the main issues related to the wheat production in the province.
The sowing period for wheat crop in the province commences from 1st November to 31st November. According to the statistics of the provincial Agriculture department, the province produced 872,066 tons or yielded 2133Kgs per hectare during the fiscal year 2006-07. Wheat is mostly used as bread wheat in the province. It gets 95 percent wheat from irrigated and 5 percent from rain-fed areas.
Provincial Directorate General of Agriculture Research (cereal crops) Balochistan has so far released six varieties of wheat including Zarghoon-79, Zamindar-80, Zardana-92, Sariab-92, Zarlashta-99 and Raskoh-2005. It is presently working to increase wheat production in Balochistan by producing improved germplasm tolerant/resistant to specific environment and disease problem. A research program on wheat crop was launched in 1976 by the Agriculture Research Institute (ARI) Quetta. It has developed wheat varieties suited for both plains and uplands in the province.
ISSUES RELATED TO WHEAT PRODUCTION
The land often remains uneven or it is not properly leveled due to lack of mechanization. The uneven land causes water losses. The land must be prepared for timely sowing of crop, but it has been observed that local farmers frequently remain unable to prepare it for wheat sowing. Similarly, at the time of irrigation, the local farmers frequently face the problem of water shortage. The non-availability of agricultural inputs at the time of sowing are the other important issues related to the wheat crop in the province. The local growers face the shortages of pesticides and fertilizers at the critical stages of the cultivation of wheat crop and they have to purchase these inputs at higher prices. Another problem is the non-availability of quality seeds for wheat crop. Balochistan's annual requirement of quality seeds stands at 33,000MT to get a quality crop. The province gets only 4,000MT of quality seeds from different sources and the rest of the requirement is met by the local farmers themselves, as there is no seed production corporation in the province.
Another issue is the adulteration of fertilizers and pesticides. Adulterated fertilizers and pesticides have had adverse impact on the quality of yield. The pesticides from China are adulterated, re-packed, and sold under different trade marks in the province.
EXPANDING WHEAT CROPPING AREA
There is a need to increase wheat production by expanding wheat cropping area in the province, which is the country's largest province with respect to its landmass. According to one estimate, out of the total geographical area of 34.719 million hectares, the province has a cultivated area of 1.989 million hectares and 4.826 million hectares of land falls in the category of cultivable wasteland. Need is to reclaim this cultivable wasteland and this can only be done if the capacity of the Provincial Agriculture Engineering Department is enhanced by providing it additional machinery and bulldozers. The government should launch a number of projects for crop maximization to reduce poverty and food insecurity in the province. The province is already reeling under higher poverty and in rural areas over 50 percent people live below the level of poverty line.
The government should take initiative to utilize the locally grown wheat to meet the local needs and steps should be taken to check its movement out side the province through purchasing by private parties or smuggling across the border.
The priority should be given to the development of water resources to maximize crop production, as agriculture development is linked to water resource development in the province. Moreover, necessary measures must be taken for construction of farm to market roads, establishment of Agro-based industries, provision of storage and processing facilities for agro products and farm mechanization to bring green revolution in the province.
TIMELY PROVISION OF AGRICULTURAL INPUTS
The government should ensure the timely provision of essential agricultural inputs to local farmers at subsidized rates for the cultivation of wheat. Steps should be taken against those fertilizers and pesticides companies, which are involved in the adulteration of these key agricultural inputs. A seed production corporation should be established in Balochistan to ensure supply of quality seeds to wheat growers as and when required. The government should also involve the private sector to ensure availability of quality seeds to the local growers of wheat.
The government must take steps to improve socio-economic conditions of the local farming community to achieve the goal of self-reliance in food. Local farmers' problems related to water shortages and frequent load shedding and power breakdown should be resolved. They should be offered handsome support price for wheat crop, as a token of their encouragement.
|WHEAT VARIETIES RELEASED FOR BALOCHISTAN|
|VARIETIES TONS/HA||YIELD POTENTIAL||AREA COVERED %||RECOMMENDATIONS|
|Zarghoon-79||6.0||3.0||Recommended for uplands (irrigated)|
|Zamindar-80||4.5||1||Recommended for late planting irrigated|
|Zardana-92||5.5||40||Recommended for plains irrigated areas|
|Sariab-92||2.0||01||Recommended for rain-fed areas|
|Zarlashta-99||6.5||05||Recommended for general cultivation in irrigated areas|
|Raskoh-2005||6.0||0.1||Recommended for general cultivation in irrigated areas|
|Source: ARI, Quetta|