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LAHORE: The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Businessmen Panel has stressed the need for giving priority to agriculture sector with a view to ensure food security, as Pakistan's food import bill has jumped by almost 54% to $8 billion in fiscal year 2020-21, mainly owing to wheat, sugar, pulses and palm oil imports to fulfil the shortfall of local agriculture production.

FPCCI's Businessmen Panel Chairman Mian Anjum Nisar pointed out that in the budget for 2021-22, the government had proposed several measures, including allocation of billions of rupees for increasing per acre yield, reducing wastage and establishing big stores for keeping staple food items, which need proper implementation by the authorities.

He said that lack of investment in 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.

Pakistan's food security is dependent on production of essential crops that are providing basic food and input for industrial production, Anjum Nisar added. However, the performance of agriculture sector presently does not guarantee self-sufficiency. FPCCI's ruling group chief said that negligence of agriculture could lead the country towards severe food security while shortage of essential food items would increase inflation.

Quoting the figures of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, he said the share of food items in the total import bill reached almost 15% this year, showing Pakistan's rising dependence on imports for food security, which is not good for the country. He said that the rising food import bill also triggered trade deficit that may cause some uneasiness on the external side for the government.

He said that due to lower produce of three major crops the import of wheat, cotton and sugar have increased massively with the cumulative import bill of the three agriculture products reported the record figure, lifting the ever-increasing trade deficit further, amidst alarming decline in cotton production, observed Mian Anjum Nisar.

According to the figures, 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 618kg per hector while India is producing 29.4 million cotton bales. China is producing 27.5 million bales with 1,748kg per hector yield, USA 19.5 million bales with 924kg per hector, Brazil 12 million bales with 1,686kg 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 million amidst very nominal growth rate. 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 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. It looked that government is not serious in increasing the production of the country. 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.

He said that the seed is the basic input for agriculture sector and has an imperative role in enhancing agriculture productivity. The world has now focused on the use of certified seed for enhancing agriculture productivity owing to its better profitability coupled with the application of internationally acceptable quality parameters.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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