Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research Mr. Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan addressed a press conference in Islamabad today. The focus was to brief the media about the recent budget proposals from the ministry and budget allocation.
The Federal Minister Mehboob Sultan said Agriculture is a devolved subject and the responsibility rests with the provinces. Since the creation of Ministry of National Food Security & Research after the devolution, the development budget of the Ministry hovered between Rs. 1 – 1.5 billion. The Government for the first time has enhanced the development budget of the Ministry of National Food Security & Research from approximately one billion to twelve billion, a phenomenal increase of 1100%. Agriculture being a devolved subject and the responsibility for its progress rests with the provinces.
Budget 2019-20 would be first after the devolution, wherein the Federal Government will provide assistance to the provinces for the Agriculture Sector (Rs. 12 billion).
Provinces, in the post-devolution period, did not give importance to the Agriculture Sector and the allocation in the development budget was reduced by 60%.
The Federal Minister briefed the media present in the conference about the performance of agriculture sector over the last decade and the shortage is because of stagnant productivity of all important crops, he added cropped area of the five traditional crops has also largely remained unchanged. Climate change also poses a serious challenge to Pakistan’s agriculture and threatens country’s water availability and food security. Under-performance of agriculture sector during 2018-19 was mainly due to insufficient availability of water which led to a drop in cultivated area and a drop in fertilizer off take. The government is trying its best to help the farmers by providing agriculture inputs at affordable prices and ensuring better prices of their produce.
Mehboob Sultan said that financial year 2019-20 would be first after devolution where the provinces have committed to enhance their allocation from almost 15 to 18 billion (combined of all 4 provinces) to almost 50 billion per year. This is due to the fact that current Government realizes the importance of Agriculture Sector for the poor segment of the society and also for the economy of the country.
The Federal Minister further apprised the media that The Federal Government in cooperation and coordination with the provinces and the regions has committed to launch 13 projects during the next 4-5 years for the uplift of Agriculture and Livestock Sectors. These projects are aimed at enhancing crop productivity for potential exports, water conservation, improvement in the Livestock Sector to enhance meat production and promotion of the Fisheries Sector.
He said that among present government’s initiatives one is Agriculture sector tube-wells shall be charged at a subsidized rate of Rs 6.85 per unit. In Baluchistan, a flat rate of Rs.10, 000 per month is charged from the farmers and excess bill up to Rs.75, 000 per month is shared by the Federal and provincial Governments, and the other is Crop Loan Insurance Program wherein Small farmers who had incurred losses due to damages to their crops shall be provided loan insurance scheme. In this regard, Rs.2.5 billion has been proposed in the budget 2019-20.
All in all for development expenditure of National Food Security and Research Division, Rs. 12,048 million have been allocated, while for Other Expenditure Rs 15,500 million have been earmarked, said the minister.
It is worth mentioning that in the current financial year, provincial allocation is around Rs.50 billion, whereas the Federal Government is contributing to the provinces in the tune of Rs. 12 billion. The measures will be step forward towards the uplift and promotion of the Agriculture Sector, which has a sizeable contribution of around 19% in the national GDP.