Agri­cul­ture needs en­cour­age­ment

Enterprise - - Letters -

The year 2014 was one of the worst years for the agri­cul­tural sec­tor in Pak­istan. It wit­nessed floods, in­un­dat­ing swathes of cro­p­lands, cul­mi­nat­ing in a price crash of at least two ma­jor crops, caus­ing the loss of bil­lions to the agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

En­vi­ron­men­tal changes, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, lack of reg­u­la­tion and preda­tory prof­i­teer­ing are drain­ing the lifeblood from our agri­cul­tural sec­tor. Left unchecked, this sit­u­a­tion can un­der­mine our near self- suf­fi­ciency in food pro­duc­tion, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to feed a pop­u­la­tion of 200 mil­lion, which is grow­ing at a rate higher than av­er­age in South Asia.

No other ma­jor area of our econ­omy is as badly man­aged as the agri­cul­tural sec­tor. It is the sin­gle largest sec­tor, con­tribut­ing 22% to our na­tional in­come, and em­ploy­ing nearly half of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, in terms of ef­fi­ciency, it is nowhere near in­ter­na­tional stan­dards. At the heart of this malfunction lies sea­sonal flood­ing, wa­ter cri­sis, derelict agri­cul­tural de­part­ments, and bad eco­nomic poli­cies.

En­vi­ron­men­tal changes, glacial melt­ing and al­ter­ing rain­fall pat­terns are pos­ing se­ri­ous chal­lenges to grow­ers, sub­ject­ing some ar­eas to floods, while cre­at­ing drought like con­di­tions in oth­ers. Flood is a calamity that hits us peren­ni­ally, de­stroy­ing farm lands and in­fra­struc­ture. De­spite its reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence, we have failed to adopt ef­fec­tive flood preven­tion mea­sures.

With en­vi­ron­men­tal change, wa­ter stress has emerged as another is­sue hav­ing se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions for the agri­cul­tural sec­tor. Pak­istan is al­ready a wa­ter stressed na­tion. Owing to mis­man­age­ment, nearly 50 per­cent of our wa­ter is lost be­fore reach­ing the farm gate and another 15 per­cent on the farm. It is not hard to imag­ine that in the com­ing years, wa­ter will emerge as our pre­dom­i­nant is­sue.

This sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther ag­gra­vated by the gov­ern­ment’s weak reg­u­la­tory and ex­ec­u­tive au­thor­ity. For the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, the ex­ec­u­tive and reg­u­la­tory func­tions are per­formed by provin­cial agri­cul­tural de­part­ments, whose of­fi­cials could have made a dif­fer­ence had they re­mained in con­tact with the grow­ers. Un­for­tu­nately to­day, most farm­ers com­plain of the ne­glect by the agri­cul­tural of­fi­cers, who rarely visit fields, car­ing lit­tle for the is­sues dog­ging the grow­ers.

The neg­li­gence of the agri­cul­tural depart­ment doesn’t end there. It has com­pletely failed to reg­u­late the agri­cul­tural in­puts mar­ket. Owing to weak over­sight, mar­kets are flooded with low qual­ity seed, pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers, avail­able at ex­or­bi­tant prices. Use of such prod­ucts af­fects the farmer’s per acre yield, of­ten caus­ing his en­tire crop to fail.

Agri­cul­ture is the back­bone of our na­tional econ­omy. Even our in­dus­try heav­ily de­pends upon the raw ma­te­rial pro­duced as agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties. Agri­cul­ture’s rel­e­vance to food se­cu­rity makes it an in­dis­pens­able el­e­ment of our na­tional se­cu­rity.

To ad­dress this sit­u­a­tion, the gov­ern­ment should en­sure that qual­ity agri­cul­tural in­puts are avail­able at rea­son­able prices. The prices of fer­til­iz­ers have to be brought down and no firm should be al­lowed to plun­der farm­ers. Of­fi­cials of the agri­cul­tural depart­ment should pro­vide nec­es­sary guid­ance to the farm­ers, act­ing as con­duits of tech­nol­ogy dis­sem­i­na­tion. Ad­nan Falak

Is­lam­abad

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