Problems of Small Farmers in the Country
Source: Mr. Farhat Karim Hashmi EVP (P, R &TD), ZTBL
Mr. Muhammad Rashid SVP (P & R D), ZTBL
Agriculture sector is the primary sector of Pakistan's economy providing the inputs to all the sectors. 20.9 percent of the total Gross Domestic Production (GDP) comes from agriculture providing employment to 43.5% of the population. The emerging challenges of national food security and climate change have shifted the policy focus globally towards the development of agriculture sector during past few years. The high potential of this sector in earning valuable foreign exchange is been greatly realized through taping the potential in value addition sectors.
Pakistan's agriculture community consists 90% of small farmers having various limitation in their day to day farming practices that has been translated into the fact that per yield level in Pakistan has been graded in the lower to middle ranged economy fulfilling the propensity to cater to the food requirements of its growing population and with current pace of development envisage to slip to the lower ranged economies having ability to catering to the nutritional needs of its population by the year 2030.
One of the fundamental attributes of these is the fact that our small farming community faces number of difficulties that ultimately hampers the quantum of our farm produce. In the following we discuss number of factors / difficulties faced by our small farmers.
Lack of Awareness
Farmers do lack fundamental awareness pertaining to crop production, choice of crop at the time of cultivation in general and in relation to the land demographics. As a result the agriculture produce remained handicapped and found in most of the cases refrained in chase the appropriate price levels/selling prices. This all attributes to very low profitability of small farmers. Further adding to injury is the fact that doesn't exist any apex body on central level from where appropriate guidance can be channelized to farming community in timely manner.
Increased Cost of Production:
The biggest challenge presently faced by the farming community has been low returns of their commodities because of higher costs of production. This higher cost of production is majorly attributed to the increased cost of fuel and energy having multi fold effect in terms of induced inflation.
Tapping the Potential in Value Addition Sector:
There is a need for well-thought interventions to improve agriculture products value addition at the farm levels and industrial linkages, especially under the existing situation, when the agricultural commodities returns do not commensurate the increasing cost of production, a vibrant industrial sector understanding of these challenges may come forward to support the farm sector.
Limited Farmer's Capacity:
Another major challenge is building of farmers' capacity. Farmers are mostly found refrained of timely technical advice and up to date technological knowhow. Lack of organized concerted initiatives/ programs by the government undertaken on subsidized arrangements is also an attribute to same. There is a need for development of comprehensive on-site training programs for farmers capacity building where latest agriculture technologies be practically demonstrated to the farming community.
Agriculture products markets are still found to be highly unorganized having very low or limited control of the government for enforcing the support prices of agriculture produce. Moreover lack of availability of accurate stats pertaining to estimates for quantity required to be produced in relation to its demand for any crop/agriculture commodity also casts its adverse effect resulting in reducing of farmers profits due to low prices.
Slow Rate of Technological Innovation:
Mostly the farm practices are found to be undertaken prevailing upon the conventional and outdated methods with lack of requisite mechanization. Most of the farming possess the literacy rate up-to middle level schooling. This reduces their adaptability and inclination towards adopting new technologies.
Limited Adoption of Progressive Farming Techniques:
Majority of farming community comprises of subsistent farming community having limited land holding. Accordingly meeting to their working capital requirements is the fundament need for which they seek leverage through financing from formal and informal sources. This phenomenon coupled with low access to the resources keeps majority of farmers to undertake their farm activities on traditional/ primitive ways.
Problems with Quality, Quantity and Timeliness of Input Supply:
The timely availability of quality seeds and inputs is also another factor that hampers the farm productivity and ultimately farmer's growth. Mostly the availability of high quality hybrid seeds having higher yields is found very limited. This phenomenon coupled with shortage of fertilizers, their increased costs and other agri inputs adversely affect the farms output.
Limited Access to Agriculture Credit and Lack of Agriculture-Specific Financing:
Agriculture sector is a vast credit market having huge credit appetite and potential. According to estimates the prevailing supply demand gap amounts to Rs. 500 billion as the total credit requirement for the year 2015-2016 is Rs.1100 billion whereas credit disbursement target is set at Rs. 600 billion by State Bank of Pakistan. This gap during 2014-2015 was Rs. 430 billion as the total financing extended by the banks to the farming community was Rs. 515.9 billion approx. (as against the target of Rs. 500 billion) as against the total requirement of Rs. 946 billion.In spite of Credit Disbursement of 516 billion during 2014-2015 agriculture growth improved only from 2.7% to 2.9% during the period 2014-15. Implying that the agri credit expansion is not the major determinant for agri sector growth and development. Therefore the above stated factors play their pivotal role for expansion in agriculture growth.