Pakistan: Relief sought for farmers hit by heatwave

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The Newspaper's Staff Reporter Updated October 26, 2019

LAHORE: Farmers have called upon the government to declare emergency in areas hit by the current heatwave, document the tentative losses incurred by the farmers due to failure of corn, cotton and rice crops and announce an incentive package enabling them to bear the brunt and go for the next crops.

The government should write off loans of, disburse financial or other assistance to farmers from the heatwave hit areas, demands Dr Zafar Hayyat, president of the Farmers Bureau of Pakistan (FBP), a platform of progressive growers.

“This should include per acre financial aid, special subsidy on fertilizer and seed for the next crops, waiving off abiyana (water rate) and theka (lease) and loans on soft terms or preferred rates for the next rabi crop,” he says while speaking at a press conference here on Friday.

South Punjab, particularly cotton growers who were also suffering from whitefly attack, faced this brunt more than the rest of the country, he says, lamenting that no scientific impact analysis has so far been done by the concerned departments of the impact.

He says the farmers tried their best to overcome the issues but falling prices of cotton and no timely policy intervention by the government discouraged them to spend more on their ailing crop, resulting in further loss to national cotton production.

“Lower cotton yield is not going to hit the farmers alone, but the textile industry and overall national economy in the form of reduced exports.”

Likewise, maize crop suffered grain loss due to the heatwave and many farmers converted it either to silage or sold it as green fodder to recover some of their losses. Poor maize crop will affect the poultry industry, which uses corn as a major ingredient in the feed, he fears.

The situation of rice crop, which fetches $2 to 2.5 billion per annum foreign reserves, is also no different due to poor grain setting and it may face 20 to 35 percent yield shortage.

The FBP president demanded a proper scientific analysis of the climatic change to assess the impact of current heatwave and sharing it with farmers and policy-makers on the priority basis, setting up a task force to assess the factors responsible for the lowering cotton production and documenting them for the stakeholders.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2019

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