Why Ne­glect the Agri­cul­ture Sec­tor?

Enterprise - - 8 -

Agri­cul­ture is an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial sec­tor world­wide. This vi­tal sec­tor has been ne­glected by the suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments in Pak­istan. Agri­cul­ture in Pak­istan to­day is suf­fer­ing from sev­eral prob­lems few of which are nat­u­ral and the rest all are man- made.

Pak­istan is now im­mensely vul­ner­a­ble to ab­nor­mally high food prices and food in­se­cu­rity, de­spite having com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages such as an abun­dant and fer­tile agri­cul­tural land and a gen­er­ally favourable cli­mate. It now stands far be­hind other coun­tries in terms of agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment, whereas large pro­por­tions of its pop­u­la­tion are still based in ru­ral ar­eas. The is­sues around agri­cul­ture in Pak­istan are un­cer­tain, dy­namic, com­plex, and have be­come dif­fi­cult to ad­dress. The cur­rent economic cri­sis, ris­ing food prices, and the threat of cli­mate re­in­force the ur­gency to find sus­tain­able solutions to Pak­istan’s agri­cul­tural chal­lenges. As most of the pop­u­la­tion de­rives in­come from farm­ing; agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment is in­tri­cately linked to over­all economic devel­op­ment,

Agri­cul­ture has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate jobs and liveli­hood for ru­ral peo­ple, also pro­duc­ing food and raw ma­te­ri­als for the ur­ban econ­omy. By prop­erly de­vel­op­ing the agri­cul­ture, we can di­min­ish our de­pen­dence on food im­ports which con­sume our for­eign ex­change re­serves. If agri­cul­ture is do­ing well, the avail­abil­ity of food to our peo­ple can be as­sured and if there is suf­fi­cient sup­ply of food items, prices of food com­modi­ties will go down.

Af­ter sub- di­vi­sion of land, the prob­lem of small and frag­mented land hold­ing in densely pop­u­lated Pak­istan is be­com­ing a more se­ri­ous prob­lem which is one of the main causes of our low agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity and its back­ward­ness. The only an­swer to this grave prob­lem is con­sol­i­da­tion of small tracts of land as an on­go­ing process.

It is also very sad that most of the fer­tile land is con­verted into res­i­den­tial colonies which need proper reg­u­la­tion. Qual­ity seeds, be­cause of ex­or­bi­tant prices of bet­ter qual­ity seeds, are also out of reach of ma­jor­ity of the small farm­ers. Pak­istan should im­me­di­ately adopt biotech­nol­ogy to en­sure food se­cu­rity. Dis­tri­bu­tion of qual­ity and af­ford­able seeds needs to be en­sured. Af­ter pri­va­ti­za­tion, fer­til­izer has be­come ex­tremely costly, un­af­ford­able, and mostly be­yond the reach of the poor farm­ers.

The gov­ern­ment should en­sure con­stant avail­abil­ity of fer­til­iz­ers on sub­si­dized rates. Fer­til­izer qual­ity con­trol lab­o­ra­to­ries should also be set up in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. Avail­abil­ity of qual­ity pes­ti­cides is nec­es­sary to save the crops and to avoid losses. Ir­ri­ga­tion is the most crit­i­cal com­po­nent of wa­ter man­age­ment in the coun­try. Pak­istan can­not achieve sus­tained agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment un­til new wa­ter reser­voirs are con­structed and max­i­mum cropped area is brought un­der as­sured canal ir­ri­ga­tion; where canal sys­tem is not avail­able elec­tric­ity tar­iff for Tube Wells needs to be dras­ti­cally re­duced.

In case of small and mar­ginal farm­ers, lit­tle or no use of farm ma­chines is made in sow­ing, har­vest­ing, weed­ing, ir­ri­gat­ing, thresh­ing and trans­port­ing the crops which leads to huge leak­age and losses. There is ur­gent need to fully mech­a­nize the en­tire agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tions by pro­vid­ing public sup­port to small farm­ers.

Crop di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion with a fo­cus on veg­eta­bles and fruit is also vi­tal. It is high time to re­con­sider how we should grow the crops and what should be the pat­tern of con­sump­tion of food. Wheat and corn are tra­di­tional crops. But some farm­ers hope to gain greater re­wards by di­ver­si­fy­ing the so- called per­ma­nent crops: fruits and nuts that grow on trees and vines. Po­ten­tial re­turns of such di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion are far higher. The nut group – pe­cans, al­monds, olive, pis­ta­chios and wal­nuts – is par­tic­u­larly strong. In Pak­istan there must be con­ver­sion of at least 20 – 25% farm­land from low value crops like wheat, corn, and such other crops to per­ma­nent ones, es­pe­cially nuts, grapes, etc. If done right, agri­cul­ture and fish­eries can pro­vide food for all and pro­duce de­cent in­come.

If farm­ers move from tra­di­tional farm­ing to mod­ern farm­ing, the agri­cul­ture sec­tor will be­come highly prof­itable. Ma­jor ad­just­ments are needed to im­prove agri­cul­ture and food se­cu­rity. We need im­me­di­ate re­vamp­ing of this vi­tal sec­tor by the gov­ern­ment to make sure this sec­tor boosts ef­fi­ciency. At present, re­gard­less of pledges of the gov­ern­ment, agri­cul­ture in Pak­istan is fail­ing. Be­cause hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion have be­come ex­tremely high. Around two third of Pak­ista­nis are en­gaged in farm­ing, yet they ac­count for slightly above one fifth of GDP. They live in very mis­er­able con­di­tions. The gov­ern­ment should take con­crete and cred­i­ble steps for devel­op­ment of agri­cul­ture. Once na­tional poli­cies of agri­cul­tural ex­pan­sion have been de­vel­oped, there are dif­fer­ent ways in which the gov­ern­ment can en­cour­age and as­sist the farm­ers, boost­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion. The con­omy of Pak­istan can­not im­prove if agri­cul­ture is ne­glected.

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