LAHORE – Representatives of farmers’ organizations have put conditions on trade with India, saying the trade is only possible if government gives local farmers subsidy or impose duty on neighbouring country’s products.

“Government should give Rs 12,000 per acre to growers on various inputs or impose Rs 400 per 40 kg regulatory import duty on Indian products to ensure level playing field to local farmers because agriculture sector of India is highly-subsidized,” said Dr Tariq Bucha, President Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP), Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal, Chairman Agri-Forum Pakistan (AFP), Hamid Malhi, Chairman Basmati Growers Association (BGA), Sarfraz Ahmad Khan, Vice President Kissan Board Pakistan (KBP), Abdul Basit, former Chairman Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) and Hussain Jahania Gardezi, a progressive cotton grower and vice chairman FAP. They said here on Wednesday that they could produce abundant vegetables, fruits and other produces if prices of inputs including fertilizer, diesel and electricity are brought at par with Indian levels. They were of the view that dynamics of farming sectors of both countries should be minutely examined before fully opening trade.

The farmers were called to express their views on ‘Farmer’s Perspective on Pakistan India Trade Liberalization” under the aegis of the Agricultural Journalists Association (AJA).

Through a joint resolution, they warned government that agriculture is the livelihood of 65 per cent of Pakistan population and imbalance in trade with India will mean suffering for country’s economy and depriving people from their livelihood.

“What sort of liberalization policy is this, if it doesn’t favour the country? Who are the people pushing it to the detriment of our economy? Are the negotiators competent enough to carve a fair & free trade policy for agriculture with India?” the resolution read.

They urged the government not to waste Rs 400 billion a year on doomed public sector enterprises like PIA, Railway, power companies, Pakistan Steel and divert this money to agriculture sector for reducing prices of agri inputs.

They also expressed their concern over detrimental effect of Indian import to domestic poultry industry and demanded inclusion of poultry products in sensitive list.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Tariq Bucha said we are not taking important trade related decisions while taking into consideration interests of agriculture and allied sectors. He said decisions in this regard were being taken in a hurry by federal government, leaving many crucial questions unanswered. He said there was visible negative impact on our agriculture sector due to free trade with India.

We have seen collapse of tunnel farming in Pakistan because of unabated import of vegetables, he said, adding that the notion of availability of cheap fruits and vegetables due to free trade had also not proved true. “We were forced to buy imported Indian banana at Rs 300 per dozen,” he said.

He floated idea of constituting a committee comprising representatives of agriculture and allied sectors to look into various aspects of Pak-India trade and evolve future line of action to ensure level playing field for local farmers.

Ibrahim Mughal said Pakistani sugarcane growers had to pay additional Rs 115 billion alone on account of costly inputs if compared with production cost of Indian sugarcane farmers. Similarly, he added, domestic vegetable growers have to pay 63 billion more against Indian vegetable farmers because of high input cost.

Moreover, he said, owners of orchards cost escalated to Rs 43 billion due to high cost of inputs if compared with Indian prices. He said no agriculture in the world can compete with others due to this huge difference in cost of production.

India gives Rs 1100 billion subsidy to its agriculture annually while Rs 367 food subsidy was additional to this money, he said, adding that Pakistan can given subsidy to its agriculture sector by diverting money being wasted on public sector enterprises of power, communication and other sectors of economy.

Abdul Basit, former vice president LCCI and ex-chairman PPA, said we have already lost market of Afghanistan due to contrasting cost of production of poultry if compared with regional players. He made it clear that feed cost had been calculated at 70 per cent of total poultry production expenditure while 90 per cent of feed’s ingredients were originated from agriculture sector.

Hussain Jahania Gardezi said production of cotton crop of Pakistan could not be increased due to various factors including low quality seeds. The Indian production has been doubled while we have failed to improve quality and quantity of cotton. He said cotton growers should be given equal opportunities in order to enhance productivity. We cannot ignore interests of farmers while opening trade with India, he observed.

Hamid Malhi said no farmer organization was consulted before evolving the trade liberalization policy with India. Unfortunately, agriculture which is not being represented by a Ministry at the federal level during the last two years, was taken for granted, he observed.

The recent cotton export restrictions, the cement import impediments and other tariff and non tariff barriers by India protects its agriculture and industry.

Sarfraz Ahmad Khan of KBP said production of various pulses has showed dismal performance in Pakistan due to lack of policy initiatives. We have not been able to develop quality seeds of pulses that is why our production fell short by three lakh tons if compared with demand of one million tons of pulses. India’s production of pulses was also not enough to meet its requirements but they are exporting huge quantities to Pakistan being low in price. He said India has devised a plan to enhance production of pulses further by introducing quality seeds, inter-cropping with Kharif crops and providing Rs 20 per kg subsidy to farmers. However, we have done nothing in this regard, he said.