Flood-hit growers await free seed as wheat sowing season ends

HYDERABAD: Promised distribution of free seed and fertilisers still seems to be alluding flood-hit farms of right bank of Indus where wheat sowing period has almost ended and farmers had to depend on their own resources to sow Rabi crop. The situation is in sharp contrast to what government functionaries like Sindh Information Adviser Sharmila Farooqui and Secretary Irrigation Rafiq Memon had been claiming regarding distribution of subsidised inputs to flood-affected growers.The process of inputs` distribution involving Rs3.36 billion, the cost of which is to be shared jointly by the federal and provincial governments, has started in districts like Dadu and Qambar-Shahdadkot lacks transparency. Small farmers are made to run for one or the other document as compared to influential growers.The package in question was announced by federal and Sindh governments after unprecedented floods devastated districts and the hinterland of Sindh in August and September.

Sindh government, according to reports, targeted 1.4 million acres of land for distribution of seed and fertiliser during Rabi season to provide a helping hand to growers, ruined by flash floods through this package but farmers believe that it has gone down the drain owing to below par performance of government and bureaucratic lethargy.Growers had started preparing their land soon after government`s announcement and when they saw no chances of distribution of wheat`s seed and fertilizer then they had to depend on their own resources.A farmer having 12 and half acres of land was supposed to get seed and fertiliser for wheat sowing. All those having required land record were entitled to it.The growers` discontent is that they had remained on tenterhooks ever-since the announcement and it is not known when inputs are to be made available. Agriculture department and district administration officials remained inaccessible to farmers.Sindh Secretary Agriculture Agha Jan Akhtar had told Dawn earlier that wheat`s seed would be lifted from food department`s godowns as it was available whereas fertiliser would be delivered by the National Fertiliser Corporation (NFC) to concerned DCO for which funds for transportation were released by Sindh government.

Ideal sowing period of wheat has passed. Growers mostly sow wheat by November to get better per-acre yield and then onwards the belated sowing doesn`t give good yield. Now the sowing will hardly be continued for another five more days.Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) president Abdul Majeed Nizamani questions the timing of provision of inputs in Sindh and said underweight seed bags are given. “I mean if the bag carries a weight of 50 kg, the actual was found to be less than that or around 40 kg”, he claimed. He expressed fears about quality of seed being made available saying that it will not be advisable for consumption.Sindh Government had formed committees for verification of farmers` record as far as affected area is concerned. Representatives of Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) and Sindh Chamber of Agriculture were inducted in each committee, formed at district level. Surprisingly, none of the farmers approached by Dawn confirmed that he was called in the meeting or the meting was really held.“I was president of my district chapter but I was not called to any such meeting of said committee. I haven`t been able to find either DCO or Mukhtiarkar for certain queries”, said SAB president of Qambar-Shahdadkot, Ishaq Mughairi.

He said that only five to six days back seed`s distribution has started in Qambar but fertiliser is not being distributed and he finds none to know its reason. He painted a pathetic picture of his areas as people have started returning home and water has receded. He disclosed that growers were opting for late variety after hectic efforts as ideal timing of wheat sowing has passed.Three DCOs of Qambar-Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Dadu were approached by Dawn for confirmation of veracity of growers` claim. However, only DCO Iqbal Memon of Dadu responded to the call with whatever facts were with him. According to Memon, 44,059 growers had been given seed while fertiliser is yet to be made available. An official of his office claimed that distribution started just one week back.A Khairpur Nathan Shah-based grower, Ghulam Mustafa Ansari confirmed commencement of distribution of seed just a few days back but said that revenue officials are making farmers to run for one or the other thing, causing humiliation to the already devastated farmer community.

Complaints of belated seed distribution as well as non-provision of fertiliser are received from Qambar-Shahdadkot, Thull and Khairpur Nathan Shah which were badly hit by recent floods. According to local growers, meetings of the district committees were not convened by district administration and they were in a quandary when fertiliser would be provided to them while sowing season has passed.“I was in the committee but I am pretty confident that meeting of the committee in question was not held”, said Ayaz Khan Khoso from Jacobabad. He said that growers have taken loans to sow wheat and 80 to 90 per cent sowing has already been done in the area as growers borrowed money for wheat sowing. The cell phone of Secretary Agriculture is off. He is said to be abroad.SAB general secretary Mehmood Nawaz Shah questions whole package of Sindh government from transparency point of view.“What the government wants to do with this over Rs3 billion subsidy package when it is not reaching affected party,” he asked. He said that influential people got sufficient quantity of seed while poor farmers are kept on false hopes.“Wheat has been sown and this package is not going to serve any purpose as far as wheat production is concerned”, he said. He said that seed being provided is of inferior quality because Sindh doesn`t have proper storage and preservation of seed – Dawn