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ISLAMABAD: Biotechn-ology scientists, Wednesday, urged upon the government to create special industrial zones in every farm district equipped with cold storages, food processing units connected with retail chains, and export industries.

Pakistan Biotechnology Information Center (PABIC), Lahore Chapter in collaboration with CropLife, Pakistan and Forman Christian College University, Lahore organised a webinar on “Covid-19, an opportunity to reform the Agricultural system of Pakistan”, on Wednesday.

The webinar was attended by scientists, policymakers, representatives from leading biotech institutes, academia, crop science industry, farmers, and other stakeholders.

Dr Kauser Malik, dean of postgraduate studies FCCU and Director of PABIC Lahore, highlighted that crop biotechnology has all the ways to make the agricultural sector of Pakistan flourish.

The government needs to focus on supporting small and marginalised farmers and promote small scale innovative technologies to promote growth in this sector. A lot of strategic planning is needed in streamlining the biotechnology products in the country.

The government should play a leading role to ensure food security and control price. Introduce special industrial zones in every farm district, equipped with cold storages, food processing units, connected with retail chains and export industries.

Improving water management is key as the four major crops (rice, wheat, sugar cane, and cotton) consume 80 per cent of the water but contribute only five per cent to the GDP. Improving the nexus of agriculture, education, training and research and technology is the need of the hour, DrKauser explained.

During the webinar, Prof Dr Iqbal Choudhary, the coordinator general COMSTECH, said that during the pandemic period the science has demonstrated the true spirit of researchers to find solutions under limited national capacity.

Dr Sianghee Tan, executive director CropLife Asia also participated in the webinar.

He said that the global pandemic has wreaked havoc on food supply systems in Pakistan and across Asia.

Existing issues across the food value chain have been exposed and exacerbated by the Covid-19, while new ones have been created as well.

Our responsibility as stakeholders is to ensure the men and women who drive food security across the region are supported to do just that.

This includes providing policies that enable and empower our farmers to produce more safe and nutritious food on less land and with fewer impacts to the world around us.

At this occasion, Dr Yusuf Zafar – former chairman PARC gave a talk on wake-up call to modernise the grain storage and reporting systems in Pakistan.

He said that the way forward is revisiting the procurement policies, incentivising the private sector for grain storage and involving foreign investment to develop modern storage and handling system.

He further added that strong coordination between the API, the PBS, the SUPRCO, and Provincial CRS departments is crucial for the success of this sector.

Representing CropLife Pakistan, Murtaza Quddusi, regulatory affairs manager at the BASF, briefed the participants on various disruptions to the agriculture supply chain due to Covid lockdowns across the country and rest of the world.

Quddusi highlighted the potential of digital technologies for farmer outreach and knowledge dissemination activities, and shared the success of CropLife member companies in overcoming physical restrictions to serve the farmers through such innovative methods.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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