ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has announced Rs309 billion programme for the uplift of agriculture sector of the country.

The details of programme, titled ‘Agriculture Emergency Programme, were shared by Minister for Food Security Mehboob Sultan and PTI leader Jahangir Tareen during a news conference at the Press Information Department yesterday.

The provincial agriculture ministers of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also present on the occasion.

They said that this four-year programme has been prepared on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan. This programme envisages 13 projects in the areas of farming, fisheries and livestock.

They said that these projects will be approved by the ECNEC this month and in a matter of two weeks practical work on these projects will be started.

Speaking on the occasion, Jahangir Tareen regretted that the agriculture sector was totally neglected in the past. Spendings on this vital sector of the economy were reduced from 29 billion rupees to 14 billion over the last ten years. He said the agri yield cannot be enhanced without spending sufficient resources on it.

He said that both the federal and provincial governments will contribute to the 309 billion rupees agriculture programme. He said that out of the total Rs309 billion package, the federal government would provide Rs84 billion while the remaining amount of Rs225 would be shared by the provincial governments.

Sharing key points of the programme, he said it focuses on enhancing per yield of wheat, rice, sugarcane and oil seeds. He said the living standards of the farmers will improve with better production of the crops. He said this programme is especially for the poor and small farmers.

Tareen said that 220 billion rupees will be spent on the water-related projects which include bricklining of watercourses and construction of small dams. Under this project, 70,000 watercourses will be bricklined which will help save nine million acre feet of water.

Talking about livestock, the PTI leader said initiatives in this sector include save the calf and fattening of cattle programme to enhance meat production and their export. He said that desi chickens will be provided to the poor population of rural areas on subsidised rates as part of efforts to alleviate poverty.

As regards fisheries, Jahangir Tareen said that shrimp and cage farming will be promoted and supported. There is a comprehensive programme for trout farming in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said loans will be provided to the people for trout farming in Naraan, Kaghan and Swat.

He said the government is also focusing to expand the agriculture markets so that the farmers could get better return of their yield. He said four new markets will be established in Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. Fifty-six other markets will be upgraded.

The PTI leader regretted that Sindh government was repeatedly requested to become part of the agriculture programme but they did not respond positively. He said the Sindh government should rise above politics and join the programme for the sake of the country and uplift of the agriculture sector. He said the federal government is ready to provide 18 to 20 billion rupees to the provincial government for the agriculture sector.

APP adds: Jahangir Tareen lamented that Pakistan had turned into an importing country of food products despite being an agricultural country, having best kinds of water, land, environment and other prerequisites. Last year $4 billion agriculture products were imported, he added.

He said that the previous governments had failed to promote agriculture sector of the country.

Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan also lauded the efforts of Jahangir Tareen in agriculture development of the country. He said Jahangir Tareen had made lot of efforts to formulate Agriculture Emergency Programme.

He said Tareen had taken all the provinces on board and hold several meetings with them and formed working groups in order to finalize the programme.

Talking further, Tareen said special measures would be introduced to enhance per acre yield of wheat from 35-40 maunds, rice by 10-20 maunds, sugarcane by 650-800 maunds, adding incentives was announced for the cultivation of oil seeds like canola and sunflower.

In order to make the agriculture produces more competitive, he said that special measures would be introduced for energy, water conservation and pest management to reduce the cost of production.

Tareen said special focus would also be paid on agriculture research, particularly in cotton to improve its production by improving its management.

He said that command areas of different small and medium dams would also be enhanced to bring more areas under crop cultivation, adding about 200,000 acres of land would be brought under cultivation in the command area of Gomal Zam Dam.

Tareen said work on the construction of Kachhi Canal had been started which was stopped from last several years after spending Rs80 billion, adding it would save about 70,000 feet water every year.

Besides, he said that government was also going to start work on Kachhi Canal phase-2 that would bring over 70,000 kanal of land under cultivation.

Replying to a question, Tareen said the government would ensure the implementation of support prices of all crops in order to protect the farmer.

He said this year wheat farmers had received proper fixed price of the commodity all across the crop-growing areas, besides cotton growers had also received stable prices which resulted in increase in area under cotton sowing and decrease in sugarcane sowing.

To another question, he said sugar prices surged due to increase in tax rate that was deposited in government account. He said currently there was no justification in price hike of the commodity, adding all sugar mills were open for provision of the commodity on official fixed rates.

Replaying to a question, Sahibzada Sultan said locust attack was intercepted, adding ground and aerial spray were arranged to control the pest, besides activating and alerting the field extension of these areas.