The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet took some commendable steps in its meeting on Friday under the chairmanship of Federal Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Among the decisions it took, the most important with respect to the energy crisis was that of allocating Rs 163 billion to pay the circular debt. This will greatly reduce the span of loadshedding which at the present has gone as high as 18 hours per day and has hit the rural economy severely. GST on tractors was reduced from 16 percent to 5 percent, thus making it affordable for the farmers’ community. The Zarai Taraqiati Bank was asked to help the needy farmers with loans. These measures seem to be a good booster to the ailing agriculture sector of the country that currently accounts for a substantial part of the economy. Yet there is reason to believe that given the current dismal situation they are not enough. The prices of fertilizer that have gone up sharply need also to be subsidised.

The veritable booster that our agriculture needs is that of uninterrupted water supply. For that it is necessary that subsidy is given on tube wells. However at the end of the day a round the clock supply can only be ensured with the help of large reservoirs. Dams have a number of advantages but in our context where India is building a number of reservoirs on River Indus hence making us a water scarce country, we need to build big reservoirs including Kalabagh Dam. They would prevent the wastage of precious water resulting from seasonal rains. The farmers’ problems have multiplied with runaway inflation and subsequent increase in the price of inputs like diesel and fertilizer. On top of that, when the crops are ready the middleman enters the scene and reduces the profit margin of the farmers. Consequently per acre yield has dramatically decreased hitting the farmer’s with small landholdings hard. The last nail in the coffin seems to be the government’s unwise step of importing food products from India, which has not only hurt the local farmers badly but will make us dependent on India for a number of food products.

It is clear that a Green Revolution initiated during the 60s when dams and a whole variety of agricultural reforms were introduced is needed at the moment to rescue the sector from the jaws of demise. The farming community is finding it hard to sustain itself. With the decline of agriculture by the hour, the country’s food insecurity is becoming more pronounced which ought to send alarm bells ringing in the concerned government quarters.