The government of Sindh has requested the centre to ban import of tomato and encourage export of onion to facilitate local growers and farmers of Sindh in particular.

In this regard, Sindh Minister for Agriculture Muhammad Ismail Rahoo wrote a letter addressed to Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood on Thursday.

“It is recommended that necessary measures should be taken to impose a ban on import of tomato,” the letter said.

“Additional efforts may also be made to resume export of onions in the best interest of the farming community of the province and the country.”

The letter added that Sindh ranked first in the production of onion and tomatoes among all provinces of Pakistan.

This year, the province managed to produce a bumper crop of onion and tomato and at present, harvesting is taking place in full swing.

Due to the ongoing import of tomato and massive local production of onion, prices of both commodities in the local market have dropped drastically due to which farmers are not receiving proper revenue for their produce.

Owing to low revenues, farmers have started protesting for imposition of a ban on the import of tomatoes, the provincial minister wrote.

In fiscal year 2019-20, onion was cultivated on an area of 57,900 hectares in Sindh and yielded 782,140 tons, the letter pointed out.

During the current year, area under onion crop cultivation is reported to be 58,200 hectares in the province and production figures show higher yield as compared to the preceding year.

On the other hand, tomato was cultivated on an area of 22,542 hectares during the previous fiscal year 2019-20 and produced 164,658 tons of the vegetable.

During the current fiscal year, tomato crop cultivation is reported to cover 30,000 hectares, the letter said.

However, an expert from the agriculture sector, on the condition of anonymity, criticised the letter citing it to be a poor way to represent the issues of Sindh’s vegetable growers.

He was of the view that October was the right month to send this letter to the federal government because peak season for onion was underway at that time.

“Now we are in the midseason and by March or April 2021, our yield will finish,” he said.

He pointed out that tomato was harvested throughout the year and land was not fixed for it.

“The government of Sindh is diverting the problem to the centre,” he stressed.

“Instead it should request the cooperation of the federal government to inquire about the time of the year when a shortage of the commodity is witnessed and prices hike steeply.”

In a comment to The Express Tribune, Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Senior Vice President Nawaz Shah said that the cost of production for vegetables in Pakistan was higher than the rest of the region hence imported vegetables being sold at a lower price was unfair for growers.