Acknowledging the problems of farmers, the Punjab Government has taken an extraordinary step by allocating Rs 50 billion in the provincial budget under what it called Khadim-e-Punjab Kisan Package.
According to the budget documents, agriculture, which is backbone of Punjab’s economy, has been facing great difficulties due to plummeting commodity prices in the international market. Therefore, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced a two-year comprehensive package of Rs 100 billion.
For FY 2016-17, an amount of Rs 50 billion would be spent on the package. These funds will be spent on welfare of the farmers and agricultural development to increase the per acre yield. Since more than 40 percent of Punjab’s labour force is engaged in agricultural sector, this package will immensely benefit a large chunk of population.
Under the package, Rs 17.7 billion have been allocated for providing interest-free credit and smart phones to farmers. As many as Rs 11.6 billion will be spent as subsidy on fertilizers (for over 17 percent reduction in the prices of DAP, Urea and potash). The provincial government has also announced Rs 7 billion subsidy on electric tube-wells to reduce per unit rate of electricity from Rs 8.85 to Rs 5.35.
An outlay of Rs 3 billion was also announced for Cotton Seeds Reforms Project for introduction of new climate-smart varieties on six million acres, benefiting one million farmers. An expenditure of Rs 2.5 billion has been earmarked for Punjab Ware-house Receipt Financing System.
The government also announced Rs 2.1 billion high value agriculture (climate smart technology package), while Rs 1.8 billion would be spent on high-tech mechanization service centres.
The finance Minister also informed in her budget speech that Rs 1 billion had been allocated for farmers’ cooperatives, with Rs 3.3 billion to be spent on other initiatives. As per budget documents, the major focus of the initiatives in this sector is to ensure efficiency in water utilization, use of ICT and other tools to increase the reach of agriculture information to small farmers with upgradation of agriculture extension, provision of agriculture machines and implements, conversion of Potohar into an olive valley and provision of better seeds.