STRANGULATION OF AGRICULTURE AND INCREASING  RURAL POVERTY IN SINDH AND LOWER PUNJAB

 

M. H. Panhwar

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Farmers in general but Sindhi farmers and Lower Punjab in particular are being systematically reduced and asphyxiated to penury and death by the manipulation of the world prices by the Eight Developed Industrial Nations (G-8), and by the hypocrisy and selfishness of the agricultural policies of the Government of Pakistan entirely based on the interests of Industry. The entire Rural Poverty in Lower Punjab and in Sindh has been artificially created. The responsibility squarely lies on the Federal Government and its price control policy.

At the time of independence in 1947, agriculture was the dominating sector, contributing 53% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 1987, 40 years after formation of Pakistan, it contributed only 26% of GDP, still providing employment to more than 50% of country’s total labor force. Agriculture and agro-based exports account for 80% country’s total export earnings. Almost 70% of country’s population is confined to rural areas. The following figures speak for themselves:

The National Agriculture Commission 1988 is forced to admit the following facts:

The Commission has suppressed the fact that 1977-1986 were worst years for agriculture. The present writer has verified prices of wheat, year after year since 1950, covering a period of 40 years and converted the prices to the farmers for 40 kg of wheat to 1950 prices. The following are the conclusions:

The chart enclosed gives prices of wheat from 1950-1990 and gives price comparison with 1950 prices in terms of percentages. The prices of fruits, vegetables and industrial crops adjust according to the prices of wheat, as people would fill their bellies with wheat and rice if fruits and vegetables were costly.

The government also controls the price of meat, fish, chicken, milk, butter and etc., thereby seeing to it that urban population gets these items at reasonably low rates, so as not to resort to agitation.

In the workshop sponsored by Planning Department, Government of Sindh on August 30-31, 1990, with participation of Haris, Haris representatives, and specialists. I had expressed my views as under:

1)      As against the international prices of wheat to the tune of approx: Rs.220.00 per 40 kg, the farmer was being given Rs.97 per 40 kg.

2)      Farmers provide mutton and beef at the prices one fourth of those in the international market.

3)      Vegetables and fruits also being procured from farmers at one sixth of the prices for the same commodities in the international market.

4)      Farm Labor gets Rs.900 to Rs. 650 per month compared to Rs.2, 800 to Rs.3,000 earned by the city labor.

5)      Minimum wages fixed by the government are Rs.1, 500 per month for the labor class plus bonus, insurance, medical and other facilities.

6)      Land owners with medium sized holdings i.e., 50 to 200 are getting more produce than those with less than 50 acres and more than 200 acres, Land owners with less than 50 acres do not normally have the resources of capital for the inputs, whereas those with more than 200 acres cannot manage effectively.

7)      Imbalance/disparity in agricultural price structure is the root cause of rural poverty and problems pertaining to law and order.

8)      Over the past ten years ineffectiveness of the program has re4sulted in an increase in the area under water logging and salinity in Sindh by about 50%, whereas through the same program it has reduced by about 49% in the Punjab, with the blessings of WAPDA.

 

Consequences of price control.

Consequences of low prices of agricultural commodities are:

Why prices are controlled?

Comparison of prices of wheat form 1975 to 1994 in terms of real money considering the inflation.

Years

Percentage of 1975 price

1975

100.00

1976

94.52

1977

88.66

1978

82.70

1979

75.73

1980

83.16

1981

85.24

1982

79.33

1983

72.74

1984

64.39

1985

70.63

1986

62.73

1987

56.55

1988

55.79

1989

47.18

1990

49.37

1991

45.00

1992

42.65

1993

40.94

1994

49.58

 

                            This is in general philosophy of price control of agricultural commodities.

Article from: Sindh Quarterly.

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