Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) called off its sit-in and protest in front of assembly hall after government assured them to solve their problems. The small farmers had been protesting low potato price and demanding immediate export of the crop yield. Hundreds of farmers belonging to different districts of Punjab gathered outside the Punjab assembly on the Mall road Lahore. The small farmers are not happy with the low prices of potatoes.
According to Punjab government official, Pakistan produces four million tonnes of potatoes, of which 95% are produced in Punjab. Potatoes are produced mainly in some districts of central Punjab. Kasur , Sahiwal, Faisalabad and Okara are the major producers of potatoes in Punjab.
The small farmers from different districts across the province protested for two days on the Mall Road. The protesters demanded that the government reduce the price of agriculture inputs and ensure better rates for their crop.
The farmers staged a demonstration over the crash of potato prices. They emptied a trolley of potatoes in front of the Punjab Assembly while carrying baskets full of tubers on their heads. The farmers also shouted slogans against the government and announced to present the potatoes as a gift to the Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar.
The protestors also set a huge stock of potatoes on fire to indicate that their commodity was of no worth in the market. They demanded that the government should fix minimum price of Rs12 per Kg. The farmers also urged the government to reduce the prices of agriculture inputs, including fertilizers, seeds, electricity and diesel for tube wells and other raw materials. They alleged that the price of potatoes in the market is three times less than the total cost.
The price of potato in the market is so low that farmers are unable to cover production costs. In some cases, the farmer cannot even recover the transportation cost of bringing potatoes to the market. The fresh potatoes are selling in the whole sale markets in the range of Rs 400 to 600 per 100 Kg. The matter of fact is that the potato and sugarcane crops were rotting. As a result, farmers are facing financial losses amounting to hundreds of thousands of rupees.
At present, the potato’s price in the local wholesale market is Rs600 per 120kg bag. So if the cost of carriage, picking, commission etc also includes, the price would reduce to Rs550 or so per 120kg potato bag. It means, the potato price ranges between Rs4.50 to Rs5 per kg that is much less than the total cost incur on sowing, labour, pesticides spray, picking, carriage etc.
Malik Nauman Langrial, the Punjab agriculture minister held negotiations with farmer’s representatives and assured them to address their grievances. He said that the provincial government had written a letter to the federal government for fixing the support price of potatoes at a reasonable level to prevent financial loss. He stated that it is the federal government’s prerogative and the provincial government is doing its best to ensure a better price for different crops.
He assured protestors that the government will introduce a number of schemes aimed at the welfare of farmers to bring down the input costs of different crops. He said that the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar had constituted a committee to ensure payments to sugarcane growers. “I will take your complaint to the federal government regarding the fact that farmers are facing problems in transporting potatoes to Iran and Afghanistan”, he said. The farmers called off their protest after negotiations with the government.
Official price statistics from the Punjab Agriculture Marketing Information Service reveal that the price of 100kg of potatoes at wholesale markets is Rs750 in Lahore, Rs900 in Faisalabad, Rs1, 250 in Rawalpindi, Rs900 in Multan and Rs700 in Okara. But these are selling prices of potatoes by the whole sale traders. The farmers are getting much lower price.
The farmers worked hard to produce potatoes, but they are not getting the right price for it. They are not getting the subsidized fertilizer any more. The prices of fertilizers have gone up in recent months. Now they are not getting the proper price of their crop.
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17 August, 2019