LAHORE: Farmers reject the farm subsidy system which, they say, is an inappropriate method that fails to serve the cause.
In an online discussion, progressive farmer Rai Arslan Ali rejects token system subsidy as improper and urges the government to stop the practice forthwith. He demands the government offer direct subsidy like other things, arguing that a large number of farmers don’t even know how to use mobile phones and thus cannot avail the financial support offered through it.
In the name of subsidy, the farmers get tokens or scratch cards in bags and get cashback or so-called subsidy in three months, which is a very long period of time for small growers, he says, calling for a direct subsidy system as the only best solution for farmers.
Aamer Hayat Bhandara argues that cooperatives can be beneficial in a country like Pakistan where billions of rupees are spent on subsidies. He suggests that instead of distributing the subsidy amount at a later stage, a farmer should be able to get the fertilizer bag at a discounted rate and the financial assistance should be given to fertilizer dealers or companies.
To prevent hoarding and false reporting to the government agencies, he calls for employing digital solutions about how many genuine farmers have bought the fertilizer.
Naeem Abid says the problem with the current system is that instead of receiving instant financial support, farmers get a token, which is processed and payment is made in three to four months. The farmer then rarely employs this amount for farm activities and it goes for other personal usages. He says that farmers infrequently track payments against the token (usually worth Rs100 each), and thus in most cases that subsidy payment vanishes into the air.
He rather opposes short-term ‘expensive’ solutions like subsidies offered under political pressure and urges the government to find a better alternative as subsidies are only useful when they have large- scale positive externalities.
He argues that subsidies reduce incentives for farmers to cut costs and they try to put as much fertilizer as they can, no matter whether the crop needs it or not. Instead, he suggests, the government should invest that money in educating farmers about modern techniques, where they can get maximum yield using cost-efficient technologies.
Ali Nawaz Watto says the current subsidy system is useless for farmers as the mafia is taking advantage of it. “I won’t like to blame anyone but I paid an agent to register myself as a farmer in the 2019 and 2020 seasons because it was more difficult to visit the agriculture office and the land record centre to provide them evidence that I am a farmer. Why did the agriculture department have no record of farmers? If they don’t have then it’s a pity,” he says while pointing to the complaints of corruption among the officials.
Alleging that subsidies are also being stolen through fake bank accounts, he demands a better crop support price to make up for the rising production cost. Irfan Hussain bemoans that tokens are not properly stitched in the fertilizer bags, while sometimes the farmers lose them. Mostly illiterate farmers also don’t know how to use it, while the lengthy processing time makes the beneficiaries indifferent to the scheme.
Moreover, producers of fertilizers and dealers be fool the government by submitting wrong data like showing 1,000 bags to get more subsidy amount against actual sale of 500 bags.
Islamuddin Memon says that India recently announced a subsidy worth Rs650 billion for ensuring adequate availability of fertilizers to farmers and to enable timely accessibility of the compost in the upcoming crop season. While Pakistan has announced Rs37 billion fertilizer subsidy, which is equal to 2.62% compared to India’s, he laments.
Malik Imran proposes tapping the huge potential of farm animal manure, most of which is being simply drained into local streams, for maintaining fertility of soils. He says the government and corporate-led interventions can utilize this potential.
Regretting that he never saw any agriculture department official visiting him to train about better farming techniques during the last 15 years, he says an awareness campaign should be launched at village level to introduce modern farming methods and crop varieties to the people.
Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2020