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ISLAMABAD: Experts at a seminar have urged the government to seek China's cooperation in uplifting the agricultural sector under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which can help increase per-acre yields, disease-free crops, and capacity building.

Speaking at a policy dialogue organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Friday, they said that under CPEC the major development of the agriculture sector falls under the long-term plan (LTP) which focuses on increasing the use of modern machinery and synthetic fertilisers to enhance yields, while food storage and processing zones would be built to significantly reduce the post-harvest losses.

Similarly, the construction of cold storage stations and meat processing plants is planned to enhance the productivity of livestock and fisheries sectors besides making their output more competitive in the international market.

Being one of the countries included in the BRI initiative, Pakistan can benefit from China’s increased food import dependence and gradual transition towards high-value addition in the agriculture sector.

The corridor promises to bring a turnaround in the agriculture sector by providing new avenues for further progress of this vital industry that contributes 22.7per cent to the nation’s GDP and provides jobs to 37.5per cent of the working force. It will help farmers reach bigger markets where they can export their produce at cost-effective prices through roads, rails, and the sea.

Additionally, the expansion of agricultural land under the CPEC, which includes enlarging farms to increase productivity with the newest equipment and techniques, will be crucial in boosting the economy and GDP as a whole.

China also plans to outsource its agricultural supplies in the form of joint ventures by investing in and developing processing zones, warehouses, dairy farming and cold storage stations in Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Hassan Daud Butt, former chief executive officer (CEO) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Board of Investment said that the future of agriculture production and food security relied on technology advancement, good policies and leadership. However, it was pertinent to establish a council of agriculture development led by the private sector and linked them to Chinese counterparts that would help achieve targets swiftly.

He added that the Chinese advancement in the agriculture sector was unique in its fashion as less public capital and more private sector investment were utilised in developing the agriculture sector. “Pakistan needs to learn from the Chinese about planning on short-, mid- and long-term goals with top to bottom approach with policy consistency.

Moreover, the leadership on public and private sector needs to be strengthened through mutual collaborations, whereas, prudent and timely reforms in the agriculture sector are needed, he said. He said the SDPI’s scoping study is based on sustainable agriculture development in Pakistan through lessons learnt from Chinese progress. He urged the authors to add livestock as component to the study focus to further broaden the scope with insights on the marketing aspect as well.

Research Associate Misbah Khan provided a comprehensive view on the preliminary findings of the report titled, “Scoping Study on Agriculture Development in Pakistan”. The report shed light on precision agriculture in Pakistan and its challenges, policy infrastructure bottlenecks and financial constraints whereas climate-smart agriculture was given due to focus. For the report, she said consultations were conducted with federal and provincial stakeholders, development organisations and the local communities, particularly farmers.

The study underscored the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the agriculture sector of Pakistan and discussed the lessons learnt from China. The study recommended that Pakistan must go towards resilience, productivity and environmental stewardship by developing synergy with China’s technology advancement, policy support and investment opportunities.

Associate Professor PMAS Arid Agriculture University Dr Gulshan Irshad in her presentation highlighted that China had developed small to large scale technology solutions to facilitate farmers of different capacity levels.

She said the collaborations under CPEC with China should have a focused transfer of technology, capacity building and knowledge sharing on all modern agricultural farming trends including technology, advanced line seed variety and cropping techniques like aquaponics, hydroponics and tunnel farming.

She said the farmers at the local level were welcoming to modern concepts of agriculture farming that would help them improve their crop yield and reduce the burden on soil and ecology due to environment-damaging practices.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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