It has been over a year since the Prime Minister’s ‘mega’ Kissan package was announced, and with regular hiccups and consistent questions against its efficacy and performance, it is time to start wondering whether the hype surrounding it was little more than hot air.

The Rs 341 billion project, which featured subsidised rates for fertilisers and the highly-anticipated cash awards for farmers has been largely underwhelming. Initial issues such as requiring biometric verification for farmers with ID cards dating back further than 2005, and allegations of corruption and mismanagement by administrators were only the initial lacunas in a project that was touted as the largest agricultural package in the history of the country.

But beyond the technical problems lies the biggest problem of them all; the one that the PML-N government is often blamed for, favouring Punjab over the other provinces in the disbursement of funds. All three of the smaller provinces have spoken out against the unfair treated meted out to them.

Punjab is no doubt the biggest contributor of agricultural produce, but even this fact makes it all the more imperative for the farmers of other provinces to be supported to increase the overall agricultural output of the country. In any case, apart from the federal grant, the Punjabi agro-sector was further boosted by the Chief Minister following in his older brother’s footsteps and announcing a Kissan package of his own, in addition to the one by the PM.

The agricultural sector of the country is no longer what it once was. The energy crisis, a rise in regional competitors such as India leading to a diminishing market share and an influx of cheaper food imports, a dearth of research and innovation in agricultural techniques and the age-old struggle between the provinces for water has hampered growth in the sector. But beyond the stagnation, there are very real fears that it is being irrevocably damaged as a result of all of the above issues and will soon slip into a quagmire that it might not be able to come out of.

There seems to be a lack of ideas on what to do to revitalise the sector. This sorry state of affairs is perfectly evidenced by the fact that the country’s largest agricultural package is nothing more than a glorified cash grant. More is needed; increasing the amount of cultivatable land in areas of Balochistan for example, or investing in research for more efficient farming methods, or better quality yields.

Both food stability at home and trade abroad are dependent on the yield of the agricultural sector. While a growth in the secondary and tertiary sectors is a long-term goal to strive for, the agricultural sector cannot be allowed to die.