Oct 4 - 10, 20

Agriculture the main backbone of the economy of the country which provides 43 percent of the country's job has been ravaged by the surging waters. It is estimated about 23 million persons were displaced. Nearly a quarter of the farmland has been submerged by flood waters. About one fifth of Pakistan's irrigation infrastructures, livestock have been destroyed. The flood water in the affected areas wiped away 70 percent of the roads and bridges. More than 10,000 schools and 500 hospitals have been destroyed or damaged. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Jilani put the flood losses of the country to the tune of $43 billion.

Wheat the most important produce has been severely damaged in the devastating flood.

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock reveals that 44,896 tonnes of wheat in Punjab and 80,823 tonnes in Khyber Paktunkhwa, have been totally spoiled. Over all damage to crop in Balochistan has occurred over an area of 326,651 acres.

According to the United Nations Food Agency, more than 0.5 million tonnes of seed stock in Asia's third largest wheat producer has been destroyed by the floods. Pakistan before the floods had decided to export surplus wheat but now it has deferred to export surplus wheat due huge destruction of wheat crop.

Wheat sowing in Punjab may be delayed due to the fact that Punjab government is giving utmost attention to saving cotton the largest foreign exchange earner of the country. There are positive signs that wheat acreage might improve as the general farmers consider that wheat is the easiest crop to grow and is the safest investment. The Punjab farmers may avoid risking any crop like the canola or sunflower as being advocated by the federal government. The government of Punjab has decided to provide free seed and fertilizer to farmers for the upcoming wheat season.

Farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa anticipate an acute shortage of seeds. They are of the opinion if no help is coming from federal, provincial and donor countries there is a possibility of further damage to wheat crop.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has clearly warned that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may not be able to cultivate wheat because of non availability of good quality seeds and other requisite inputs. At this critical juncture of the hour if the farmers' demands are not given any attention then there is a fear that wheat yields could be reduced. The officials of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government are quite confident that there will be no shortage of seed as promptly wheat seeds will be supplied to the farmers.

The cash strapped government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not yet received a sufficient amount of fund from the federal nor from international community for revitalising the agriculture sector. It has requested the centre to provide at an initial stage Rs10 billion. According to director Irrigation Naeem Khan the losses to irrigation system has occurred to the tune of Rs10.6 billion.

In Sindh 50 percent of the farm lands have been affected by the floods. Water logging has immensely increased in the sowing lands. The vast numbers of farmers have moved to relief camps in cities and towns and they are not likely to return to their farms unless the flood waters have been drained from their farms.

Sindh's Kharif crops have been ruined and their seeds, fertilisers and necessary inputs have been wiped out by floods. Officials of the Sindh irrigation and agriculture department are not expecting the good for the Rabi crop. The forthcoming Rabi season will not see a positive impact on wheat, pulses, vegetables, etc.

At present the biggest priority is the sowing of wheat crop which constitutes 80 percent of the farmland. Before any revival of agricultural crops particularly for wheat sowing the thousands of acres of land flooded must be cleared of silt for re-demarcation of lands. This is an uphill task. There may be a clash between small farmers and feudal lords. The feudal lords might take a large chunk of land from the farmers by brutal force. Afterward the farmers are to be supplied with necessary agricultural tools and other tools to repair or construct new water courses. This is a gigantic task and has to be performed as hurriedly as possible. Fertiliser and seeds have to be supplied to the farmers at cheaper rates

The loans for the reactivation of flooded lands must come through the banking sector rather than from informal sector. A mechanism for higher disbursement of loans is to be developed by the State Bank of Pakistan so that small and medium types of farmers get easily cheap loans from banks to revive their agricultural lands. The government has set the target for wheat production at 25 million tonnes.

The government is also making arrangement from donor countries including Australia for free supplies of varieties of seeds. The United Nation for Food and Agriculture Organisation has announced that it has completed the procurement of seed in the forthcoming Rabi season. The government is also seeking soft credit loans from World Bank and Asian Development Banks for providing agricultural loans to flood affected farmers.

USAID mission Director would provide an additional $5 million for the revival of agricultural sector. It would provide seeds, fertilisers and other inputs free of cost to the farmers. United States would provide seed and fertilisers and other inputs free of cost to the farmers. The other United States funding program for agriculture worth $16 million will be provided by Kerry-Lugar-Berman Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. The program will be implemented by the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Government must overall ensure that for the current season no crops for sowing are missed. Sindh's farmland which were greatly devastated by flood must be given due attention so as to avoid food crisis in forthcoming Rabi season. The central government and the donor countries must come up with funds and concrete working programmes to boost the province vital agriculture sector.