Farmers in Pakistan’s Punjab province will be staging a protest in the city of Multan on February 14. The announcement made on January 30 by the Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (PKI) , the country’s leading farmers’ body, comes as part of a larger ongoing agitation by farmers across several districts in Punjab and Sindh provinces.
Farmers in the provinces have been organizing demonstrations and rallies to demand that the Imran Khan-led PTI government resolve the various issues being faced by them. These include acute fertilizer shortage, rising inflation, taxes on tubewell use, as well as the revoking of the GST exemption on agriculture.
Of these, the most pressing demand of the agitating farmers’ body is to find a solution to the worsening urea shortage in the country caused by hoarding and governance issues.
As reported by The Dawn, wheat farmers have been facing urea shortages since sowing began in the Rabi season (November to April) and are paying a hefty premium of up to Rupees 1,000 (USD 13.39) per 50 kg bag of urea over and above the officially fixed rate of Rupees 1,750 (USD 23.43).
Hoarding of urea for quick and higher returns through smuggling to Afghanistan has resulted in massive price hikes in the local market. The scarcity created by illegal smuggling has led urea traders to hoard the chemical and charge a premium from the local farmers.
Pakistan’s economy depends considerably on the agriculture sector which accounts for nearly 19% of the GDP. Agriculture being a provincial subject in Pakistan, the governments of Punjab and Sindh have come under attack due to the lack of action on part of the authorities.
Earlier, on January 16, hundreds of farmers held a protest and staged a sit-in on a busy highway in the city of Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab over the issue of the fertilizer crisis and lack of irrigation. According to a report by The Dawn, the protest was organized by members of the opposition party-Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
PPP, currently the third-largest party in the National Assembly, has launched a series of rallies in support of the farmers. The first phase of the rallies began on January 24 when PPP members as well as party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari participated in a “tractor-trolley march”. The march was held in several cities of Sindh, where the PPP is the ruling party, including in Karachi and Hyderabad.
The Pakistan Peoples Party staged a protest in Hyderabad Monday against the government amid a urea or fertilizer shortage.
— Samaa English (@SamaaEnglish) January 24, 2022
The problem of lack of fertilizer is exacerbated by rising inflation. Pakistan’s inflation rate is currently at an all time high. The general inflation in the economy measured by Consumer Price Index (CPI) clocked in at a 24-month peak of 13% in January.