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Behold sunflower growth in Sindh

Behold sunflower growth in Sindh

The initial conversation with growers from Sindh reveals that in the recent past farmers used to grow sunflower on a substantially large area. However, with the passage of time and after making considerable losses, they have stopped cultivating sunflower. The experts are of the opinion that a little attention of the government, creation of awareness among the farmers and construction of modern warehouses can once again convince them to cultivate sunflower.

The experts go to the extent of saying that Sindh has a potential to bring down Pakistan’s edible oil import to half of the current quantum. Farmers don’t demand any incentive but: 1) availability of seeds of high yielding varieties, 2) allocating specific loans to sunflower farmers, announcing support price before commencement of sowing, availability of warehouses were safe keeping of Sunflower is possible and stopping import of substandard/ used edible oil.

In Sindh, sunflower acreage, which rose from 38,530 hectares in 2001-02 to 253,713 in 2008-09 and to 266,964 in 2010-11, but has come down to 39,856 lately.

Let us begin with area under cultivation in Sindh, despite Mighty River Indus passing through the province, which also has world’s largest manmade irrigation a significantly large area is termed ‘Arid Zone’, mainly dependent on rain fall.

It is a common complaint that water does not reach the fields located at the tail end. Over the years the successive provincial governments have failed in cleaning/ maintaining canals as well as water courses. This creates two problems, seepage and overflows. The cultivable is reducing fast because of water logging.

Since maintaining watercourses demand political will and deployment of budget, a little improvement is expected. Under the prevailing situation farmers can cultivate Sunflower and take advantage of “residual water and nutrients”.

According to the farmers sunflower seeds being sold in Sindh have not only outlived their lives but prove too costly/ yield very low return to farmers. In this regard Agriculture University located in Tandojam will have to play a key role in developing new varieties. There is a word of caution, Government of Pakistan should facilitate use of hybrid seeds but should not allow use of genetically modified seeds.

Sindh seems reluctant to join the Prime Minister’s Agriculture Emergency Programme worked out at PKR 309 billion in 2018-19 for which the federal and provincial governments were to offer their respective 40-60 share. Part of the 10-point agriculture emergency program, the “National Oilseeds Enhancement Programme” worth PKR10,176 million failed to attract Sindh. Provincial government failed to contribute its 60% share to avail the PKR5,000 per acre subsidy for farmers.

The programme was under way in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The reluctance was perhaps due to the ongoing friction between the federal and provincial governments. It was the third consecutive year Sindh did not become part of it. Sindh being a major contributor in sunflower production would have been a major shareholder in the PKR11 billion project if it had opted for the facility.

Experts are also of the view that Sindh does not have ‘fit and proper’ warehousing facilities for sunflower. It may be true that farmer may not be too keen in establishing/ managing warehousing facilities, but State Bank of Pakistan and commercial banks have to hold road shows/ awareness programs to let the people know the benefits of safekeeping of their produce and also the lending using the produce as collateral.

There are various bodies/ associations of farmers in Sindh. Out of these Sindh Abadgar Board is working relentlessly for the welfare of farmers of the province. Its newly elected President Mahmood Nawaz Shah and Senior Vice President Nadeem Shah are very keen in improving the income of farmers, especially small farmers. Sindh Government must listen to them to bring prosperity to farmers and stop construction of real estate on the cultivable land.

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