LAHORE - Addressing a Press conference on Wednesday, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, President PPP, Punjab vehemently opposed the import of potatoes, onions and other vegetables from India, stating it was harming the interests of farmers community here.

He advised the government to take into account the vital interests of the country’s population before embarking upon non-discriminatory trade relations with India.

He said that the PPP would support the sit-in of Kissan Ittehad at Wagha on March 31st to protest the government policy of import of agriculture produce from India.

“We will not oppose such imports if farmers of Pakistan are provided the facilities at par with the Indian farmers who get very cheap inputs from the government”, he maintained.

“It is need of the hour that the farmers should be given incentives because agriculture sector is quite capable of getting the country out of the economic problems”, he asserted.

Wattoo reiterated that wheat support price should be fixed at Rs 1500 per maund in view of the overrun of inputs prices, adding, that the poor segments of the society in urban areas should be given subsidy to purchase wheat flour.

Wattoo said that the government should declare agriculture as its top priority in the development strategy of the country because this sector was far less capital intensive and dividends were staggering and quick.

He regretted that the government was not appreciating the gravity of the situation regarding the scarcity of water which was the life line of agriculture.

He urged the government to adopt two-pronged strategy to address this grim situation sooner than later.

He said that the government should concentrate on the building of mega, medium and small dams throughout the country to conserve water.

He recalled that during the previous PPP democratic government the country had attained the status of food security country only because the government’s pro-farmers policies. The country not only became self-sufficient in wheat production throughout its tenure but also exported the commodity to other countries, he added.

He strongly criticised the IMF driven policies at the expense of the people of Pakistan.

They accepted the stringent conditions just to get the loan which is not judicious management of the economy at the macro level, he stated.

He also said that the government should take up the matter with India and ensure the implementation of the Indus Water Treaty Agreement in letter and spirit to our advantage.

He observed that the recent decision of the international arbitration was disturbing because it reduces the share of water allowed under the Indus Water Treaty mainly due to inefficiency of the government that failed to plead the case due to lack of preparedness.

He expressed his frustration that the present government was not giving due attention to agri sector and that was the reason that the government had to import wheat to meet the domestic shortage. It is clear manifestation of government’s anti-farmers policies, he said.