Hu­mid-hot con­di­tions chal­lenges for agri sec­tor

Pakistan Observer - - ECONOMY WATCH -

OB­SERVER RE­PORT LA­HORE—With mon­soon be­com­ing more er­ratic, in both lo­ca­tion and tim­ing, farm­ers and plan­ners in Pun­jab are in a fix: what would it mean for agri­cul­ture a few weeks down the line if the cur­rent pat­tern holds or, as forecast by the metro­log­i­cal of­fi­cials, wors­ens? High tem­per­a­ture, heavy rain spells and hu­mid-hot con­di­tions re­place each other in quick suc­ces­sion. In the last eight weeks, the weather has touched two ex­tremes; after six weeks of un­prece­dented scorch­ing heat in the plains of the coun­try in May and first half June, un­timely and heavy rains (up­per Pun­jab re­ceived over 60mm rains in few hours last Wed­nes­day) have started lash­ing the fields at short in­ter­vals dur­ing the last one week.

For the time be­ing, these show­ers are con­cen­trated in up­per and cen­tral re­gions of Pun­jab, where it is ben­e­fit­ting crops. Rice, be­ing the crop of the area, is at the nurs­ery stage and plan­ta­tion has not still started. Here, the rains would only help land prepa­ra­tion and pro­vide ad­di­tional wa­ter for plan­ta­tion stage. In some cases, it could force farm­ers to re-do the land prepa­ra­tion ex­er­cise a neg­li­gi­ble ex­pense and ef­fort when com­pared with the ben­e­fit that ad­di­tional wa­ter would bring. Fod­der and or­chards would be next ben­e­fi­ciary of these rains.

Since rains have not lashed South Pun­jab so far, cot­ton has largely es­caped harm­ful im­pact. In the cen­tral re­gion, where rel­a­tively small acreage metro­log­i­cal fore­casts gen­er­ate more fears, es­pe­cially for cot­ton crop, when they pre­dicted 20pc more rains this year, mainly in south Pun­jab the core cot­ton belt.

Last year, 29pc dent in cot­ton pro­duc­tion brought the na­tional GDP down by 0.5pc. Pun­jab has al­ready lost around 1m acres in sow­ing against a re­duced sow­ing tar­get of 5.7m acres. The crop came un­der se­vere white fly at­tack. The rel­e­vant of­fi­cials of the agri­cul­ture de­part­ment were sent to the field and told to stay there till sit­u­a­tion came un­der con­trol. Over the last one week, the prov­ince had re­ceived three un­usual spells of rains, and is be­ing ruled by hot and hu­mid con­di­tions be­tween those in­ter­vals.

Rains are now ex­pected in south­ern Pun­jab (cot­ton zone) and stay there till end of Au­gust. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment con­vened a meet­ing last week to take stock of the sit­u­a­tion and take pre­emp­tive mea­sures. The meet­ing un­der­lined the need for im­me­di­ately stream­ing the seed sec­tor, fi­nal­is­ing le­gal for­mal­i­ties (like Plant Breed­ers Right etc.). It asked the gov­ern­ment to start re­search pro­gramme for which it had al­ready set aside Rs3bn in the cur­rent bud­get. How­ever, the farm­ers also main­tained that re­search re­quires a long-term ef­fort, which would take time to ma­ture.

In the mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must en­sure that re­lief pro­vided in the bud­get on im­port of pes­ti­cides reach farm­ers, and that timely im­ports make suf­fi­cient and qual­ity pes­ti­cides avail­able in the coun­try. On top of it all, the gov­ern­ment must an­nounce an in­dica­tive cot­ton price of not less than Rs3,000/40kg so that farm­ers could in­vest on their cot­ton crop with con­fi­dence of re­cov­er­ing it at the later stage. Un­less and un­til an in­dica­tive price is an­nounced, no other mea­sure could save the crop from fur­ther ero­sion.

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