The Senate Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research in its meeting on Tuesday at Parliament House discussed in detail the wheat and cotton losses sustained due to natural calamities. It also deliberated over locust attacks and the risks faced by Pakistani agricultural exports. .
Chaired by Senator Muzafar Hussain Shah, the meeting was attended by Senator Najma Hameed, Senator Sajjad Husssain Turi, Senator Seemee Ezdi, Senator Hafiz Abdul Karim, Senator Prof. Sajid Mir, Senator Muhammad Ali Shah Jamot, Senator Gul Bashra, Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar and senior officers from the Ministry for National Food Security and Research, PASSCO, PSSO, NFSR along with all concerned.
The meeting commenced with briefing on the Point of Public Importance regarding Locust attack in Balochistan raised by Senator Usman Khan Kakar. The Committee was informed that the present Locust outbreak erupted in Saudi Arabia. Measures taken by the Plant Protection Department included, distribution of knapsack sprayers and 1000 litres EC Pesticides among farmers in Turbat and Dasht, training of 45 Agricultural Officers of Balochistan Agriculture Department, deployment of 12 teams in Uthal, Pasni, Khuzdar, Panjhur, Kharan, Washuk, Kech, Gwadar, Chagghi, Nushkhi, Quetta and Dera Bugti. The Committee was further informed that the Chinese Government donated 50 high efficiency Air Blast sprayers, out of which 12 were provided to Balochistan Agriculture Department. Ten motorized sprayers were also donated and 835000 hectares of land were treated for locusts in Balochistan.
Discussing the number of vehicles provided for the Department, the Committee was informed that the Department possess 20 vehicles. Chairman Committee, Senator Muzafar Hussain Shah was of the view that every Division in all four provinces must have at least three vehicles to deal with such emergencies. Spraying planes must be made available as well. Regarding paucity of funds for the purchase of aircarft for aerial spraying, the Committee directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research that during the next budget the Ministry must take appropriate steps to ensure that adequate funds are made available. The, concerns have also been voiced by Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan that there are not enough aircraft for aerial spray, especially at a time when locusts hatch eggs. The Plant Protection Department was directed to submit a report on the preparations made to tackle any future eventualities.
While discussing the target for wheat production for the crop 2019-20, the Committee was informed that net shortfall for wheat was 1.411million tonnes. The main reason for shortfall in wheat production was erratic weather conditions. Other reasons included production loss, Hindrance by provincial government, hoarding, smuggling, high price trend in local market and international wheat prices. Chairman Committee was of the view that a list of recommendations had been handed over to the Ministry earlier; he asserted that an implementation report must be submitted regarding these in the next meeting. He stressed that a Wheat Policy must be formulated that would include all stakeholders. Discussing the risks faced by Pakistani agricultural exports, the Committee was informed that a ban on export of rice persists in two countries; Russia and Mexico. Ban on export had been imposed due infestation of a consignment with Khapra Bettle. A complete report was submitted to the Committee that was forwarded to Deputy Chairman Senate, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla on this, since he had taken up this issue via a letter with the Ministry.