Pakistan Seed Industry News

This page features a compilation and selection of Pakistani seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 

The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

 

Seed association sees steady outlook for domestic seed sector in 2021: January:
Given favorable climatic conditions this year, seed industry stakeholders have forecast a steady outlook for the year 2021, which could be valued at 135 billion rupees  (US$842 million). Nonetheless, rising seed prices are one of the major issues that need to be addressed. According to the Seed Association o Pakistan Chairman Chaudhry Asif Ali, quoted in an article, government seed auctions are to blame for the seed price hikes, referring to the auctioning of “seed varieties of various crops developed by public sector research institutes to raise funds for scientists”. And despite shortcoming of cotton, wheat and maize crops in the last season, the SAP chief sees no shortage of their seeds for the next sowing. Read full story on Dawn here

Punjab Ag Minister on improving seed quality: January 2021:
Punjab Provincial Minister for Agriculture Syed Hussain Jahanian Gardezi in a meeting on 6 January said that “research on seed technology is an important need of the hour and it is the responsibility of the Punjab Agriculture Research Board (PARB) to provide technical support to seed companies” He said that seed quality could be improved by “developing high yielding diseases resistant lines” speaking during a visit to the new office building of Punjab Agricultural Research Board in  Johar Town. Read article here.

Cotton deliveries, ginning fall: January 2021:
More than 5.39 million bales of seeded cotton had been processed at ginning factories across Pakistan as of Jan 15, 2021, which represents a 34% drop compared to corresponding period of last year, when 8 million bales were received. Figures from the Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) point that 3.3 million bales had been sent to Punjab and another 2 million bales to Sindh, representing year-on-year drops of 30.38% and 38.67%, respectively. Read full article in Urdu Point here

IUB production of quality ag produce, seeds: January 2021:
The Islamia University Bahawalpur will be aiming to produce agriculture produce, supply quality seeds and promote agricultural research via a new project to cultivate 140 acres of barren land on its campus. Vegetables, fruits and herbs will be produced using ‘unconventional farming methods’ an already under production are 19 varieties of vegetables, 12 varieties of ornamental flowers and seasonal fruits. Read full details on Urdu Point. In a related recent seed news article the SAP Chairman in December pushed for seed manufacturing companies and farmers to have representation in an agricultural reforms committee as part of efforts to resolve longstanding issues. SAP members have reportedly “appealed to the federal government not to amend seed enforcement laws and regulations in order to ensure a level playing field for all companies.” Read full details of that story in The Tribune Pakistan here

2020 News

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Seed Association opposes proposal to delegate seed inspection powers:
The Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) has expressed opposition to a proposal to delegate powers of seed inspection to provincial governments instead of the Federal Seed Certification & Registration Department. The Ministry of National Food Security & Research is considering the move, but SAP says the powers should remain with the federal government so as to not complicate the process and maintain uniformity. More details here

Hybrid seed production farm model: December 2020:
The Mamonkanjan Seed Production Farm has been touted by the Secretary of Agriculture as private sector model for hybrid vegetable seed production in Pakistan. Secretary Agriculture Punjab Dr. Muhammad Asad Rehman Gilani recently visited Seed Production Farm Mamonkanjan, and said that more seed farms would be established so that seeds could be exported as well as supply domestic needs. The seed production farm, which has support from an unnamed Turkish company,  is set on 33 acres of land and equipped with a biotechnology equipment, seed testing lab sand state-of-the-art research equipment, with output including hybrid seeds of cucumber, tomato, bitter gourd, chilli, capsicum, melon, watermelon, sweet corn and potato. Moreover, the government is considering reducing duty on import of seed related machinery. Read more details here

Distributing subsdized seeds in mountanous Punjab: December 2020:
The Punjab government is reportedly implementing various schemes with Rs 189 million ($1.18 million) worth of capital, which will be used towards providing subsidized seeds to tribal people in the Suleman Mountain Range, specifically in the in Koh-e-Suleman area, where farmers would get wheat, Sorghum (Jowar) and Millet (Bajra) seed at a 90 per cent subsidy this season. Vegetables seed packets were reportedly already distributed there. More details here

Khyber farmers get wheat seed training: December 2020:
Some 50 wheat farmers from Bara tehsil of Khyber had recently received capacity-building training related to wheat seeds and cultivation.  Thae farmers, whose livelihoods were affected by militancy and displacement, were engaged by the Community Resilience Activity (CRA) in a training program that focused on civic engagement, social cohesion, economic inclusion and resilience building in the merged districts.Specifically, they learned about the importance of wheat, introduction of seed and its varieties, seed selection and climate requirements for wheat seed crop. Read more here

Seed ball reforestation of Margalla Hills: December 2020:
Citizens are being urged to participate a 'throw and grow' campaign to reforest areas along trails of Margalla Hills of Islamabad. Seed balls of Kachnar and Pine trees are being distributed in the campaing. Read more here

Punjab planning to promote medicinal plant cultivation: December 2020:
The Punjab government is planning to promote the cultivation of various types of medicinal plants, including Holy Basil (Tulsi), Psyllium husk (Ispaghol), Black cumin or Nigella (Kalonji), Ajowan Caraway or Bishop's Seed ( Ajwayen), Flax (Alsi), and Fennel (Saunf). With capital of 62 million rupees ($374,000) a total of 10 demonstration plots have been set up in six districts, including Multan, Khanewal, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal, Sargodha and Faisalabad. More details here.

 

AUGUST 2020

Wheat breeding and seed distribution ramped up

AUG 4: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research has 120 tonnes of disease-resistant, high-yielding wheat seeds, which will be distributed to farmers at subsidized cost. Reports APP.com, a number of high yielding wheat-varieties were developed under an emergency “Crop Enhancement Program” during the 2019-20 period, which focused on the development of “diseases resistance, high yield and … other traits of economic importance” through “farm demonstrations; improved variety, production technology, bed or ridge planting, zero tillage and cropping system” ay 125 locations in Potohar areas. Wheat breeding and R&D in Pakistan will continue this year with wheat germplasm acquired from the The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and distributed through National Agriculture Research System partners. As for distribution, efforts, a total of 432,500 “certified seed bags on 50 percent subsidy” were provided to wheat growers in Punjab…” while about 4,312 tons of seed was distributed among the growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in addition to 3,252 bags of subsidized fertilizers including potash and phosphorus. Moreover, seed production blocks were established on some 1,500 acres, with seed farming on 25 acres in In Azad Kashmir.

Evaluation of pure wheat seeds for subsidized supply

The Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhr Imam on August 12 stressed that “certified seeds were highly required to increase wheat production”. According to this article, the Minister said that the government was evaluating up to 400,000 tons of quality wheat seeds that were planned to be distributed to farmers at subsidized cost..

Punjab Ag Emergency program commences

Agriculture projects worth PKR300 billion ($1.78 billion) are now being implemented across Punjab. The projects are under the Prime Minister's Agriculture Emergency Programme, which includes PKR12 billion ($71.4 million) for increasing wheat productivity, PKR 8 billion ($47.6 million) for increasing sugarcane productivity, PKR 5 billion ($29.7mn) for increasing oilseed crop productivity, and another PKR 28 billion ($166.6mn) for improved management of water resources. The program also includes provisions to provide subsidies to farmers in producing sunflower, canola and sesame, as well as for purchasing equipment and critical inputs, including fertilizer and seeds. Full article here on The Urdu Point.

Subsidies for seeds and fertilizer in Punjab

Some 350,000 farmers in Punjab had received subsidies for fertilizers while 100,000 farmers benefited from subsidy for various types of seed. Made possible by funding for the current fiscal year, the Punjab smart subsidy and national subsidy programs made available more than PKR 2 billion through e-vouchers. According to this article, subsidies were provided for phosphatic and potassium fertilizers as well as seeds of wheat, cotton, rice, sunflower, canola, moong and sesame. 

Variety Evaluation Committee recommends new varieties

Three sunflower and one mustard candidate hybrid varieties of seed have been recommended by the Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC) on Oilseed Crops. The recommendations were made during a recent meeting  held at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), in which eleven proposals to evaluate canola, rapeseed, mustard, groundnut, sesame and sunflower varieties. More details in this news here

UAF maps out 2020-2047 ag policy with quality seeds in focus

The University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) is mapping out a comprehensive agriculture policy for the coming decades, a meeting was told. Entitled, “Pakistan Agri-Vision 2020-2047”, the policy will emphasize food security with special focus on productivity enhancement and be overseen by 13 committees. There will be a continued emphasis on cracking down on inferior and illegal seeds, fertilizer, and other agricultural inputs, while promoting and developing quality seeds. Urdu Point reports.

Standing crops breached by saline water from canals

Saline water breachment from canals and muddy embankments is causing salinity issues for farmers in various areas. According to this article, saline water has destroyed standing  sugarcane and rice crops in low lying areas of ten villages in Kot Addu Tehsil, Muzaffargarh, Punjab. The breachment was blamed on the Muzaffargarh canal not cemented in some areas, including in Eastern, western rukh, Qaim wala, Awal and Doum khai. 

Chitral floods inundate corn, bean and fruit crops

Flash floods caused by torrential rains have inundated a number of villages in the  Bumburate valley of Chitral District in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Aside from damaging houses and sweeping away a graveyard in Batrik, roads were also closed while the floodwaters inflicted heavy losses for farmers of maize and bean crops as well aws fruit orchards. Dawn Pakistan reports

Minister takes strong stance on seed certification entity

The Provincial Minister for Agriculture Muhammad Ismail Rahu  has vowed “to take action against irregularities at the farms of Sindh Seed Corporation”. According to this report by Urudu Point, alleged encroachments at farms would be removed and irrigation water availability issues would also be addressed by authorities, citing the Minister, who preside over a meeting with the officers of Sindh Seed Corporation. During said meeting the minister maintained that “provision of certified seeds was the responsibility of the corporation therefore the officers concerned should gain confidence of the growers by providing quality seeds otherwise they would start purchasing seeds from the open market.”   

 

JUNE AND JULY 2020

Wheat target short, bumper crop for potato and chickpea as cropping targets set

The Federal Committee on Agriculture (FCA) was informed in a meeting on July 8 that wheat procurement during the current crop season fulfilled about 80% the target set for domestic and strategic requirements, which meant there will be a shortfall of about 1.4 million tons of the staple crop. In reviewing progress of other crops, it was revealed that Pakistan had achieved bumper chickpea crop against the target of 540,000 tonnes, with production thes year up by 23.71 per cent. Likewise, there was a bumper potato crop this year, reaching 4.43 million tonnes. The Federal Seed Certification and Registration Department told the meeting that they were working on a mechanism for production of pulses and fodder seed in Balochistan. A rep from the Meteorological department said that the Potohar and Kashmir region would receive heavy rainfall in the coming three months, which could be devastating for crops, especially rice. The FCA revealed that rice production targets this year werre set at 7.9 mn tonnes, while maize 6.7 million tonnes, moong bean at  1,140mn t; mash at 10,300 t and chillies at 1.21 mn t. The Nation Pakistan reports.

Cotton sowing short by 1.3 per cent

Urdu Reports that cotton crop sowing in Pakistan during the current season (2020-21) has decreased by 1.3 percent compared to last year. Citing the Cotton Commissioner in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, the article notes that cotton had been sown on 2.45 million hectares, which was short of the 2.6mn hectare target.

Tackling locust infestation from multiple angles

Pakistan technicians have developed drones that will be used to spray insecticides and pesticides on locust-infested fields, reports Global Village Space. To contain the spread of the pest, the country ha engaged neighbors India, China, Iran and most recently, Saudi Arabia. Urdu Point on July 8 reported that the ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia held a virtual meeting with the director of the latter’s locust and migratory pest control center to discuss cooperation in fighting locust swarms that have been wreaking havoc . The two officials reportedly discussed ways to enhance cooperation in the Middle East and West and South Asia in addressing the locust swarms, which had arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June 2019, devouring cotton, wheat, maize and other crops.

Pests threaten cotton crop in Punjab

Various types of pests have been causing havoc for a large area of cotton crops in Pakistan. Namely, infestations by the white fly, jassid and mealybug in Seet Pur, Khan Garh, Sultan Pur in Multan, Punjab, have prompted the agriculture department to begin advising growers on twice-weekly scouting routines. According to Urdu Point, the Assistant Director for Agriculture Reformation Naveed Asmat Kahlon said that agriculture experts teams had advised farmers in the field about best practices to control pest attacks and thus protect yields. 

FAO, USAID distribute maize, sunflower seeds and beans for Covid relief

Dawn reports on an initiative led by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations  (FAO), with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to distribute Kharif crop packages to 16,000 vulnerable households so as to strengthen agriculture-based livelihoods in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Households will each receive a package, which contains 25kg of certified maize seeds, 1.5kg of sunflower seeds, 5kg of red beans and 10kg of French beans.  Distribution will be carried out in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and District Administration. 

Boosting tea production through better genetics, China cooperation

In a drive to reduce dependence on imports, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) will work on enhancing domestic tea cultivation. According to The News Pakistan, efforts include improving genetics in available tea germplasm and “standardization of nutritional requirements of tea and other high value crops” The article cites a 2017 figure from the FAO underlining China as the leading producer of tea in the world, outputting 2,473,443 tonnes annually. Currently in Pakistan, 13,000kg of green and black tea is being processed in an area of 2.5 acres in Baffa, Mansehra and there is a tea nursery with some “15000 cultivars”, with a piilot Green Tea Processing Plant procured from China with the Cooperation of Pakistan Science Foundation also installed at NTHRI which can process 80 to 100kg per day. News here

 

MAY 2020

Cotton seed price intervention

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on May 7 rejected a proposal from the Ministry of National Food and Security and Research to intervene with the price of seed cotton (phutti) at 4,224 rupees per 40 kgs, reports Pakistan Today. The Federal Cabinet, though opposing the decision of the ECC, has asked to review its decision through a four-member committee. The news is reportedly welcome by cotton growers, while textile millers are against fixing the intervention price. 

Committee calls for probe into poor seed, pesticide quality

The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Standing Committee on Agriculture has called for the government to look into issues related to substandard quality of seeds and pesticides. Among the issues raised is very poor germination of  cotton seeds and ineffective pesticides. The group, according to Pakistan Today, as well as Urdu Point, claims the poor quality of the inputs may be linked to “cartelization”. 

Cotton sowing guidelines issued

The Farmers Advisory Committee (FAC) has issued a number of cotton sowing guidelines for farmers planning to sow seeds during the month of May. Among their suggestions include treating seeds to address pest threats, while only sowing registered seed varieties approved by the government, in addition to sowing quantity recommendations corresponding to germination strength, reports Urdu Point.

PARC pushes mechanical sowing to boost rice productivity

The Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, during a visit to Gujranwala, has rice cultivators that mechanical sowing of the crop could increase productivity by up to 15% while saving on manual labour, reports Pak Observer.

Bad weather woes for Shangla crops

Heavy rains, snowfall, hailstorms, cold weather and landslides have caused hardship for people in the Shangla District of the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Reports Urdu Point, the bad weather in mid-May had caused “severe damage to standing crops”.

Ag only sector to grow as economy retracts for first time in 68 years

For the first time in 68 years, Pakistan’s economy will have marginally contracted by, suggests data covering the most recent fiscal year, which ends June 30, reveals..  This negative forecast as reported by Tribune Pakistan, cites “adverse impacts of the novel coronavirus coupled with economic stabilisation policies that had hit the industrial sector much before the deadly pandemic.” However, the agriculture sector grew by 2.7%, which is in contrast to the industrial and services sectors, which witnessed negative growth rates, pulling the overall growth rate down to negative 0.38% in the fiscal year 2019-20. 

 

APRIL 2020

Cotton support price, relaxed seed germination standards proposed

The Business Recorder Pakistan reports that a minimum support price for this year’s cotton crop has been pitched at 5,000 rupees per maund (37.2 kilograms). Meanwhile there is some disagreement on a proposal to ease cotton seed germination standard to 50% this year in response to bad weather and other economic woes. The article also cites discussion on a ‘truth in label’ standard.

Punjab cotton growers switching to sugarcane

Dawn reports on the trend of cotton farmers in Pakistan’s cotton belt, Punjab, switching over to sugarcane, citing the recent bad season for cotton marred by pest attacks and temperature fluctuations. 

Sewage-irrigated vegetable crops destroyed

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has destroyed thousands of kilograms of vegetables crops on a plot of land in Raheem Yar Khan, alleging that the crops had been irrigated with sewage water. The Urdu Point reports that the crops destroyed included pumpkin and apple gourd.

Food crisis looms as locust swarms spread

News reports suggest that Pakistan’s agriculture sector continues to struggle from locust infestations, citing increasing concerns of a severe food security crisis. In Balochistan, the Education Minister appealed to the federal and provincial governments to arrange sprays on emergency basis in order to eradicate locusts from the province, which have caused severe damage to crops in Kachi, Naseerabad and Sibi districts of Balochistan, reports the Express Tribune. Meanwhile, out of 18 workable spray planes, only two were available in hangers in Karachi and Lahore, according to an article by the Urdu Point, which relayed form an April 6 SWAC Virtual Meeting (April 6) a warning from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN that desert locust colonies were rapidly spreading in border areas of Pakistan, including in Hormozgan, Bunder Abbas, Fars, Khuzestan, Kerman and Bushehr. According to estimates, locusts and other pending issues have cause 100 billion rupee losses, especially to wheat, oil seed and fodder crops sectors. 

Farmers to be compensated for hailstorm damage

Urdu Point on April 28 cites the Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser saying that farmers in Swabi and different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, whose crops were severely damaged by a recent severe hailstorm, would be compensated. According to another article by Pakistan Today, hail-damaged crops included tobacco, wheat and various varieties of vegetables.  

Wheat rust susceptible varieties suggested to be delisted, substituted

Express Tribune Pakistan reports that scientists at the Ayub Agricultural Research Institute recommended delisting nine low yielding or wheat-rust disease susceptible varieties of wheat. The  varieties include TD-1, Seher-06, Galaxy-13, Galaxy-2, Gandam-1, AARI-12, AS-2002, Chakwal-50 and Pakistan-13, which reportedly  demonstrated more susceptibility to wheat rust. Meanwhile, the institute has suggested several other varieties that were less susceptible and thus would like have better yields. These include Akbar-19, Anaj-17, Ujala-16, Faisalabad-08, Barani-17, Fatehjang-16, Fakhar-e-Bhakkar, Zincol, FatehJang-16, Gold-16 and NARC-11. 

50pc rice seed subsidies in Lower Dir District

Urdu Point reports that the Agriculture Department in the Lower Dir District of the Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. According to the report, a total of 15,000 kg of rice seed has been provided by the province to the district for the current growing season, and would be made available to farmers at a 50 percent subsidy. Farmers are urged to contact local farm centers to acquire the subsidized seeds, which can also be delivered directly to farmers who have difficulties in obtaining transport during the “prevailing difficult situation” 

Punjab wheat drive, productivity and seed distribution

The Punjab Chief Minister has leading efforts to bolster the wheat sector, having inaugurated a wheat harvest campaign at a village in Rojhan tehsi, where 4.5 million metric tonnes of wheat would be procured in an ongoing drive in which farmers would be paid 1,400 rupees per maund. Punjab reportedly is anticipating to yield 19 million metric tonnes of wheat from a planted area of 16.5 million acres. The Pakistan Today article also mentions a project worth 12.5 billion rupees, which aims to enhance productivity of wheat. Moreover, 400,000 bags of certified wheat seed were provided to farmers at a subsidised price this year, and this would be tripled in the next season. 

 

MARCH 2020

Seed & fertilizer shops allowed to remain open during coronavirus lock-down

Urdu Point reports that Pakistan’s Agriculture Secretary has directed officials of the agriculture department branches to extend maximum awareness to farmers about precautionary measures against corona and also issued advisory for crops, while confirming that seed and fertilizer shops would remain open during this time.

 APSA has also received a copy of an order from the Pakistani government, prioritizing the agriculture sector during lockdown, download here.

Cotton seeds to be delivered to farmers doorsteps

Urdu Point reports that the Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) is offering to deliver cotton seeds to farmers’ doorsteps, and at recommended government prices. The article offers contact information and ordering instructions, and notes that the CCRI has advised farmers to sow five to six kilogrammes per acre in order to achieve “handsome production”. 

Subsidies for certified seed, sowing equipment mechanization

Punjab government is gearing to launch an ambitious project worth Rs6 billion to promote mechanisation, usage of certified seed and responsible application of pesticides according to the quantity prescribed by the agricultural experts.

Under this project, farmers will be given 50% subsidy on the purchase of certified rice seed. The government will bear 50% of the cost on the usage of different types of machinery such as transplanters, nursery raising machines, DSR-drill, rice straw choppers, rotavators and power sprayers. 

Rains devastated wheat crops in Bahawalpur, Punjab: Daily Times 

‘Olive revolution’ underwayDawn.com reports on targets to grow olives on 50,000 acres, with figures of current and expected growing, production capacity included in the article. 

‘wheat crisis’: Tribune Pakistan reports on a probe into why wheat had been smuggled out, e.g. 40,000 tons reportedly exported despite a ban and plunging stocks that caused Pakistan to need to import 300,000 tons duty free. 

Aus-Pakistan partnership in pulse production

Pakistan and Agriculture join in a project run by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and Charles Sturt University. The aim is to help improve pulse production, including chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts growing in poorer villages, generally in alkaline sand areas with an annual rainfall of 200mm.

CHINA TO DEPLOY DUCKS TO PAKISTAN FIGHT LOCUST SWARMS

 

FEBRUARY 2020

Farmers Bureau pushes for maize seed self-sufficiency

According to an article in the Business Recorder Pakistan, the Farmers Bureau of Pakistan (FBP) is urging for the government to take immediate steps to reduce the cost of agricultural inputs, including seeds and fertilizers. The news follows reports of farmers citing a bad year in both kharif (rainy season) and Rabi (winter season) cropping, noting the cost of seeds from private companies had been raised. “We demand from the government that all the private companies who are importing corn seed should immediately start producing, at least 25 percent of the seed, locally and should ultimately produce 100 percent within the country, in some agreed timeline.” a representative of FBP is quoted as saying.

Seed variety approval to be made easier: high-level meeting told

A high-level meeting attended by cotton industry reps, and presided over by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, was told that the government would make the process for approving new varieties of seeds easier and quicker. At the meeting attended by cotton industry stakeholders, including seed sector reps, the government agreed to give give autonomy to the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) through its restructuring and effective private sector representation, which would also includ reps from the seed sector, reports the Associated Press of Pakistan.

Hermetic storage solutions for better shelf-life and profits. 

APSA Member Haji Sons reports on impressive returns some of its Pakistani farmer clients are gaining thanks to the use of hermetic storage bags that can effectively extend storage life of various types of produce and commodities. The hermetic bags the company offers, in collaboration with Grain Pro, not only “elongate the shelf-life of commodities stored but also discourage the use of chemicals to keep insects away, thereby ensuring producer and consumer health,” the company reports. Unlike traditional plastic and Jute bags commonly used to sstore produce, the hermetic bags use gas-tight and moisture-tight materials to seal/store commodities and keep them safe from damage. Click here for more details. 

 

DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020

Premier to ‘direct’ Seed Act amendments

Some news outlets — including Dawn and Express Tribune — report that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has agreed to requests from the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association to initiate amendments to the Seed Act. Though exact details of the proposed amendments were not published in the aforementioned articles, The Wallet Pakistan indicates that the amendments may be related to streamlining the process of seed variety registration, and/or refunds of cotton cess (tax). The news comes after a “high-level” meeting between association reps and the PM which addressed the decline of cotton output, citing last year’s locust attack, middle-man adulteration and insufficient technological capacity. 

Bt cotton variety among Punjab approvals as biotechnology gains momentum 

At the 53rd meeting of Punjab Seed Council on 26 December, 2019, 25 new varieties of agricultural commodity seeds were approved, report various news outlets. Specifically, 10 varieties of “cumulative seeds” were approved, including nine olive varieties and one Bt cotton variety named as “FH-444”. In related news.Mr. Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology voiced support for biotechnology to address food security challenges. As quoted by ISAAA.org, the minister said, “Pakistan must take advantage of the latest technologies, in particular biotechnology, for the advancement of agriculture.”, speaking at the National Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology for Food Security on December 11-12, 2019 at COMSTECH Auditorium in Islamabad. 

‘Unusual’ and ‘deadly’ winter weather a boon for strained water reserves

Reports in the first week of the New Year of unusual or unexpected precipitation in arid and hilly parts of Pakistan were hailed in the media as a good sign for farmers and agriculture. Reports of snow had initially attracted hoards of tourists to the Murree area, and a farmer in Rawat was quoted as saying that welcome rain would be beneficial for vegetable cultivation.  Likewise, a spokesman from the Pakistan Meteorological Department confirmed in another report  that increased snowfall this winter, once melted, would ultimately contribute to increased water reserves in strained reservoirs. The official said the ‘unusual cold weather’ was an effect of Climate Change. Quoted in another report by Urdu Point, the PMD  had issued snow and rain advisories for Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and cautioned tourists against taking “unnecessary visits in hilly areas during snowfall as due to heavy snowfall, the roads of the hill station are slippery.” He also warned of flash flooding and heavy snowfall in parts of Balochistan, in addition to landslides and avalanches in Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan, Malakand and Hazara divisions. Indeed, the unusual winter weather has also taken an unfortunate toll, with the deaths caused by the effects of winter storms reaching 75 by January 14, according to this report