Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New policy unveiled: Sunflower, canola procurement price fixed

Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture Nazar Mohammad Gondal on Monday announced Rs1,800 per 40 kg procurement price for canola and sunflower and set a target of one million acres of land to be utilised for sowing the two crops in the flood-affected areas.
Unveiling the new policy on canola and sunflower at a press conference the minister said the policy was aimed at providing financial benefit of Rs3 billion to the growers.

The government will procure canola against cash payment in order to give maximum benefit to farmers, he announced.

The government is seriously considering measures to provide relief to the farming community, which has lost its only source of bread and butter. “The canola policy is the beginning and with the start of Rabi season, the government will come up with policies on other crops,” Mr Gondal told newsmen.

The minister said that the government would help and assist the flood-affected farmers to enable them revive the agriculture sector. He said that a package of incentives would be announced before the sowing of each crop in the flood-hit areas.

He said fields would be ready in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within next fortnight for sowing of canola and sunflower. The seed companies would provide hybrid seeds to farmers on no-loss-no-profit basis through the Zarai Taraqqiati Bank (ZTBL) on deferred payment basis.

Mr Gondal disclosed that the government would provide free of cost seeds to those farmers who would grow canola on at least 50 acres.

On a query, officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture told Dawn that the government had with it 50 tons of hybrid seeds and over 100 tons of non-hybrid seeds which would be given to farmers.

Mr Gondal dispelled the speculations that the country might face a severe wheat shortage as the floods damaged the stocks of the commodity. He said that enough strategic reserve was laying in the public sector to meet the local needs. He however said that the exact status would be clear once the floods were totally over and the needs for the next crop seed were calculated.

Mr Gondal stated that the government has in its stock enough wheat and there was no possibility of food insecurity in any province. To ensure food security, the possible export of two million tons of wheat had been deferred till next bumper season.

Reuters adds: Pakistan, Asia’s third-largest wheat producer, said in April it would export 2 million tons of wheat after a bumper crop of 23.86 million tons in 2009/10, and a carryover of 4.2 million tons from the previous crop.

But it held back exports because of low prices in the international market until a recent rally.

“When the next crop is sown then we will have an idea of how big the surplus is and then we will make a decision,” Mr Gondal told the news conference.

Wheat is sown in Pakistan from late October to December.

“We need to see on how much area we can plant wheat,” the minister said.Two food ministry officials had said last week the export plan would likely be shelved over flood worries.

Pakistan has lost at least 725,000 tons of wheat in the country’s worst flooding in 80 years, and experts say water and more rains could complicate planting of the next crop.

The government has 10 million tons of wheat stocks, besides those held by the private sector, Gondal said.

Lack of opportunities leads to brain drain in technology sector

Pakistan faces a dearth of big information technology companies, prompting many dejected IT professionals with reasonable experience to think about leaving the country for a better opportunity which can match their qualifications and experience.

As soon as an IT professional attains experience of eight to ten years, he feels consumed by the need of finding a high-paying job which smaller IT companies cannot afford.

Dr Arshad Ali, DG School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, National University of Science and Technology (NUST), a top public sector university, agrees with this bitter reality.
“It is true that IT professionals face hurdles to their career growth after getting 8 to 10 years’ experience,” he said, adding the reason is an absence of big IT firms in the country which can adequately pay the experienced professionals and provide them with opportunities for further growth.

“Dearth of big IT firms is a problem which is somewhat linked with a lack of research opportunities,” he added.

“Obviously, when you do not have big companies which can pay enough, the experienced IT professionals have no choice but to leave the country and find lucrative jobs in other countries,” he said.

Few IT companies do research work in Pakistan. And those which actually do, their activity is usually not futuristic instead a majority of them undertake low-tech software development work. “Research is limited only to individuals and that need to be institutionalised,” Ali said.

On the academic front, very few universities in Pakistan are conducting specialised research, he said, adding some of the faculty members at NUST are doing research work for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Caltech, Centre for European Nuclear Research, Geneva and others. In — United States, he said, IT companies grant scholarships to their employees who have an average experience of 8 to 10 years to get further education and conduct research. This helps develop their capacity to do research and pursue a long career in the relevant field of work.

President Pakistan Software Houses Association (Pasha), Jehan Ara, agrees that after some years of experience IT professionals usually say goodbye to the country and this is a strong perception in the country.

She stressed that Pakistan desperately needs more companies that can hire and provide required opportunities for experienced IT professionals.

“Every country goes through a cycle in which smaller companies grow little by little and then turn into bigger and stronger concerns,” she said. “Every country welcomes this and this is how companies will also grow in Pakistan.”

For those who seek a longer career in the IT sector, opportunities for specialisation do exist in Pakistan where a professional can stay associated with the industry for a long time.

A lot of IT professionals in search of managerial positions leave technical jobs. However, a plethora of managerial positions are also available in the IT sector where these professionals can pursue a longer career without abandoning their area of expertise, she said.

Muhammad Salman, an IT professional working in an IT firm in Karachi, said many of the professionals including him aspires for a long career in Pakistan but end up in some foreign country.

”Another IT professional, who has over 15 years of experience, partly agrees with the perception that senior IT professionals leave Pakistan owing to a less attractive local market.

“Though there is a dearth of research in IT firms and universities, it does not mean that all professionals leave the country because of this reason. But yes about one-fourth of them do move out of the country owing to the absence of big companies,” he maintained.

China, India and the Philippines are examples in Asia where you can find a lot of companies doing good business and research. Particularly in the last 20 years, a number of IT firms have set up their businesses in these countries and are doing respectable research, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune,

Pakistan's cricket scandal: Live updates

As investigations into Pakistan’s cricket scandal continue, the allegations of spot-fixing and corruption against multiple players have left the entire country shaken.

Shane Watson suspects Pakistan’s culture may be to blame for the cricket scandal.
“Whether it’s in their culture I don’t know, I don’t know how deep it runs, but it’s unfortunate that someone of his skill has got tied up with something that is damaging to cricket and to the individuals. I found him to be a brilliant competitor on the field.”

Back to the conspiracy theory:
The story has too many holes. Exactly who recieved £150,000? Where has the cash disappeared? Why did a Sky Sports reporter have a 90 minute heads up? Things don’t add up. – Shaikh Hassaan Ainul Yaqin

umaronline TV Journalist Harini Rana on Sky – ‘The players could face the death penalty if found guilty’ < really? #PakCricket#Cricket

Former skipper Wasim Akram says spot-fixing allegations might have brought turmoil in Pakistan cricket but it would be hasty to label the players as culprits.
“The team morale is down big time, there is a controversy in which six to seven players are involved. The media in Pakistan has already given their verdict on these allegations but one must wait for the allegations to be proven.”

Twitter users from Pakistan express a mix of bitter humour and frustration.
Faria_Khan_ Loved BBC Orla Guerin’s report from the streets of#Pakistan.Typical Pakistani jazbati male: ‘The PCB & players should be shot.’ #PakCricket
MudassarAlvi And finally, a joke Match-fixing just got easier;even people with no balls can do it..#pakcricket
YasarQamar If you still think Paki players are innocent and all this is a hatched conspiracy, Get a life! #PakCricket
fifiharoon#Pakistan cricketers summoned home to face treason charges #pakcricket #crickethttp://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/08/31/2998806.htm

Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday that there might be a conspiracy behind the match-fixing scam.
“We will believe only when we have concrete evidence with us.”

The conspiracy theory argument is also making the rounds on Twitter.
SamiurRehman All those who are constantly criticizing the Pakistani cricket team, plz give it a read! http://worldocricket.wordpress.com/ #pakcricket

Sambit Bal, Editor Cricinfo gives a sympathetic nod to the Pakistan cricket team.
Before anything else, let this be said. No two cricketers have brought more joy in the last 12 months to the true lover of the game than Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif. Say what you must about the spectacles of strokeplay or close finishes in the shorter forms, there is nothing quite as sensational, or dramatic, as a pair of quick bowlers bursting through a batting line-up.

The Sun quoted Test umpire Darrell Hair, as saying Pakistan has allegedly been up to throwing ‘suspect’ no-balls and wides for some time.
“It didn’t shock me at all. When the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit was formed a decade ago they went around the world and spoke to all the leading umpires… and they said there were concerns in tournaments in places like Sharjah that the Pakistanis were bowling (deliberate) no balls and wides. But they have not been able to get any proof.”

Investigations by The Express Tribune reveal that a London-based source close to the Pakistan team shared his earlier worries with regards to the Majeed brothers, Mazhar and Azhar.
Former friend and actor Veena Malik claimed in a programme on Express TV to have evidence of the fast bowler’s involvement in match-fixing.
Blog: Amir, Asif, how could you?
Blog: A sport for gentlemen no more…
Blog: Love, donkeys and Pakistani cricket
Blog: ‘Give the dog a bad name and hang him’

Video update: Imran Khan says exemplary punishment is due for those player involved in spot fixing.
Video update: Ramiz Raja comments along the same lines.

Aitzaz Ahsan quoted in The Independent on cricket scandal:
It’s very shameful and very disturbing. It’s not just affecting cricket, but is a blow to the very body politic of Pakistan.

Former Pakistan cricket coach Geoff Lawson has made some startling revelations from times when he used to coach the embattled side.  Trying to give an insight into Pakistani players’ alleged role in spot fixing, Lawson believes there’s much more at stake than just money.
The former Australian fast bowler, who coached the team between 2007 and 2008, said if the allegations were proved, it could well be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members. He said it would not be surprising if illegal bookmakers had told players to perform X and Y if they wanted their families to be safe.

Video updated of Rehman Malik weighing in on the cricket scandal.

2:41 pm
Cricinfo report states that former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has said he is concerned about the long-term repercussions the match-fixing crisis could have on the country’s cricketing establishment but feels it is a chance for the authorities to act in a manner that would discourage future cricketers from considering such activities.
“If they are proved, not just in terms of the best players in the team being implicated but from the public point of view, they would not understand the finer points of the game and each time they lose they will think it’s a fixed match.”

Stern action may follow
Federal Minister for Sports Aijaz Jakhrani has said that stern action would be taken against national cricketers if they are found guilty of spot-fixing.
Talking to Express 24/7, Jakhrani said that an investigation into allegations of the betting scam is underway, and it’s too early to say anything. He said that no charges have been pressed against any player yet.

Exemplary punishments and possible loopholes
The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Monday vowed to take swift action if betting scam allegations against Pakistan were proven as damaging claims threatened the sport’s credibility.
ICC said corruption would not be tolerated and anyone found guilty of “spot-fixing” would be punished as the allegations of bowling pre-arranged no-balls engulfed top Pakistan players.
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said that they were conducting their own inquiry and would take action against any guilty players.
The ICC had a “zero-tolerance approach to corruption in cricket”, he said in a statement Monday.

Scope for leniency?
Yahoo! Eurosport UK article states that the ICC’s anti-corruption code, which lays out a very specific procedure that must be followed in the case of spot or match-fixing, leaves scope for leniency depending on the situation.

Any allegations must first be referred to the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit’s (ACSU) general manager for investigation.

If he, in consultation with the ICC’s CEO and legal head, determines there is a case, the player will be sent a notice.

Factors that could influence the tribunal to issue a harsher punishment include a lack of remorse on the part of the player, a history of transgressions and whether the amount of the money received by the player was substantial.

Actions that affect the outcome of the match are to be judged more harshly than those that do not.
Feel free to add updates in the comments section below. [Tribune.com.pk]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Commodity News Snapshot-Pakistan

Trading in cotton sustained despite fluctuating prices to meet the orders in hand making a balance. The spot rate leap was restricted, which opened unchanged at Rs 6300, in trading process it enhanced by Rs150 at Rs 6450 and week closing was seen at the same level on August 28,2010.

Peak of the monsoon rains and floods is over and monsoon weather is on its last leg. However, after effects of the inclement weather would be there for longer time. Continued humid weather and growth of unwanted weeds, vegetation and grass in the fields may prompt attacks of plant pests and diseases in next month.

The country's import of pulses has witnessed a sharp decline of 22 percent in July 2010, which the importers attributed to soaring global prices, while flood continues to ravage standing crops. "Cost of pulses has posted more or less 50 percent increase globally and subsequently locally," said President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Abdul Majeed Haji Muhammad

Farm inputs: need for village sale centres

FARMERS in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa have demanded of the government to provide them with easy and timely access to agriculture inputs so that they may sow the next crop.

“With thousands of tons of wheat and maize seeds having been washed away by recent floods, there is an urgent need to procure and store substantial amount of the commodities in advance. We would like the government to provide these two basic inputs to growers free of costs as they are hardly hit,” said Murad Ali Khan, president of the Kissan Board Pakistan.

For this to happen, village-based agriculture inputs/services provision centres (AIPCs) should be set up.

“Agricultural inputs are the main headache of farmers. In times of need, they either disappear from the market or are too costly and unaffordable for the poor growers. With the wheat sowing season not far away, there could no better time than now to advocate the village-based setup,” said Khan.

According to Niamat Shah, general secretary of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, farmers’ income can be substantially increased if quality seeds, fertilisers, machinery, pesticides and other services are provided to them in time and on cheaper rates.

“These AIPCs would be like agriculture utility stores which also would serve as store houses/marketing centres for all agricultural inputs. They will provide inputs, soft loans, guidance and training and other services to farmers at comparatively cheaper rates and in time. These are vital for capacity-building of farmers and are supposed to create linkages between farmers and public/private line departments and associations. The centres will also develop and fund some demonstration farms. The high yield of these farms will serve as incentives to other farmers,” he argued.

These centres should be established on the basis of union council, Patwar Halqa or villages and should comprise all stakeholders in agriculture, i.e. farmers, livestock owners, agriculture department field assistants, patwaris, veterinary doctors, seeds/fertiliser industry and bank representatives.

To minimise the chances of corruption, there should be oversight bodies over these local chapters at district and provincial levels with membership on the same pattern, he added.

“The government should open a centre at each of the 986 union councils in the province. Then these bodies should be organised on Patwar halqa and ultimately on village basis to cover the entire or most of the farmers the province. These centres must function under the supervision of the provincial agriculture department,” said Shah.

Every AIPC should have certified seed, fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery, repair workshop, veterinary hospital, the latest information about various aspects of farming, branch of Zari Traqqiati Bank to disburse interest-free loans, a multimedia workshop, storage facility and a branch of insurance company for crop insurance.

Finances for the centres are likely to be the most pressing issue. “But the issue could be tackled. Farmers should contribute a membership fee of at least Rs200 per head and another Rs800 as share money in the revolving funds of the bodies. This should be augmented by a matching grant by the government. This revolving fund will increase with the passage of time when invested in agriculture inputs and services that earns money. Farmers could also be provided training, guidance, credit facility to start businesses locally to earn more money for their families.

Revenue collected from agriculture can/should also be spent on its development. Cooperative bank, that has been revived, should also fund these entities once these start functioning. Banks could also be asked to be a share-holder in the business,” Shah added.

According to Khan, the seeds research farms in the province have developed high yielding wheat, maize and fruit and vegetable seeds but their timely and easy availability has always been a problem. “When quality seeds, fertilisers and pesticides are not available to farmers, they have to use substandard, often dangerous, inputs. This explains the rampant low per acre crop yield in the province.”

“So far the government has failed to streamline the seeds’ distribution. It has not been able to check and crackdown on substandard seeds in the market,” Shah said.

In villages, he said, the government needs not invest that huge amounts on buildings for the purpose. Rather Hujras or empty houses, available in plenty there, can be utilised.

“The AIPCs will surely modernise and commercialise the subsistence and outdated farming when expert advice, machinery and marketing support is provided to growers,” said Israr Bacha, a farmer. [dawn]

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Floods, Drought Will Prevent Gains in China's Grain Production This Year

Natural disasters may block any increase in China’s grain production this year as the worst floods in a decade ruin crops.

Flooding cut harvests of early rice in the major growing areas of southern China, Xinhua News Agency cited Vice Agriculture Minister Chen Xiaohua as saying yesterday during a government inquiry on grain safety. Crops in low-lying areas of the country’s fertile northeast were also damaged, he said.

China’s corn imports in July surged after traders bought the most overseas grain in more than 10 years to replenish shrinking domestic supplies. Early rice production this year fell 6.1 percent to 31.3 million tons, the National Bureau of Statistics said on its website yesterday. The world’s most- populous country grows almost a third of the globe’s rice and cotton, and produces about half its pork.

“This year’s weather will not reduce the output,” Chen Shuwei, a manager at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. said in a telephone interview. “China will not have a shortage in the next one or two years.”

Low temperatures due to floods delayed the ripening of winter wheat by five to seven days, and spring sowing in the northeast by seven to 10 days, the minister said. Lower rice output won’t stop overall summer grain production from equaling the levels of previous years, making it China’s seventh year of bumper harvests, Xinhua quoted the government’s Chen as saying.

Yalu Floods

Heavy rain in the northeastern province of Liaoning since July flooded the Yalu River on the border with North Korea, the region’s second-worst overflow since 1949. Liaoning and neighboring Jilin should brace for further heavy rainfall this weekend, the National Meteorological Center said today.

Officials at the inquiry said they are confident in the coming autumn harvest, which produces more than 70 percent of China’s annual grain output, Xinhua said. The report cited Chen as saying the seeding area has been increased, and quoted Zhang Xiaoqiang, a vice minister of economic planning, as saying enough grain is in storage to prevent shortages.

A rise in global grain prices won’t affect prices in China due to its ample reserves, Zhang said. Imported wheat, corn and rice equal less than 1 percent of China’s output, he said. Corn rose to a 14-month high yesterday on signs of increased demand for U.S. supplies, after drought reduced crops in Russia and parts of Europe, and flooding cut acreage in Canada.

Corn Harvest

Corn output in China, the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer of the grain, may rise 4.8 percent this year to 165 million metric tons on increased planting and good weather conditions, according to a report this week by Cngrain.com, a portal owned by China Grain Reserves Corp., manager of state grain stockpiles.

Total planted area may have expanded 2.2 percent to 471 million mu (31.4 million hectares), it said. Delayed planting and heavy rains in some regions didn’t have a significant impact on crops, the report said.

China probably won’t order further corn imports this year as global prices climb and on speculation the domestic harvest will be better than expected, according to Wanda Futures Co., the second-biggest brokerage by volume on the Dalian Commodity Exchange.
By Bloomberg News

How does double dip recession affect Gold?

By Julian D.W. Phillips 
Nearly all the commentary we have heard on this question says the same. “Yes, the prospects of a Double-Dip recession have increased but it remains unlikely that it will happen”. We feel that there may be just a hint of self-interest in these answers. The shockwaves that will reverberate should some say it is going to happen, or if the news confirmed that it had started would rattle the markets hugely. Despite the ability to disseminate news instantly, we have to wait a month before reliable figures are published to confirm one way or the other that this is or is not the case. 

On the other hand a recession or depression has become a state of mind too. If consumers believe it is coming, it will come and at the moment that is the mood out there among the consumer. He is saving because he could become a victim if he hasn’t cut debt and save. No doubt the sight of a neighbor being evicted stimulates thrifty habits. And that’s what is coming from consumers now. They aren’t spending. It’s becoming a financial winter out there and we believe consumers minds are bringing on the recession again. Surely that’s bad for gold? 

What is happening in the Global Economy? 
As we now live in a global economy national economic climates heavily impact the global scene and particularly the U.S. national scene. Look from outside in as a foreign investor that doesn’t have to invest there, what would you do? Well China is right there and this is what they’re doing: 

U.S. Treasury data show that China has cut its holdings of Treasury debt by roughly $100 billion over the past year to $844 billion. Discreetly, the main surplus countries, China, Japan, and the U.K. [Mid-East petro-dollars] have been slowing down in the last two years. In August they bought the least amount of U.S. debt this year. 

China is diversifying as it continues to hold down its currency, buying record amounts of Japanese, Korean, Thai, and no doubt Latin American bonds, in place of U.S. Treasuries. It is also ‘limit’ buying gold in quantity through the London bullion banks, buying scrap ores or buying direct from miners such as Coeur d'Alene in Alaska. Excessive Dollar holdings are also going to more hard assets such as strategic reserves of oil and coal, and probably industrial metals. State entities are buying up natural gas reserves in Africa and Central Asia, or oil sands in Canada, or timber in Guyana. 

There are considerably more activities by countries and institutions that are Dollar diversifying that we don’t have enough room to describe here, but it all leads to an expectation of a falling Dollar. The trouble is that so many dependant currencies will try to fall with it to protect their trade relationship [watch the Yen] that the fall will not be easily apparent in exchange rates, but in the falling buying power of the Dollar. When we describe this we are not talking about a change in exchange rates but changes that will bring about structural changes in the current monetary system based on the U.S. Dollar. 

Then what? 
Don’t think for a moment that the U.S. will follow the path of Japan. Deflation is not an option for the consumer driven economy of the U.S. We believe that the path Mr. Bernanke has chosen for the U.S. has to be followed all the way. Today, he stated that he was ready to act to defeat deflation, should it arrive. Quantitative Easing will lead to inflation. Inflation is an acceptable alternative to deflation, because it is easier to cure inflation than deflation. But the government of the U.S. is likely to wait until deflation is biting before they act, then the stimuli will have to be heavy as will consequential inflation. This prospect is bringing tremendous doubts about the value of Dollar and other currencies. 

U.S. monetary authorities will place U.S. interests well ahead of any others, so don’t expect a globally coordinated policy against deflation. It will be every nation for himself. 

The surplus nations will, as they are doing now, follow the defensive measures described above. But it may take weeks before this is accepted. So now is the time to act. 

And Gold? 
The big picture for the long-term could not be better for gold, than it is now. Gold has proved capable of performing well in deflation, in uncertainty, in fear. Internationally it is liquid in all parts of the world. It is internationally acceptable cash. More than that, it is an effective counter to the devaluing of currencies through quantitative easing or currency devaluations. 

Courtesy: www.goldforecaster.com 

Pakistan on verge of agricultural catastrophe: UN

While the destruction caused by the flood in terms of loss of human life and property has been devastating, the country is now also faced with the threat of an acute shortage of food that could well plague the country for the next two years.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, massive damage to agricultural infrastructure has been caused by the floods, and seed for the next year’s crop has also been washed away.

Almost eighty per cent of the families living in the flood-affected areas depend on agriculture as a means of livelihood; and after the floods washed away even emergency food stocks, this segment faces an economic and food crisis of massive proportions.

Furthermore, the FAO believes that if September’s wheat planting window is missed due to water-logging, the impact could last for up to two years. Areas growing rice and maize will be able to harvest their first crop not before autumn of next year.

Additionally, large plantations of fruits and vegetables have also reportedly been destroyed by the flood. Without food assistance for that duration, a nation-wide food shortage threatens the country, with rising food inflation and catastrophic repercussions on food and dairy security. Not to mention the fact that the farming community could lose up to two years of income.

In addition, approximately 200,000 animals have reportedly perished during the flood, while the remaining livestock is in dire need of veterinary support. The flood-hit areas are now also facing a shortage of feed and fodder critical for the surviving livestock. There is a danger that tens of thousands of animals will die as a result of starvation and disease if emergency measures are not taken.

Over $5.7 million have been requested through the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan to kick-start the agricultural response and to provide livestock with feed, veterinary services, de-worming tablets and mineral blocks.

The FAO has already mobilised $1.6 million to address immediate needs in anticipation of the upcoming sowing season, which will see distribution of seeds and fertilisers among 25,000 households.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2010.

71% rice crop destroyed in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

For a province battered by one of the most devastating natural calamities in recent memory, the ordeal is not over yet.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has released a damage assessment report of the agriculture sector in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The report reveals that up to 71 per cent of the rice crop has been lost to the floods. Out of the total of 76,564 acres of land used for rice cultivation, 54,665 acres were simply washed away. Furthermore, the flood wreaked havoc on maize plantations as well, with 45 per cent of the total crop lost in the province and 226,902 acres of farmland damaged.

In all 3.2 million hectares of agricultural land has been damaged or destroyed. In a province where 80 per cent of the population depends on agriculture as their only means of livelihood, economic hardships are getting worse by the day. Fifty-nine per cent of the vegetable produce has been lost and 19,144 acres of farmland used for vegetable cultivation affected.

Also 26 per cent of the sugarcane crop and 57,098 acres of plantation land, 14 per cent of fruit orchards and 11,419 acres of orchard land, and 4 per cent of the tobacco crop and 967 acres of land were also destroyed.
Right now, the most critical matter at hand is how to plant wheat and vegetables in the coming Rabi season. If the crops are not planted by September/October, the country will face massive shortages of wheat and seasonal vegetables next year, and plantation will not be possible for another twelve months.

However the situation is further complicated, as the cultivation cannot begin until seed is made available and flood debris cleared from the fields. Seed from last years crop was washed away by the flood, as were farm implements. Wheat accounts for almost 60 per cent of the national cereal production, and if the coming season is missed, there will be widespread economic repercussions at the micro and macro levels.The Express Tribune

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Devastation an eye-opener for opponents of Kalabagh Dam'

Punjab Water Council (PWC) has said the destruction caused by the unprecedented floods should serve as an eye opener for the opponents of Kala Bagh Dam. PWC Co-ordinator Hamid Malhi in a statement on Friday said that according to figures released by the federal government around 4.25 million acres of crops have been inundated and 20 million people affected by the floods.

Total losses would be manifold as compared to the total cost of construction of Kala Bagh Dam, which is US $6-7 billion. The recent statement by the Wapda chief has unearthed once again, the forces behind the opposition to this great economic benefit. No wonder if the very institution which is supposed to advocate the feasibility of the dam is engaged in subverting it, how will the goal ever be achieved?

He said it is a fact that the maximum river water inflows of 13,13,000 cusecs on 31st July 2010 were reduced by 2,20,000 cusecs by storing these inflows in Tarbela and Mangla dams. The devastation would have been much more if the outflow was not reduced by 17 percent by these two dams. The 2,53,000 cusecs flow of river Kabul and 1,28,000 cusecs flows of river Chenab on the same day could not be controlled, as there are no dams on these rivers. The river Chenab has no big dam site in Pakistan but Kala Bagh Dam could reduce the impact of Kabul river flows by storing 6 MAF of water and also producing 3,600 MW of electricity, Malhi added.

PWC strongly condemns the statement of the Wapda chief and demands that he should be immediately replaced. PWC asks both, the president and the prime minister as to how many more lives and economic loss the country has to suffer before the construction of Kala Bagh Dam starts, he concluded.[Business Recorder]

USDA Announces Recovery Act Funding To Improve Water System Infrastructure, Health and Sanitation in Rural Communities

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced funding for 34 projects to protect public health and the environment by improving water quality and public sanitation services in 24 states. Merrigan made the announcement this morning at the Halifax County Courthouse where she highlighted the environmental, health and economic benefits the Recovery Act funding will provide to the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant and the local community.

"The Obama Administration is committed to investing in infrastructure to improve the efficiency and availability of water in rural America. Rural areas suffer from multiple problems associated with their water infrastructure," Merrigan said, "Economic assistance to rural communities for investments in water availability is especially valuable, given the borrowing constraints that small or poor communities may face. These Recovery Act investments in water and wastewater infrastructure will create construction jobs, help deliver safe drinking water and protect the environment throughout rural America."

The Halifax County Service Authority in Halifax County, Va., has been selected to receive a $5 million Recovery Act loan and a $10.4 million grant utilizing water and environmental program funding. The funding will be used to expand the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant to meet the regionalization effort being undertaken by the Authority. In addition, the project will correct inadequacies and health hazards to meet standards of the Department of Environmental Quality and increase treatment capacity. The sewer system serves 3,000 residential homes and 664 businesses.

The projects announced today will improve infrastructure across rural America. For instance, the Village of Crawford, Nebraska has been selected to receive a $3.6 million loan and $1 million grant to improve a 74 year old wastewater disposal system. This funding will allow the Village to meet the established timeline for state environmental compliance

USDA Rural Development today is providing $157.3 million for 34 water and wastewater infrastructure projects in local communities through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and $45.6 million through other USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Program funding. To date, USDA has announced $2.9 billion in Recovery Act funds for 788 water and environmental projects. The Recovery Act was signed into law by President Obama one year ago.

The Water and Environmental Program provides loans and grants to ensure that the necessary investments are made in water and wastewater infrastructure to deliver safe drinking water and protect the environment in rural areas.

Funding of individual recipients is contingent upon their meeting the terms of the loan or grant agreement. Below is a complete list of award recipients by state:


Mosses Water, Sewer & Fire Protection Authority: $299,000 loan (ARRA) and $690,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Hualapai West Pipeline Project: $2,000,000 loan (ARRA) $2,000,000 grant (ARRA); and $9,307,209 grant. The funding will be used for water system improvements.

The Town of Palisade: $3,992,000 loan (ARRA) and $3,808,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

The Town of East Windsor: $2,180,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,707,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
The Town of Kent: $515,000 loan (ARRA) and $418,600 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

The City of Mexico Beach: $2,153,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,840,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Chattooga County: $2,801,000 loan (ARRA) and $2,191,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Paducah-McCracken Joint Sewer Agency: $4,324,000 loan (ARRA); $1,294,000 grant (ARRA); and $406,000 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

The Town of Jonesville: $3,326,000 loan (ARRA) and $9,463,893 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
The Town of Jonesville: $3,292,000 loan (ARRA) and $3,634,818 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

The Town of Lonaconing: $6,699,000 loan (ARRA) and $2,323,000 grant. The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Williamston Sewer System Improvements: $3,540,000 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
Williamston Water System Improvements: $4,800,000 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

The City of Lismore: $686,000 loan (ARRA) and $394,000 grant. The funding will be used for water system improvements.

The Village of Crawford: $3,623,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,050,900 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
New Jersey

Flemington Borough: $351,000 loan (ARRA) and $704,050 grant. The funding will be used for water system improvements.
New York

The Village of Corinth: $1,138,000 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
The Village of Rushville: $1,975,000 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
North Carolina

Onslow Water & Sewer Authority: $24,541,000 loan (ARRA) and $9,816,000 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
North Dakota

The City of Sheldon: $204,000 loan (ARRA) and $166,000 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

Konawa Public Works Authority: $1,001,000 loan (ARRA) and $2,999,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

Borough of Portage Municipal Authority: $4,878,500 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
South Carolina

Southern Calhoun County: $2,713,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,611,500 grant. The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Cedar Grove Utility District: $600,000 loan (ARRA) and $256,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
The City of Crossville: $1,700,000 loan (ARRA) and $800,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
The City of Decherd: $782,000 loan (ARRA) and $218,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
The Town of Jonesborough: $3,270,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,500,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water and wastewater system improvements.
The City of Manchester: $1,348,000 loan (ARRA) and $455,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.
Springville Utility District: $863,000 loan (ARRA) and $1,925,500 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
The City of Trenton: $615,000 loan (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.

Fort Bend County Fresh Water Supply District No. 2: $6,619,000 loan (ARRA) and $8,673,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

Halifax County Service Authority: $5,000,000 loan (ARRA) and $10,400,000 grant. The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

The City of Cashmere: $13,690,000 loan (ARRA) and $6,001,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for wastewater system improvements.

The City of Laramie: $1,072,000 loan (ARRA) and $340,000 grant (ARRA). The funding will be used for water system improvements.
President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on Feb. 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.

Can we use Mobiles and FM for the dissemination of Flood Relief info

We need your help, if you have not already visited then please visit 

and it will directly start streaming the recent version of "GupShup with T(ahir) & T(ariq)". This program Bro Tahir Butt has exclusively recorded for the education of Flood effected peoples.

Now, the problem is that how this can reach to the respective audience. The effectees don't have computers, no internet. Bro Tahir and Dr Usmani did mention that we, who could listen, should do the voluntary work by making its CDs and transferring it there.

Unfortunately, FM or village radios are not around as in our neighboring country otherwise it could have reached to everybody thru that network.

People do have mobiles, but they are with limited functionality and have various packages, and more importantly their education level is another constraint, we cannot ask them that it is uploaded on such and such WAP site and download it from there, people may not have access to GPRS connectivity or MMS functionality. so, how can we make use of mobile technology.

Any help or contact in this regard will be help to the national cause. Please be exact and give the complete info, or telephonic contact so that right person could be contacted.

I am sure it is possible thru different modes, but am unable to figure out the right one.


Thar coal ignored by federal government

Thar coal reserves have been lying in a state of neglect due to the federal government’s indecision, according to the Sindh government.

A lack of infrastructure and absence of proper incentives by the federal government are chiefly to blame.
The Sindh government has claimed that it has asked Islamabad to approve a comprehensive tax incentive package and become a partner in providing the required $1.8 billion of infrastructure for the mining of the Thar coal reserves according to sources in the water and power ministry, according to sources.

However, despite a number of meetings, the federal government has not reached any decision in this regard said the sources, adding that Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh was reluctant to give a matching grant each year.
Sources also said that the Sindh government has also immediately sought Rs10 billion from the federal government. The amount was to be allocated equally towards the Makhi-Farsh water supply project for Thar and a transmission line scheme.

Regarding investment incentives, the Sindh government has sought a thirty-year corporate income tax and a minimum turnover tax exemption. The exemption is sought from the date of the first sale of lignite to power plants. All imports by mining projects should be allowed zero per cent customs duty to provide the same advantages as those provided to independent power producers, according to the Sindh government’s proposal. The proposal also seeks a waiver of withholding tax on dividends to shareholders and an exemption of WHT on the procurement of goods and services during project construction and operations. The incentive package remains to be approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet.

The sources added that “unless Thar Coal projects are incentivized, it will not be possible to attract the capital required to achieve financial close”. Financial close is the time period required for the completion of all documentation and conditions necessary to initiate a project.

The provincial government also asked the federal government to match the contribution for infrastructure development, for support for project financing from multilateral donors and for the World Bank to rekindle its interest in the coal sector. Previously, the WB withdrew its assistance in exploring the Thar coal reserves.

“The development of infrastructure is critical for the development of Thar Coal Block II”, the Sindh government official added. The infrastructure development package consists of a water supply and an effluent disposal system for Thar mining and power generation projects costing $500 million, transmission lines worth a billion dollars, roads for heavy transportation costing $50 million and a railway network costing $200 million.

The Sindh government is developing Block II of Thar Coal reserves by initiating a joint venture with Engro Power Gen Limited. It has also established Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company and has 40 per cent stakes in it.  According to an official of the Sindh government, potential benefits of the Block II project could be enormous. “It would attract $ 20 billion of investment during next ten years and save $79 billion of reserves by replacing expensive oil with coal for power generation,” he claimed.

Thar Desert contains the world seventh largest coal reserves. The reserves have been estimated at 175 billion tons, equivalent to 50 billion ton of oil, which is more than Iran and Saudi Arabia combined oil reserves and enough to generate 100,000MW electricity for over 200 years. Pakistan’s current use of coal, despite having one of the largest reserves of lignite in the world, is extremely negligible. It produces 0.1 per cent of the total energy from coal as opposed to India’s 53 per cent and China 78 per cent. Instead, Pakistan produces 35 per cent electricity by using imported oil.

The need to mine the trillions of dollars worth coal reserves is compounded with the increasing demand and cost of energy. According to the government estimates, the energy shortage would increase drastically in the coming years from its existing peak level of 6577 megawatts to 18320 megawatts in 2015.
[Published in The Express Tribune]

Better Farms, Improved Lives

With support from the foundation, six nonprofit agricultural development organizations are helping hundreds of thousands of poor farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia grow more productive, profitable, and sustainable crops.

Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people rely on farming small plots of land to feed themselves and their families. Helping these small farmers grow more crops and get them to market can have a tremendous impact on reducing hunger and poverty and associated problems.

But it’s a complicated challenge that requires support and investments across the agricultural value chain—from cultivating better seeds and soil conditions to improving farm management, access to markets, and government policies.

In 2008, we announced $306 million in grants to six organizations to help poor farming families in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia boost their productivity, increase their incomes, and improve their lives. When we announced the grants, I promised to post annual updates about the projects as a way to share the progress, setbacks, and lessons of our work in agricultural development.

Looking at the 2010 updates that we have just posted, I’m amazed at the life-changing results that our grantees have achieved in such a short time. In the last year, these organizations have touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers and they are on track to help more than five million farming families in the years ahead.
Here are some highlights from the 2010 updates:

In many parts of India and Africa, small farmers rely solely on rainwater to grow their crops and can produce barely enough food for their own subsistence. International Development Enterprises (IDE) last year worked with 731 agricultural equipment dealers to make affordable small-scale irrigation systems available to more than 100,000 farmers. IDE also helped about 12,000 farmers secure microfinancing to pay for the new systems. As a result, these small-farm families have been able to produce and sell surplus crops and increase their incomes by an average of $600 per year—enough to pay for school, healthcare, and invest in their farms.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is making steady progress toward its goals of providing 400,000 farmers with heartier varieties of rice that can withstand drought, flood, extreme cold, and harsh soil conditions. IRRI has trained more than 750 scientists in rice breeding and crop management, developed more than 200 new varieties of stress-tolerant seeds, and distributed over 6,500 tons of seed to farmers in the last year. And through a process called “participatory variety selection,” IRRI gets farmers directly involved in developing rice varieties that will grow best under local conditions.

In 2009, TechnoServe used its foundation grant to help provide 67,000 small-holder coffee growers in East Africa with access to equipment that enables them to process their beans into high-quality coffee. TechnoServe also helped train thousands of farmers in sustainable agronomy practices, and how to evaluate the quality of their coffee beans.
Working in Bangladesh, CARE organized more than 15,400 dairy farmers into groups that can collectively buy better feed and receive training in animal husbandry to produce larger amounts of higher-quality milk from their cows. Largely because of a sudden drop in demand for fresh milk in Bangladesh, CARE managed to link only about 5,400 farmers—a quarter of its target—to refrigeration facilities where they could store surplus milk for sale. But the organization met its goal of deploying 120 community veterinary workers, and more than 4,400 local dairy farmers used artificial insemination services provided by CARE.

In East Africa, more than 47,000 dairy farmers received help from Heifer International to form business associations and establish chilling plants that will help get the farmers’ milk to market. Although Heifer was able only to secure financing for five new chilling plants instead of 23 as planned, the new and existing plants helped farmers sell more than 118,000 liters of milk per day, more than we had expected. Heifer also helped local breeding services perform more than 56,000 artificial inseminations and is investigating new approaches to substantially increase that number in the next two years.
In Kenya and other sub-Saharan countries, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is bringing affordable fertilizers and training in integrated soil fertility management techniques to farmers. Although the start of these projects was delayed in 2008 because of political unrest in Kenya and rising fuel costs, AGRA has begun to make progress in helping farmers adopt more environmentally sustainable farming practices.

The annual progress reports on these organizations enable us to see what’s been working well in each program, and to adjust our strategies to address unexpected challenges and to adapt to the evolving needs of local communities and individual farmers. I’m encouraged by the strides that our nonprofit partners and the farmers are making through these programs despite challenging conditions. At the same time, I see how much more needs to be done.

Since 2006, the foundation has committed more than $1.5 billion in grants to support agricultural development efforts. The G8 and G20 nations have committed $22 billion to food security over three years and African countries and leaders are also making big increases in their domestic investment in agriculture.

This renewed attention to agricultural development is important. We know that better farming is the most important solution for overcoming hunger and poverty, and that the investments the foundation and others are making can have an incredible impact in a relatively short period of time. [Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation]