TUNNEL FARMING refers to the production of crops, fruits and vegetables under the cover sheet i.e. polythene, glass etc. with an objective to control internal temperatures and moisture to get off-season crops, fruits & vegetables.
FLOURISHING AGRI INDUSTRY
Tunnel Farming is flourishing in Pakistan. It has become one of widely adopted techniques in agriculture, especially in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) areas. As a result a lot of economic activity is being generated both at the micro and macro levels.
Prices of off-season crops, fruits and vegetables are quite high and growers get excellent quality agricultural produce. In addition, farm operations are more effective and efficient in Tunnel farming resulting in high production as compared to conventional farming. For small land holders, tunnel farming is one of the best options for maximum utilization of land and best returns on their investment (ROI).
Researchers and agricultural extension officials report that the ROI in Tunnel Farming ranges from 1: 10 & 1: 15.
From time to time Government of Pakistan and provincial governments also offer various schemes/ subsidies to farming community through Agriculture Extension Department. These schemes and subsidies are aimed at the promotion of Tunnel Farming in Pakistan through awareness raising among the farming community.
TUNNEL FARMING CONSULTANCY BUSINESS
An increase in adoption of Tunnel Farming techniques in Pakistan has created a window of opportunity for agricultural specialists / scientists and progressive Tunnel Farmers. A good number of agriculturists are involved in Tunnel Farming Consultancy Business. Normally a consultant charges between 1000-2000 per visit and others charge their fees on seasonal basis. Some of the consultants don’t charge fees to tunnel farmers and provide free consultancy but compensate themselves by providing high cost production inputs to tunnel farmers.
TUNNEL NURSERY FARMING
The growth of tunnel farming as an industry is also promoting other related businesses. Supply of nursery plants to tunnel farmers is one such business. A quite large number of farms are involved in nursery plant supply business. In Swat a large number of farmers are involved in supply of tomato plants to Punjab. However large scale tunnel farms produce their own nursery plants. There is a lot of scope in this segment to supply nursery plants at mass levels and at distant locations.
TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL
Flourishing of Tunnel Farming industry has also resulted in the growth of allied industries involved in manufacturing and supply of Tunnel Construction Material that includes Steel Piping manufacturing Industry, Bamboo farming and bamboo supply business, Polyethylene sheet manufacturing and importing other units etc.
In addition, Business units manufacturing and importing Plastic trays, pots used for raising for nursery plants, drip irrigation systems and chiller manufacturing etc
FINANING FACILITY FROM BANKS
In Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) emphasizes on banks to provide financial services to Farming communities, especially to progressive farmers involved in Tunnel Farming. Almost all the commercial banks offer financing products for Tunnel Farmers but a few are actively involved in it which includes Habib bank Limited, National bank of Pakistan (under PM Youth Program Scheme), UBL, Faysal Bank, ZTBL and Bank Alfalah. However there is a dire need to provide financing facilities to allied industry related to Tunnel farming under the umbrella of agriculture Financing.
Keeping in view the current situation and scope of Tunnel Farming in Pakistan following recommendations are being given to both government and private sectors, which can greatly help all the stake holders in promotion and development of this farming segment.
- TRAINING CENTRES
Tunnel Farming Training Centres can be successfully established as a growing number of people are showing interest in Tunnel Farming. Different short term training programs can be conducted with Agriculture Graduates, Progressive Farmers, Tunnel Farming Consultants and Farmers.
- LEGISLATION OF CONSULTANTS
Keeping in view the speedy growth in this segment, the need to legalize the working of consultants is required. Issuance of Tunnel Farming Consultant Certificates to Individuals and Firms is necessary to safe guard the investment of the Farming Community. Farmers in a number of incidences have faced heavy losses because of incompetent professionals and Farming Consultants. This window will create business and job opportunities for our agriculture graduates and progressive farmers.
- QUALITY/ BUSINESS CERTFICATIONS
Certification of crops, fruits and vegetables produced under Tunnel Farming should be made necessary to determine produce quality and farming operation standards.
- VALUE CHAIN
Big Tunnel Farmers should come forward with value chain innovations.
- ASSOCIATION OF TUNNEL FARMERS
Progressive Tunnel Farmers should form formal associations of Tunnel Farmers at different levels like the Association of Tunnel Farmers.
Yasir Habib Rana (Agriculture Specialist)