Interview with Mr Nadeem Shah — a progressive farmer
PAGE: Tell me something about yourself and your contribution for the betterment of the agriculture sector, please:
Nadeem Shah: I got involved in agriculture at the age of 17, way back in 1975 simultaneously continuing my education. I did my B. Sc (honors), DBS and MBA. My social activities comprise being Joint Chief CPLC Hyderabad, Member PCCC, Member Provincial Seed Council, Member Sindh Seed Corporation, Member Academic Council Agriculture University Tando Jam, Vice President National Reformers’Forum and Vice President Sindh Abadgar Board. I educate farmers every week without any hiatus and ensure monthly meetings to impart my knowledge to them for better production. I have arranged a number of exposure visits for farmers regarding different crops. I am very much into drip irrigation, biological control and organic farming. I am interviewed regularly for print and electronic media regarding agricultural activities and I have 114000 members on Abadgar Board’s Facebook group.
PAGE: Could you give your views about the current state of the agriculture in Sindh?
Nadeem Shah: Agriculture is no more a profitable business. Federal and provincial governments are good for nothing when it comes to underpinning the growth of this significant sector. Cotton production is rather abysmal this year with 50% less production, which must be the cause of concern since it is primary input for the textile sector of our country. Drainage system has collapsed due to no maintenance. Vegetable seeds are 95% imported and the drawback is that all imports are done at the time of harvesting of our crops, thus depriving local farmers of benefit, rather facilitate the foreign farmers. R&D is dormant, which must be taken on war footing since it helps in new varieties and spike in yield. Technology is not being transferred at grass root level. In case of bumper crop, farmer does get benefit in terms of export opportunity etc. resulting the excess crop to be dumped as garbage. There is no value addition system even after drawing the attention of the concerned authorities at numerous occasions.
PAGE: What is your take on the input cost?
Nadeem Shah: Cost of all inputs has been hiked multiple times in a season with no increase in the price of the crops. Federal government committed for subsidy on fertilizer and it never materialized. While the Punjab government did a lot to promote agriculture in the entire province, Sindh government is sleeping soundly. Instable marketing, lack of transport system, deprivation of cold storage, adulterated pesticides and fertilizers and very poor credit system are hindrances in agriculture growth of Sindh.
PAGE: Does the government help the agriculture sector?
Nadeem Shah: Government should come forward to support agriculture as is being done worldwide. A small investment can lessen import bill of edible oil, pulses and seeds. By providing value addition, we can earn a lot. When our onion is at harvesting stage, federal government stops not only export of onion rather imports onions from Iran and Afghanistan at the expense of local farmer, which is a grave injustice to the farming community.
PAGE: Kindly tell us about the quality of various crops?
Nadeem Shah: Pakistan grows the top notch quality wheat which is many times better than the wheat imported. Farmer sold wheat for Rs.1100/- to Rs.1200/ per 40 kg and the government imported for about Rs.2200/- Rice is now a cash crop and due to efforts of private sector (not government) is adding foreign exchange to the kitty. Some farmers are doing organic farming but due to lack of marketing there is very small demand locally. This sector needs to be promoted as it has a big scope and market worldwide. Health conscience individuals have been instrumental in creating demand. I grow organic vegetables but there is very less demand in the interior areas since only posh localities in big cities like that.