Why Neglect the Agriculture Sector?
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.