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LAHORE: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has asked the government to take measures to bring down the cost of agriculture production, prioritizing agri sector in its economic planning to ensure food security through enhanced per acre yield.

Due to lower produce of three major crops the import of wheat has jumped to $909 million, sugar $126 million and cotton $913 million during Jul-Feb 2021.

The cumulative import bill of the three agriculture products in the eight months touched to the figure of almost $2 billion, lifting the ever-increasing trade deficit further, amidst alarming decline in cotton production by 34 percent, Mian Anjum Nisar, chairman of the FPCCI's ruling group said in a statement on Saturday.

He said that lack of investment agriculture research, poor governance, bad planning and climate change have already resulted in shortage of wheat, sugar and cotton. As a result, the import bill of cotton has increased substantially owing to record low production.

According to the figures, till Feb 2021 cotton arrivals in Punjab are recorded at 3.5 million, while Sindh generated just 2.1 million which is 1.5 million bales less in Punjab and 38.52 percent less in Sindh respectively as compared to the last year's production.

The country was producing 26.7 million tons of wheat on 9.2 million hectors few years back. Both yield and area of production declined to 24 million tons and area of production was reduced to 8.8 million hectors. Similarly, area of cotton production shrank to 2.5 million hectors. Cotton yield is 618 kilogram per hector while India is producing 29.4 million cotton bales. China is producing 27.5 million bales with 1,748 kg per hector yield, USA 19.5 million bales with 924 kg per hector, Brazil 12 million bales with 1,686 kg per hector. In the same way, sugarcane production was recorded at 75.5 million tons on 1.2 million hectors.

Its production and area of cultivation was down to 66.8 million tons.

Mian Anjum Nisar said that country's population has reached 222.1 million with growth rate of 1.9 and further expansion is expected in near future despite 11.5 percent increase in cultivated land along with 187 percent increase in production of wheat, 171 percent in cotton production and 162 percent increase in sugarcane production during the last 45 years.

In these circumstances, he suggested the government to reduce cost of production through direct support to farmers in purchase of machinery, fertilisers, pesticides and other inputs, while infrastructure should also be developed to ensure farm-to-market access. The government should formulate sustainable agriculture policy to ensure food security in the country, he added.

He said that due to the alarming decline in the cotton production seven million bales of worth $4 billion will be imported.

There is a pressure on the economy.

He also said that cotton production is lowest in 30 years. "The government should take practical steps for increasing the production of cotton in the country, he said.

After the 18th amendment agriculture is a provincial subject but unfortunately it looked that both the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab are not serious in increasing the production as they had not taken any positive steps in this regard so far, he added.

Pakistan's food security is dependent on production of essential crops that are providing basic food and input for industrial production, he added.

However, the performance of agriculture sector presently does not guarantee self-sufficiency, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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