Punjab’s agricultural marketing department in dire straits

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LAHOR:


Due to the failure of the provincial government to define and implement new rules governing the auctioning of crops, the Punjab’s agricultural marketing department has recently suffered from an intense administrative and financial crisis.

According to sources, the provincial authorities would face difficulties in regulating, controlling and stabilizing the prices of crops due to the ambiguity related to the application of the old and the new agricultural marketing system and its associated rules. Confusion in the price mechanism has also started to affect the prices of fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, the government of Punjab has expressed its dissatisfaction with the draft rules prepared by a committee formed three weeks ago, after which consultancy services are sought for this purpose.

Sources further revealed that the provincial government promulgated an ordinance establishing the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority (PAMRA) on October 15, due to which the previous regulations became null and void.

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Talk to L’Express Tribune, Punjab’s Special Secretary for Agricultural Marketing, Zahid Gondal, said PAMRA was formed to regulate the sale and purchase of food grains for the benefit of farmers.

“The authority was also formed to protect consumers from high prices and price manipulation,” he said.

According to the new law, the ordinance would be fully implemented within 60 days during which the president, vice-president and other members of the PAMRA committee must be appointed, while the law must also be approved by the Parliament by the Punjabic Assembly within 90 days.

Following the advice of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Special Secretary for Agricultural Marketing, a committee of eleven members was formed on September 23 with the task of presenting recommendations and draft rules for agricultural marketing by September 29. September.

However, the committee was unable to draft its final recommendations even after a three-week delay, the sources said. So far, the committee has not even obtained basic information on the staff, assets, income and overdue payments of the market committees. In contrast, the recommendations that have been made so far are controversial and confusing at best.

The committee advised the imposition of a royalty of 1% on the value of agricultural crops auctioned in markets and 0.5% on agribusiness products. However, officials from the provincial agriculture department argue that imposing varying market fees on the two types of produce will result in losses as farmers sell their produce to agro-industries at higher prices.

As a result, the market supply of food grains will be affected while changes in the prices and availability of vegetables and fruits will disrupt consumers. The committee therefore suggested that uniform fees be applied to both markets and the food industry.

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Moreover, the committee was also unable to formulate practical recommendations concerning the salaries and pensions of the staff of the market committees, who call for a centralized system for this purpose. Sources also revealed that the committee’s recommendations regarding the salary scales of employees and secretaries of the market committee are contrary to the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

“The committee set up to formulate rules in this regard did not come up with satisfactory recommendations due to which, at a meeting held on Wednesday, PAMRA President Naveed Bhandar decided to call in the services. a competent lawyer, ”Gondal explained.

“The incumbent will serve as a consultant to PAMRA, which will be assisted by high-performing market secretaries working for the agricultural marketing department for the formulation of PAMRA rules,” he added.

The consultant, he said, will also be assisted by retired secretaries with legal training and extensive experience in the field.

Posted in The Express Tribune, October 17e, 2019.


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