A High Powered Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA), mandated to oversee strategic measures for ensuring food security in the country was, held its meeting on 8th April, 2021, under the Chairmanship of Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research (MNFS&R). Besides participations of senior officers of the MNFS&R, the meeting was attended by the Provincial Agriculture Departments, State Bank of Pakistan, ZTBL, National Fertilizer Development Center (NFDC), Pakistan Meteorological Department, Indus River System Authority and Planning Commission of Pakistan.
2. While reviewing performance of the Rabi crops (2020-21), the Committee observed that wheat production for 2020-21 is estimated 26.04 million tons from an area of 9.191 million hectares; an increase of production is 1.7% over the last year. FCA was informed that the Potato production for 2020-21 has been estimated at 5742.7 thousand tons from an area of 226.1 thousand hectares; an increase in production of 829.7% over the last year. The committee also discussed the production achievements of other essential crops like Gram, Lentil, Onion and Tomato.
3. The FCA held detailed deliberations over the production targets for essential Kharif crops 2021-22 and decided to fix 10.5 million bales of cotton production target from an area of 2.33 million hectare, whereas fixed 8.2 million tons production target for Rice over 3.07 million hectare of land. The targets for other crops such as Maize, Mung, Mash and Chilies were also fixed. The Committee fixed the production target (2021-22) of sugar cane as 74.84 million tons over an area of 1.18 million hectares.
4. Pondering over the availability of agricultural inputs for Kharif crops (2021-22) the committee was informed that expected shortfall will be 16%. For the year 2021-22, the water availability in canals head will remain 67.60 million acres feet (AF) anticipated for Kharif 2021 (April-Sept) as against last year which was 65.233 MAF. At present all the provinces are getting their satisfactory supplies in the system.
5 Meteorological department informed that keeping in view the climate projections will remain normal to slightly above normal rainfalls, all over the country. The gradual rise in temperature will accelerate snowmelt in the Northern areas and subsequent increase in runoff of in upper Indus region. Low rains may cause water stress for the standing crops especially in the rainfed belt. There are chances of isolated lightening/thunder along with gusty winds/hails/showers over the plains and sub-mountainous areas. Fewer rains and seasonal rise in air temperatures may intensify the ongoing drought conditions over south-western Baluchistan and Tharparker region of Sindh. Accordingly, judicious use of available water stock is recommended.
6. The Committee was informed that the availability of Rice and Maize seed will remain as per requirement. Despite prevailing Covid-19 situation, the agricultural credit disbursement made by lending institutions is gradually picking-up the pace. During July 20 – February 2021, the agriculture lending institutions have disbursed Rs.806.4 billion which is 53.8% of the overall annual target and 2.9% higher than the disbursement of Rs.783.8 billion made during the same period last year. Further, the outstanding portfolio of agri. loans has increased by Rs.30.2 billion i.e. from Rs.565.6 billion to Rs.595.8 billion, by the end February 2021 as compared to same period last year. In terms of outreach 3.5 million borrowers have been benefitted as of end February 2021. Currently, 50 agriculture lending institutions including five major commercial banks, two specialized banks (ZTBL & PPCBL), five Islamic banks, 11 Microfinance banks and 13 Microfinance institutions / Rural Support Programs are providing agriculture loans to farming community.
7. The FCA appreciated the positive impact of fertilizer subsidy scheme which contributed to high yield and noted that the supply of Urea and DAP fertilizers was satisfactory during Rabi Season 2020-21 Rabi Due to local production and available stocks, the supply position of Urea will remain comfortable during Kharif. Availability of DAP will also remain satisfactory because of smooth inputs. However, the prices of DAP are (Rs.5400/- per 50 Kg bag) as compared to previous season due to increasing trend in international market as many manufacturing plants were shut by impact of Covid-19.
8. Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, Chairman PARC in the committee meeting emphasized on value addition of crops, vegetables and fruits and said that without value addition we cannot meet the food needs of the country nor achieve food security targets. Syed Fakhar Imam endorsed the proposal of Chairman PARC and also issued orders to form a Value Addition Committee. In the end, the Committee expressed satisfaction over the food security situation in the country however at present and in coming days, emphasized the need for concerted research & development on food crops and better coordination to consolidate the gains which will ensure further progress of the sector.