Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Year 2011 was difficult for agriculture sector

Year 2011 was difficult for agriculture sector

Written by Salim Ahmed   

Lahore—In the backdrop of withdrawal of subsidy on agriculture inputs, levy of General Sales Tax (GST) on electricity, agriculture inputs and implements, the year 2011 was ‘difficult’ for agriculture sector in general and the growers in particular.Due to these factors, not only input cost rose to 35-percent but at the same time produce price of some of the major crops such as cotton, rice and sugarcane dropped by 25-percent, agriculture experts said. According to Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Association (PASA) Chairman Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, the year 2011 was “a year of loss” for the farming sector.

He said the government had not only withdrawn subsidy from the agricultural inputs and electricity but also imposed General Sales Tax (GST) on them due to which prices of input increased too much and its usage dropped hampering the performance of the agriculture sector. Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema claimed that imposition of GST on fertilizer sector had witnessed 30-percent decrease in DAP usage besides decrease in usage of Urea and pesticides. Similarly, he said both federal and provincial governments had become heavy borrowers due to which loan spread for agricultural sector squeezed. ‘Agricultural sector which has 23-percent share in the GDP should have at least same amount of share in the loan spread from the commercial branches to keep it going,’ he argued.

Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said that loaning had not only squeezed for the farmers but also for those involved in the business of agricultural inputs and agricultural produce. ‘Loan spread has even squeezed for those sheller owners, flour millers and arhtis,’ he said, adding: “Price of any crop is stabilized and leave profit for the grower when market is ready to buy at least 70-per cent of the produce in one go. But with the decrease in funds (by virtue of decrease in loaning) market would not be able to buy the produce with that ratio rather would hardly buy 40-50-per cent of the produce then the prices would start falling.”

He claimed that agriculture sector does not have that much funds to buy 70 per cent produce in cash. Giving example, he said the government had announced Rs 1050 as support rate for 40 kilograms of wheat, but it could be ensured only when the market have funds to buy this produce and maximum buyers are in competition to buy wheat.

Mr. Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said absence of food processing industries, storage and other value-addition industries was another issue which could not be tackled by any government despite tall claims during the present year. ‘No new scheme or investment was brought in this sector which could not only overcome waste of perishable and non-perishable agricultural commodities but could also help both producer and consumer in shape of sustained prices,’ he regretted.

To a question, he said that the government should decrease the prices of agricultural inputs, improve marketing system for this sector and enhance loan spread besides investing in research to increase per acre yield. These steps are essential to overcome food shortage and avoid any threat to food security in the future.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Horse Breeds

Arabian: It is generally thought that the Arab horse was established on the Arabian peninsula as early as 5000 BC. What is more certain is that to spread the message of God, the early Muslims reached as far as France and thus spread the Arabian blood into Europe. The Arabian horse has been found superior in stamina, speed and prepotency wherever it has been introduced. Because of its prepotency, it has been continually crossed with virtually all types of horses to improve and refine future generations.
In Pakistan, Arabs are bred as pure and are also being crossed with Thoroughbreds. There are Arabs as well as Pak Arabs in Pakistan. The essential appearance of all Arabian horses is similar, although those bred in different parts of the world tend to have a different type. The usual height is between 14.2 to 15.2 hands and weigh 360 to 460 kg. The head of the Arabian is perhaps its most characteristically recognizable feature; it is refined and ‘dished’-slightly bulging just above, below and between the eyes so as to make the nose look concave-with large bright eyes, flared nostrils and a small tapering muzzle. The neck should appear well-set on the body; the back should be short and strong with the ribs well-rounded, and the tail set perhaps a little higher than in most other breeds. The legs should be hard, clean and well-formed, and the action is characterized by an apparently almost floating movement, particularly at the trot. Arabs are mainly used for polo, races and for breed improvement.
Thoroughbred: It must be counted as the most successful ‘invention’ of the horse world. It has been developed for speed at intermediate distances (2 to 3 km). Thoroughbreds have been popular as polo ponies, hunters, jumpers as well as for pleasure riding. These were developed in England by mating native mares by oriental sires (Arabian, Turks and Barbs).
Thoroughbreds run in all shapes and sizes. A superior racer will have acceptable conformation, but superior conformation does not necessarily mean superior performance. Most Thoroughbreds tend to have a long forearm and gaskin and display considerable length from the hip to the hock. They are noted for long, smooth muscling. The rear or propelling quarters are especially powerful. The usual range in size is 15.1 to 16.2 hands at withers and weigh on average 400 to 560 kg. Their colours are black, dark bay or brown, bay, chestnut, grey and roan (roan is really a nonblack grey). Thoroughbreds are performance horses. In Pakistan, they are being crossed with the Arab, Hanoverian and Cleveland, Pakistan has Thoroughbreds as well as Pak Thoroughbreds.
Indigenous Horses: The term ‘horses’, as generally used in Pakistan, includes a large majority of ponies. These are indigenous (Desi) animals. Strictly speaking, they do not meet the standard height requirements. No doubt, exceptions among indigenous stock are there, who comfortably fulfill the standard requirements and show superb athletic performance. Apart from ponies, there are Thoroughbreds and Pak Thoroughbreds, Arabs and Pak Arabs. Imported horses of other breeds are also found in Pakistan, but in small numbers.
More than 0.12 million ponies including some horses are employed to pull Tongas and Rehras (both are two–wheeled carriages). A large number of horses are used for equestrian sports, police patrolling, dancing, circus purposes, children riding etc. Several farmers usually maintain one horse/pony simply for occasional riding, while most of the time they are not put to any work. The number of such equines may be in the range of 0.13 to 0.14 million.
It appears that none of the related agencies in Pakistan has made any effort to find out the actual position of indigenous horse breeds.  Whatever is given below in this regard is based on the information obtained from horse lovers and some scanty information scattered in literature (Amir, 1997; Hassan, 2004; Ashraf, 2005).
Documentation of characteristics of indigenous horse breeds is as much important as their preservation and protection from getting extinct. Indiscriminate crossbreeding and lack of a clearcut equine breeding policy are responsible for the present state of affairs. As such, the breeds and their description given below need further investigation to attain the required precision.
Indigenous Horse Breeds
Balochi: Balochi horses are found in parts of Balochistan and Sindh provinces and in some parts of districts Bahawalpur, Muzaffargarh, D.G. Khan, and Multan in Punjab province. Their main utility is for riding, tent pegging and for pulling ‘Tongas’ (a two–wheeled passenger carriage). They are medium–sized with a fine head and neck, pointed ear tips almost touching each other. They can withstand extreme environmental stress and show marked endurance. Their legs are fine and strong. General body colour is bay, chestnut or grey. Average body weight is 300 to 350 kg, height about 14 hands or 140 cm. Total population is estimated at 16,000 to 20,000.
Hirzai:  These horses are of Arab origin and have ample resemblance to Balochies. Hometract lies in Balochistan province. Their size is intermediate between those of a horse and a pony. Thoroughbred stallions provided by the Balochistan Government at important centers such as Quetta and Sibi are instrumental in large scale crossbreeding with native mares. The objective is to improve the native stock, however, this policy has led to the deterioration of native breeds purity. Good specimens of Balochi and Hirzai breeds are available at Sibi and Nasirabad Horse shows.
Morna: This breed originates from the districts of Faisalabad and Okara (Punjab, province) situated on the right and left banks respectively of the river Ravi. Morna horses are famous for their well–developed but fine neck, which is arched and protrudes from shoulders. They have broad chest with medium–sized compact body. Average height of Mornas ranges from 14 to 15 hands (140 to 150 cm), silky long hair on mane, thin and fairly long tail, ears medium with slightly curved tips; head relatively small with somewhat elongated face; legs long, thin between hock and pasterns with round feet; hindquarters well–developed.
Siaen (Shiaen): These horses are smaller than Mornas. Hometract is district Jhang. Also, found in adjoining areas of Faisalabad and Sargodha (Punjab). Height ranges between 14 and 14.5 hands (140 to 145 cm); neck medium in length, broad chest. Siaens have dished face with beautiful eyes that are highly admired in purebred animals; eyelashes are quite long. Bay, chestnut and black are the common body colours. Some people consider them as having descended from Seqlawi strain of the Arab.
A recent study (Hassan, 2004) using DNA finger printing technology, indicated that Morna and Siaen breeds of horses are very closely related. Since their hometracts are contiguous to each other, thus crossbreeding is the natural outcome, especially in the absence of a planned breeding policy. The study further showed a close relationship (0.9114%) of Morna and Siaen with Arab. Thus it may be stated that most native horse breeds have had an infusion of the Arab blood.
Anmol: Reminiscent of the horses brought by the army of Alexander the great, these animals have become almost extinct due to indiscriminate crossbreeding and a lack of a declared breeding policy. Rare specimens can be traced from Soon Skesar (main habitat) in district Sorgodha (Punjab). Average height of Anmols is little over 15 hands (over 150 cm). Common body colours are white, grey and bay. They are strong and elegant with compact body. Head is crude, ear tips are curved. Present population size is negligible.
Kajlan: These horses are found around Chiniot and Pindi Bhattian in districts Jhang and Hafizabad (Punjab). Their eyes have a distinct black look as if they are painted, hence the name Kajlan. Kajlans have good ability for ambling. They are used for long–distance riding in rural areas. Most of their features are distinctly Arab. Their total population is around 2000 head.
Topras: These are coarser horses found in Shorkot area (district Jhang).
In addition, there is a horse breed in NWFP named as Waziri. These horses are comparatively light and small and are used mainly for riding in hilly/subhilly areas of the province. They are also used for polo at local level.
Of those, generally called as horses here, about 75 percent are ponies. They are mainly used for pulling ‘Tongas’ (two–wheeled passenger carriage) and ‘Rehras’ (two–wheeled goods carriage), riding/pleasure riding, tent pegging and as polo ponies. Ninety percent of the Tongas and Rehras carry passengers/goods in cities while the rest are confined to the rural routes. The use of Tongas is gradually declining since motorized transport is taking their place.

Key Reference : Mr. Bakhat B. Khan, www.agrihunt.com


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