FOOD SECURITY issue has not been new now in Pakistan especially with the gradual decline in agriculture production for the last many years due to multiple factors like water shortage, low quality seeds, rising prices of agriculture inputs, environment impacts, low usage of fertilizers, and low returns on crops. But more of it now is the critical shortage of local fertilizers which has not only strengthened the apprehensions of food security in the country but also swung a heavy blow to farmers who get far less returns on their crops than the officially agreed prices. Regrettably, the local urea plants at present are either getting no gas or far less gas than the approved quota thus resulting in huge import of urea and heavy losses to local plants. The gas curtailment, up to 75 per cent, to the urea plants from the available gas sources during the current fiscal year has triggered worrisome. These plants are having no gas even after the ECC approval about over two months back. On the one hand, almost all urea plants are facing huge financial losses due to the gas curtailment while on the other farmers and the economy are also bearing the brunt of this unhealthy situation. It is noteworthy here that out of 365 days, Dawood Hercules received gas for 62 days, AgriTech for 108 days, PakArab for 110 days and Engros new plant got gas for just 45 days in year 2012. Subsequently, the urea production level remained far less during this period triggering not only urea shortage across the country but also spent extra $500 million for urea import to meet the domestic needs. The government has spent some $1.15 billion on urea imports in the past two years in addition to a subsidy of Rs 55 billion to keep imported urea prices in line with the domestic urea prices. Despite that the farming community suffered a direct loss of nearly Rs 48 billion mainly due to the increase in urea prices and another Rs 10 billion because of black marketing. At this stage, the gas curtailment to fertilizer plants has emerged as the mother of all agriculture crisis. The main responsibility of this whole situation lies with the government who must come up with a policy to ensure the required gas supply to these plants. This is a chain problem as the smooth gas supply to these plants would jack up urea production and this will not only help in controlling urea prices in the country but also save a huge chunk of foreign exchange spent on urea import. And the more important is that this would encourage the farming community to cultivate maximum of their lands thus subsiding the apprehensions of food security crisis in the country.

By Web Team

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