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Mobarik A. Virk

The News

Published Date: Apr 6, 2020

Gram crop face serious threat

Islamabad : While the farmers all over the country are grappling with the situation arising out of spread of ‘coronavirus’, leading to lack or non-availability of men and machinery required for harvesting the most important wheat crop, that is ready for reaping, there is another vitally important crop, the ‘gram’ that is threatened with major if not total destruction because of delayed reaping.

The sources said that as much as 90 per cent of total production of gram (channa) comes from four sub division of the province of Punjab, which are Bhakkar, Khushab, Layyah and Jhang districts.

According to the sources in the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan, perhaps, is the only country in the world that produces organic ‘Channa’ (gram) in this huge quantity.

Dr Abid Sulehri, the Executive Director of SDPI, who has done his Doctorate in Food Security, said that ‘Gram’ is an important pulse and not only a rich source of protein but a major source of livelihoods in “Thal” districts of Pakistan.

“We spend 102 billion rupees for import of pulses per annum. If gram crop is not harvested timely, marginalised farmers of Thal will lose their bread and butter, while Pakistan’s import bill of pulses will increase sharply,” Dr Abid Sulehri warned.

“However, unfortunately the ‘Channa’ growers and crop itself is never given importance by policy makers. It is interesting to note that there is not a single harvesting machine in Pakistan for this crop,” Dr Sulehri said.

He said that harvesting of ‘Channa’ crop is totally dependent on human labour which mostly comes from far flung districts and in this lock down situation it would be very difficult to arrange labour in large number.

“If it is not arranged immediately import of harvesting machines then there is apprehension of spreading the disease. I have personally tried to persuade many businessmen to invest in importing the harvesters which has great potential but of no avail,” Dr Sulehri said.

He said that he has already send various suggestions to the concerned departments, as well as the office of the Prime Minister which include that every farm swner shall provide the list of labourers he has hired for reaping and the area from where he wants to bring them at Farm and also the means of transportation.

Before leaving their native area the labourers shall be checked through digital thermometer and on arrival at the work place the concerned health centre shall check them again.

The farm owner shall give the details of farms and accommodation where the labourers will be kept as well as the farm owner shall give the undertaking that he will provide them all the necessities at the farm and will not allow them to mix in the local population and visit the markets.

He also recommended to the government that during their stay if any labourer fells ill he shall forthwith be taken to the hospital and there shall be no self-medication. Once they complete their job they shall be checked before sending them back home. Also the farm owner shall give the details of means of transportation.