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KARACHI: It is a first in Pakistan’s history, according to Ahmad Jawad, vice president of the Pakistan Business Forum (PBF), that a comprehensive agricultural transformation plan has been drawn up. According to him, even the seed of bhang, which has a value of $12 in the international market, can be exported lawfully, which will help curb the illicit trade of the drug.

According to him, the international market for CBD or cannabis oil is selling at Rs10,000 per litre. Similarly, we need to improve crop yields per acre by adopting better farming practices and developing weather-resistant seeds for different crops.

Even though Pakistan is endowed with enormous growth potential, the country’s limited financial resources are forcing it to take on more debt in order to keep its operations afloat, while developmental budgets are routinely cut in order to make room for mandatory spending.

In this backdrop, the two-pronged strategy of Prime Minister Imran Khan to focus on industrialization and agricultural growth is the best approach to address our financial and economic difficulties.

Jawad said It is satisfying that the government has embarked upon an ambitious programme to develop agriculture on modern lines at a cost of Rs. 110 billion over three years and to boost agriculture credit by 80pc to Rs2.7 trillion for almost doubling the grain harvest, increasing fruit and vegetable production five times, and trebling milk output.

Pakistan has fertile land and a vast irrigation system, but crop productivity is very low as compared to other agricultural countries mainly because we ignored proper research and development. There is no doubt that Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) has been slow working hard to introduce new and better varieties of various crops especially wheat, rice, maize, cotton and pulses but unfortunately, they are not provided enough marketing to carry out its activities on the field at the optimum level.

The commitment of the Prime Minister to invest heavily in good quality seeds and pesticides, credible research and development and technology transfer is reassuring, and one hopes it will be followed by a substantial increase of funds for the purpose.

There is also a plan to import semen for free distribution among farmers to boost livestock productivity, supplying subsidized fertilizers, increasing the number of crops grown and encouraging fruit and vegetable production.

These measures apart, there are other serious issues that need immediate attention of the Government. Agriculture experts point out that high cost of production; low average yield and low-quality produce are jointly providing space for imported products to occupy our local markets.

These issues are making Pakistan uncompetitive in the international markets and also affecting the welfare of local consumers adversely. There is also a tendency to use fertile agricultural land for establishment of housing societies besides cutting of fruit trees on large scale.

The United Nations predicts that the world will need to increase its food production by 70 percent by 2050 to feed a population expected to rise from 7 billion today to 9 billion.

This is particularly so in the case of Pakistan, the population of which has crossed 210 million and it is projected to grow to over 380 million by the year 2050, surpassing the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia to become the world’s third largest country behind India and China.

The situation calls for a major investment on problem solving research, production technologies, rural infrastructure, capacity building of stakeholders, agriculture-based vocational institutions and incubators, and public-private partnership to help revitalize the agriculture sector.

China has a greater population and less arable land but has been able to take care of the food needs of its people by focusing on farming production and efficiency.

China and Pakistan have already arrived at an understanding to enter into meaningful cooperation in agriculture under the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and what we need is proper utilization of the opportunities offered by this understanding.

A collaborative framework should be prepared on war footings in close coordination with federal and provincial agriculture ministry/departments, PARC and agriculture universities. At the same time, work on construction of all feasible water reservoirs should be undertaken to guard against water shortages for irrigation.

Ahmad Jawad also demanded of the government to get rid of the cartelisation in the seed and pesticides sector.

In this regard agriculture pesticides act 1992 and Seed Amendment Act 2015 needs to be reviewed in detail and necessary punishment may be proposed by the parliament to end the cartelisation with the strict enforcement laws.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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