INTERVIEW WITH DR. SYED NADEEM QAMAR, PRESIDENT SINDH CHAMBER OF AGRICULTURE

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Feb 13 - 19, 20
12

Dr. Syed Nadeem Qamar is an interventional cardiologist trained in USA and Canada. Presently, he is working as a professor of cardiology at National Institute of Cardiology at Karachi. Agriculture is his hobby and family business. He started his career in agriculture seven years back with flowers and today he grow all major crops of Pakistan. He also got involved with agriculture activism and currently is the president of Sindh chamber of agriculture.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON AGRICULTURE INPUT COSTS IN THE PROVINCE OF SINDH?

DR. QAMAR: The input costs of agriculture have skyrocketed more than 100 percent in last one year. A bag of urea is available at retail price of Rs1780. It was Rs840 December last. Similarly, prices of POL, seed and pesticide have also doubled. The government should exercise full control on fertilizer companies as the price of urea is too high as compared to India where it is for Indian Rs500 per bag and farmers are also getting subsidy on gas there. Adulteration in pesticides and fertiliser should be dealt with an iron hand by the government. The imposition of general sales tax pushed up prices of all inputs and implements by 16 percent. May God help us is all what I can say.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON PERFORMANCE OF AGRICULTURE SECTOR IN SINDH DURING THIS SEASON?

DR. QAMAR: The performance of agriculture was affected by the rains. All the major cotton and sugarcane producing districts were completely devastated by heavy rainfalls. We lost 80 percent of cotton and 75 percent of sugarcane. Other crops such as onion chilies, rice etc. were also affected. The wheat crop is however going to be bumper due to increased acreage and availability of water and favorable weather. Sindh will probably produce four million tons of wheat, which is almost same as last year.

PAGE: PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE AGRICULTURE SECTOR.

DR. QAMAR: Government in my opinion is sincere but bureaucracy is a big hindrance, so everything ordered by the president has not been implemented. Therefore, we practically see nothing. The policymakers including those in the federal finance division lack vision and have an anti-agriculture mindset. Therefore, farmers are suffering and will keep suffering till their thinking is radically changed. They must realize that agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy. They do not have the knowledge of agriculture and its related issues. The growers also complain that the agriculture sector does not get subsidized urea exclusively meant for them.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT LIVESTOCK, COTTON, RICE, AND OTHER CROPS?

DR. QAMAR: Pakistan is an agricultural country and the GDP growth of this country is dependent on agriculture. If you want to go to a GDP of eight to 10 percent, you have to work on growth of cotton, sugarcane, wheat, and rice.

PAGE: WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT VEGETABLE SECTOR?

DR. QAMAR: In February, we urged the Sindh government to immediately ban the import of onions, tomatoes, and chilies and termed it a conspiracy against growers of the province. We are of the opinion that such imports destroy the agriculture sector. Onions, tomatoes and chilies are already being harvested in Sindh and their import drastically brings down their prices, dealing a serious blow to local growers. We have always demanded that local growers should be paid just price for their hard work and toil and appeal to the provincial government to review price of sugarcane because the federal government has given permission to sugar mills to export sugar. We appeal to the State Bank of Pakistan to direct commercial banks to extend loans to growers under one-window operation on easy installments.