Fodder production and marketing in Punjab is heading towards a deep crisis. Farmers and researchers, who gathered last week in the provincial capital, stated that fodder acreage is being lost to other competitive crops every year, having dropped from 5m acres to 4.3m acres in the province alone.
Invading pests and diseases and failing seed replacement plans have created a huge yield gap. In most research institutes, ten seed varieties of fodders that cover 98pc of acreage, on average, yield 60 maunds per acre, against 34 maunds in the farmers’ field — leaving a gap of 26 maunds per acre. The gap is decisive in individual farmer’s economy and life.
The falling fodder production is putting the animal population to huge risk of malnutrition. If commercial planting of fodder suffers, 30pc landless farmers, whose livelihood sustenance come significantly from livestock would suffer badly.
The pattern of fodder failure has its own answer; it is sporadic and restricted to pockets where milk market is dwindling.
Their poverty is robbing them of capacity to purchase even normal fodders (Barseem, for that matter). The farmers want the government to press all four major research institutes into developing better-yielding seed vaierity so that more fodder is produced with current acreage. The demand is legitimate but their hopes are misplaced going by the performance of these organisations.
What farmers, however, need to understand is the basic context of their demand. The fodder demand, production and its marketing ares directly linked to the healthy livestock population and milk market If the livestock and milk market falter, no one would be able to rescue the crop..
The pattern of falling fodder acreage has its own answer; it is sporadic and restricted to pockets where milk market is dwindling. It has been thriving exceptionally well in and around Lahore because animal and milk marketing is profitable around provincial metropolis.
But the crop is certainly failing in other areas, where small livestock farmers are mostly landless and don’t have enough finances to purchase fodder. If milk market is put back on its feet, the fodder is sure to have better future.
So, the farmers need to stress the pull factor, where market leads by creating demand, not push factor — where supply side can play any role. If dairy and meat markets remain robust, fodder marketing would not be a worry.