Friday, March 27, 2020
KARACHI: Keeping in view the demand for fertiliser, seed, and pesticides for the upcoming kharif season (April-June), the Sindh government has decided to exempt the agriculture supply chain from the lockdown against the coronavirus epidemic, reported The News on Friday.
Sindh Minister for Agriculture Muhammad Ismail Rahoo told the publication that they took the decision on the request of farmers. However, he said that only registered shops and agents would be spared from the restrictions placed on the movement of people and goods.
Instructions in this regard have also been given to the home department of Sindh, he added. The minister said that kharif season was about to start in the province, and if agriculture supply chain was closed, major crops of the season, like cotton and paddy, would not be sown.
He noted that the closure of this supply chain would develop another crisis of food. The provincial minister advised all deputy commissioners and police officers not to get food shops closed during the day time.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had also raised similar concerns over the extreme measures taken by the provincial governments to contain the virus spread. Addressing a meeting of parliamentary leaders on Wednesday, the prime minister suggested to lift ban on transport as it would affect the supplies of essentials.
Earlier, Federal Ministry of National Food Security and Research, in a notification on March 22, advised all the provincial governments to exempt agriculture supply chain from the virus lockdown.
“It is requested that outlets/supply chain of agriculture inputs (pesticide/fertiliser/seed) may be exempted during the said lockdown to confirm the timely availability of agriculture inputs and their application in the field,” the notification read.
“This will ensure food security in the country and to meet estimated production targets of all crops.” Punjab government has already exempted the complete agriculture supply chain from the lockdown.
Nisar Khaskhely, a leader of Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), said that the opening of the supply chain was a must, as vegetable rates had increased after the lockdown. At the start of the lockdown, trade was closed with Afghanistan and Iran, which affected the movement of fruits and vegetables, he noted.
Khaskhely said that crops were suffering from the supply chain disruption. “Sugarcane is suffering from pest, it needs spray. Mango needs spray after flowering. It will be harvested in June. It can’t wait for anyone,” he added.
In order to strengthen food security, the SCA leader said there was a need to save the agriculture supply chain from closure and disruptions.
Mehmood Nawaz Shah, senior vice president, Sindh Abadgar Board, said that the lockdown was affecting the growth of fruits and vegetables that needed spray amid pest attacks, but pesticide shops were closed.
Welcoming the Sindh government decision to exempt agriculture supply chain from lockdown, he urged to also the government lift the ban on inter-district movement of wheat. He said the growers were being restricted from selling wheat, while the Sindh Food Department was also not procuring the grain.
“Administrative measures are not fully implemented and wheat is being transported after paying bribes at check posts,” he alleged. Shah said the government should ensure opening of the agriculture supply chain, as kharif season was about to start.