PAKISTAN imports pulses and gram (chickpea) to fulfill its consumption needs. Local production of masur (lentil) and mash is low due to mediocre quality seed used. It is also increasing inclination in growers to sow other cash crops like cotton.

This gap between output and consumption keeps flaring resulting in inflated import bill touched $1 billion during the earlier fiscal year. The increase was not just because of higher import price, but also due to increased quantity of exports.

Punjab’s agriculture authorities designed a 3-year plan (2014-16) to promote the sowing of pulses to seizures this trend and ensure national food security in the province.

Research institutions developed high-yielding seed varieties for the Punjab Seed Corporation (PSC), and then supplied certified seeds to growers at subsidized rates as per plan.

Project aimed to transfer modern production technology to farmer by training programmes and demonstration plots in each tehsil.

Performance indicators set for the project based on benchmark survey conducted by the Planning and Evaluation Cell of the Agriculture Department contained within increasing crop area of masur by 30%, moong 16% and mash 30% in the union councils.

As a result of the use of better seeds under the programme expected an increase in yield 30% each for masur and mash and 20% for moong pulse.

Pulses Research Institute developed the basic seed of masur weighing about 1,550kg and provided it to the PSC for multiplication during the year 2014-15. PSC sowed the seed at its different farms in April 2015 and produce only 5,300kg certified seed of masur instead of 30,840kg, for 2015-16, according to an official document.

Target for 2016-17 was 45,840kg but produced 11,000kg only. Hence, the shortfall for both the years has become 60,380kg.

In the same way, research institutes developed 2,292kg of basic seed of mash in 2015-16 and PSC sow it for multiplying the quantity to 45,840kg, but it failed.

A senior agriculture department official lamented that the PSC failed to meet the targets in spite of the time period extended to September to supply around 67,000kg seed of masur and mash each.

The government may extend the project period up to June, but chances were low for PSC to meet the seed target.

Dr. Muhammad Aslam, agricultural economist and architect of the pulses promotion project, said delayed implementation of the project has also overstated the delivery of latest machinery for sowing and harvesting pulses.

He said government has asked to proclaim support prices for pulses and ensure their procurement via public-sector entities, such as the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation and the Punjab Food Department, for motivating farmers to bring more and more area under pulses cultivation for a sustainable increase in their products and supplies.