Pak farmers to protest against Imran Khan government over high inflation
Fed up with inflation, farmers in Pakistan are planning to stage a protest in March against Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government.
According to media reports, multiple Pakistani farmer leaders, under the leadership of the organisation Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (Pakistan Farmers’ Unity) met on February 21 to work out a roadmap to launch a protest in March.
The Pakistani farmers are set to rally with a list of demands, including the fixing of the minimum support price (MSP) per 40 kilograms of wheat at 2,000 Pakistani rupees and sugarcane at 300 rupees, in addition to setting a flat electric power rate of 5 rupees per unit for farm tube-wells.
With the unprecedented wheat and sugar crisis taking a toll in the country, the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has also slammed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government for ignoring the farmers’ plight
“The seed control rate has gone up from 7,500 rupees to 14,000 rupees. The minimum support price for wheat was 1,400 rupees – we never even got that. Fertilizer was priced at 2,500 rupees but now it costs 4,500 rupees; urea was 1,300 rupees, now it’s 1,800 rupees. There is so much input-output disparity for Pakistani farmers that our produce just cannot compete with other countries,” said Pakistan Kissan Ittehad president Zulfikar Awan.
On November 2, Pakistani farmers “camped” in Lahore to register their protests against the government’s agricultural policies. On November 5, a protesting farmer was killed in police action, with the law enforcement personnel reportedly mixing tear gas with chemical additives.
“When we go out to protest, we are killed. Our fellow farmer was martyred in November and many others were injured [during the protest],” said Awan.
Farooq Tariq, the general secretary of the Pakistan Kissan Rabita (Farmers’ Contact) Committee (PKRC), said: “[In Pakistan] it’s the big companies that get subsidies for medicines or fertilizers. [The Pakistan Army-owned] Fauji Foundation is the most profitable fertiliser company [for example]”.
Pakistan’s future seems bleak as it grapples with lower-than-expected levels of food output and is in urgent need to import key food items including edible oil, wheat, sugar, tea and pulses.
As per reports, the production of the highly-valued cotton crop has dipped to a 30-year low and the productivity of the five staple crops has slipped to less than half of the world’s best. Moreover, recent supply shocks have increased food prices by an average of 31 per cent in the past 29 months.
The plight of the agriculture sector led to insufficient availability of local production of food items. Shortages can have serious repercussions for the country’s fiscal and external payments.