Tuesday, December 5, 2023
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Tapping True Potential of the Agriculture Sector

Abdul Rashid Shakir

Ensuring food security, import substitution and export of the agricultural surplus are major targets of a thriving agrarian economy like ours.

Enhancing arable land area by introducing world best tech tools in the field; making maximum out of available cultivable land by tilling and laser leveling the soil, sowing genetically-modified seeds, employing best water and crop management techniques, using best quality fertilizers and pesticides for increasing crop yield; processing, packaging and value addition of the agriculture products by investing in agro industry; going for import substitution and exploring avenues for export diversification are some of the prerequisites in this regard.

Blessed with natural resources like fertile land and water, Pakistan is a declared agrarian economy. Agriculture is pivotal to the country’s economic growth, food security, employment generation and poverty alleviation particularly in the rural areas. It contributes more than 19% to the GDP and provides employment to around 42% of the labor force. Directly or indirectly, around 65-70% of the population is associated with this sector for its livelihood. By developing strong linkages with the industrial and services sectors, it can further spur economic growth.

Pakistan has 2% of the world’s total arable land, 96% of which is located in the Indus Plain. About 25% of its 796095 square Km area is under cultivation. Major crops include Wheat, Cotton, Rice, Sugarcane and Maize.

Pakistan has two cropping seasons: “Kharif” and “Rabi”. Sowing in “Kharif” lasts from April to June and is harvested from October to December. Major crops include rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, moong, mash, bajra and jowar. On the other hand sowing in “Rabi” season lasts from October to December and is harvested from April to May. Major crops include wheat, gram, lentil (masoor), tobacco, rapeseed, barley and mustard.

Agriculture has 75% share in Pakistan’s annual exports of around $32Billion, 60% of which comes from Punjab.

Wheat, being Pakistan’s main staple crop, is essential for the country’s food security. Rice is not only the second main staple food after wheat but is also the second major exportable commodity after cotton.

Cotton stands vital for both agriculture and textile sectors. It contributes around 0.6% to  the GDP and accounts for 3.1% of the value added in agriculture.

Cotton cultivation in the country has declined over the past several years because of the more profitable competing crops, especially sugarcane. But cognizant of its importance as one of the major raw materials of the textile industry, Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi-led Government of the Punjab has taken remarkable steps for the revival of cotton crop in the province. One of the important measures in this regard is jacking up cotton support price up to Rs 8500 per 40 Kg to incentivize more and more farmers to cultivate the crop. As a result, the Government of the Punjab has succeeded in cultivating cotton over more than 4.5 Million acres of land in South Punjab, especially Bahawalpur, Multan and DG Khan divisions. After achieving more than 90% of its 5 Million acre target, authorities are now focussed on getting maximum yield of cotton crop by ensuring awareness of farmers in best farm management practices through media campaigns and seminars. Government has established farmers facilitation centers in target districts of South Punjab to ensure availability of sufficient quantities of quality fertilizers and pesticides at controlled rates to help farmers get maximum yield. A massive crackdown on spurious agro drugs and pesticides is also under way to insulate cotton farmers against heavy losses incurred due to onslaught of various pests. Administrative secretaries have been assigned to personally monitor crop management in each district, and offer farmers one window troubleshooting solution for their problems related to crop management.

Government of the Punjab is aggressively pursuing a bumper cotton crop to save valuable foreign exchange spent on the import of around 5 Million bales of cotton per annum, in order to keep its textile industry afloat.

Cultivation of edible oil seeds like sunflower, canola and rapeseed is also on the Government’s top priority agenda, as their import worth around $4 Billion annually is a major strain on the country’s meager foreign exchange resources. The authorities concerned are developing a comprehensive plan to start a robust campaign for the maximum import substitution of edible oil seeds.

Livestock has more than 60% share in the Agriculture sector. Punjab is eager to develop its livestock & poultry, especially in the South Punjab. It would not only enable the country to tap untapped foreign markets like China and the Middle East, but would also promote the country’s Halal Meat Industry in the world.

Forestry and Fisheries are other areas of the Agriculture sector that have a substantial growth potential.

One can comfortably figure out how committed and dedicated the Government of the Punjab is in benefiting from the optimum growth potential of the Agriculture sector especially cotton, edible oil seeds and livestock when we consider its liberal monetary incentives, proper planning and professional follow up of the policies aimed at the growth of the Agriculture sector.

Abdul Rashid Shakir


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