ISLAMABAD

The groaning farmers’ representatives on Wednesday resented PML-N government’s apathy towards agriculture sector and blamed the ‘Farmers Killer Policies’ of the incumbent rulers for the price slump of various agri-products.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, but as a result of the government farmers killer policies, the growers of wheat, sugarcane, rice, cotton and vegetables have been worst affected, the farmers representatives said while addressing the Forum on “agriculture, pricing trends and it's possible implications on rural economy” held here in the Planning Commission. The forum, which was closed for the media, was attended by Federal Minister Planning, Development & Reform, Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sikandar Hayat Bosan, about dozen of PML MNAs from Punjab and about 150 farmers representing different farmers associations. The forum decided to form six working groups on wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, vegetables, and agriculture inputs. The Working groups were tasked to give recommendations for resolving problems in agriculture sector particularly the pricing issue and submit its report within two days. According to farmers representatives “Wheat, rice, cotton and vegetables are becoming cheaper while the electricity, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides are getting expensive, this uneven growth is unsustainable,” source privy to the meeting told The Nation. The farmers’ representatives have demanded the government to reduce the prices of electricity, fertilizer, pesticides and seeds.

The government continued apathy towards agriculture sector would result in slump in the national economy and unrest in the rural areas, the farmer claimed. The farmers can no longer take the burden of anti-agriculture policies of the government and are almost at the verge of starvation, the source said quoting a farmer representative.

Addressing the forum Ahsan Iqbal assured the farmers that the government cannot take their entire burden but will try to address their genuine complaints. The minister said that unfortunately country is facing crisis in agriculture sector due to commodity nature of sector and we failed transform agriculture sector into value-added sector. However present government has planned to remove this deficiency through launching of cluster-based agriculture initiative to transform agriculture sector into value added sector.

Ahsan Iqbal said that agriculture sector accounts for approximately 1/4 of our GDP whereas 44pc of our labour force is associated with this sector. But the full potential of this sector is needed to be realised yet. We have to pay attention on competitiveness of our agri-products to excel in international markets.

He pointed out that agriculture sector lagged behind in value addition because our research institutions couldn’t introduce the innovative seed and technologies in this sector, which government is now focusing with full potential.

He said that reduction in agri products prices in international markets has created hardships for farmers all over the world. He assured the farmer’s representatives that government would extend all possible assistance to farmers growing rice, cotton, wheat and vegetables and would make all "doable solutions" for betterment of agriculture sector. He said, a national olive plantation has been launched to make Pakistan major producer of olive. FATA, Potohar and Balochistan can produce international level olives. There is a need for provinces to increase investments in agriculture sector.