Sindh is undergoing series of serious crises in agriculture economy and following are the highlights:
Right Bank Outfall Drain.
Pakistanís internal consumption plus export potential is about 9 to 10 million bales. Pakistan increased its production to 12 million bales and exceeded its export quota by illegal smuggling. Since past 7-8 years it is known that China with its production of 30 to 35 million bales was not entering in the export of lint cotton as they did not have baling presses of international standards. Their bales weigh 70 lbs against 380-400 lbs of international standard, were not export oriented. China started putting baling presses and they are now in competition with Pakistan. The Central Asian cotton exports were limited to USSR only and they too are in the export market. This has hit Pakistan cotton and textile export.
Genetically evolved cotton could come in the market in the incoming years and cotton production can easily double. We therefore have to reduce the area under cotton production but increase per acre production. The surplus land has to be diverted to other crops.
Genetically evolved rice varieties are getting into farm lands. This means more production but export potential is limited as per population of importing countries. In view of extra production in years, we have to reduce area under rice and go for alternative cropping.
The CI&F New York price of sugar as it stood on eve of year 2000 was Rs.8.32/kg. Our local retail price is Rs.18 to 20 per kg. This is more than double the international prices. The consumer in Pakistan is not aware of it and once agitation starts government must surrender. We have to resolve the problem by improving the cultural practices at the farm level, improve efficiencies of sugar-mills and bring prices to half. The present high prices of sugar are political motivated to the disadvantage of the whole nation. The yields per acre in Sindh averages at 600 mounds against 1400, 2200 and 2400 mounds respectively in Iran, Kenya and Cuba. We have to improve our agronomical practices to hit that target and lower the prices or we will have to get out from the whole business. In the later case we have to know the alternative crops.
The price of wheat is fixed artificially low and varies between 40-50% of the imported prices in the last 15 years. In the year 1999 price of imported wheat was Rs.450 per mound where as farmer was getting Rs.265 only. Price of wheat in Afghanistan, Iran and India was Rs.550, 450 and above 300 per mound respectively. In Sindh wheat comes the earliest and is smuggled out to Punjab, Baluchistan and NWFP to be re-smuggled to above countries and thus Sindh becomes large consumer of imported wheat. The Federal Government decided to that subsidy of Rs.200 to 235 per mounds for imported what utilized in Sindh may be debited to Sindh. Sindh suffers doubly by getting low prices on its own wheat and paying subsidies on imported wheat. The consumers of imported wheat in big cities form at least 50% of outsiders from other provinces as well as from other countries living here legally or illegally.
The climate of Sindh is most suitable for all categories horticultural crops namely; fruits, vegetables, flowers and medicinal and aromatic plants. Some exotic industrial crops also fall into this class. Sindh does not have a single PhD in Agriculture Department as of today. There is also no well trained person in horticulture in the Department in Sindh. There is tremendous scope of export of all horticultural crops. Only limited quantities of fruits are exported but not to sophisticat6ed markets of the Europe and the Northern America. There is an un-saturated market in Europe, Northern America, Australia and Japan. The switch over to these crops can change face of Sindh. It will create 3-4 times employment on the farm and about half this number in allied trades like; post-harvest, packing plants, transport, export and other services and supplies. The farmers can easily triple his income, provided proper guide lines are provided by the government or private sector.
The switch over to horticultural crops will be an alternative to the area relieved from other crops.
Primitive methods of cattle farming based on grazing animals on waste lands and feeding them agriculture wastes like straw, mixed with small quantities of green grasses and occasional oil-cake is out-of-date. The government sponsored schemes for meat and milk products supported by bank loans are managed by a few urban middle class people, have all shown no real impact. The schemes have to be rural based, managed by rural farming community and feed produced locally. The whole process has to be highly scientific and economic oriented with strong management and oriented towards training of the rural people.
The present schemes involve only cattle for milk and meat. Emphasis has also to be put on sheep and goat, the number of which under natural grazing conditions in Sindh is 4-times that of cattle. The future schemes have to be scattered throughout Sindh to create employment opportunities and improve economy of rural areas, in addition to creating employment. To make sure that development will be uniform, each Taluka in Sindh is to have equal number of cattle centers so that area develops uniformly.
Post-harvest plants for fruits, milk, meat and fish.
Post-harvest plants to properly pack fruits and vegetables, chill milk, cool meat and fish properly and transport to the market under refrigerated conditions do not exist in Sindh. These facilities can create extra employment and economic opportunities and also bring more income to the farmers if such facilities are provided in each taluka, to the private sector.
Mechanization of agriculture beyond ploughing.
New crops for Sindh.
On our farm, I and my wife have recently introduced many highly paying fruit crops and the best ones of them are now being raised on the commercial scale. These are:
Most of these crops have potential of net returns of order of Rs.100, 000 or more per acre. Since introduction of 27 new fruit crops in the past 15 years we have concluded that it is possible for educated farmer to pick up this technology and benefit by introducing these fruit crops on their lands.
Green Revolution has failed.
Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, have killed soil fauna and turned soil almost sterile, reducing its productivity. To over-come the problem, we have to reduce application of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and power tools, investigate alternatives; use manures composts, mulches, foliar feed and micro nutrients etc.
Agriculture Income Tax.
Agriculture income tax is being used as boggy to harass the farmers and divert attention of urban resentment against invisible feudal. We should welcome the income tax, if all other taxes including octori levied on land and its produce are removed and only one tax is collected and also if farmers are paid international prices for their produce.
Institution of Kamdras (uneducated farm foreman).
Every sizeable land owner engages a farm foreman or Kamdar. In general his qualification include; very little or no education, bullying the tents and fleecing them, harassing small neighboring land owners, controlling water and denying water share to the neighboring, cheating land-owner and keeping good relations with police to harm those who he considers as self respecting and independent people. He lacks technical abilities. To replace him, we have to train post-graduates in any scientific field, to become technically sound to replace Kamdars as farm managers.
Agriculture Education, Research and Extension.
Agriculture education has deteriorated as due to lack of knowledge of English language, teachers cannot read latest books and for those who can read, latest books are not available in the libraries. It was a blunder to made Sindhi as medium of teaching in technical subjects. The only and quick way to restore teaching of technical subject in English language. There is no short cut.
It is non-existent in Pakistan. We have to resort to privation.
Agriculture Department in Sindh does not have a single Ph.D. Locally educated PhDs are good for nothing. There are no facilities of latest equipment and if they are there, there are no people to operate them. Privatization of agriculture research could change the situation.