KEEPING in view the multiple stresses, the country’s agriculture has been facing for a long time, the federal government has started working out a strategy for its long-term development.
The prime minister has directed the Federal Ministry of National Food Security and Research to immediately start a consultative process with provincial governments and other stakeholders for developing an integrated framework to expand agriculture production base.
And a comprehensive incentive package for the farming community is expected to be announced in the coming federal budget.
The key irritant in resolution of the existing agriculture issues is the lack of synergy in policymaking between the food security ministry and the provinces.
An agricultural growth of 5pc could boost the overall GDP by 1.25pc. At current growth rate of around 1.5pc its share is a mere 0.30pc.
Federal Minister for Food Security Sikander Hayat Khan Bosan had recently requested the prime minister to increase budgetary allocation of his ministry so that he could initiate steps for the long-term development of the agriculture.
Bosan’s contention was that since the abolition of concurrent list, his ministry’s budget had been drastically cut down from multi-billion rupees to just millions, not enough to carry out critical tasks.
A senior official of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Ahmad Jawad was quick to hail the PM’s ‘timely intervention’ to strengthen the agriculture sector which was overdue for long as the sector had continuously failed to achieve the required growth, resulting also in decline of the exports.
An underperforming agriculture sector accounts for 21pc of the country’s GDP. An agricultural growth of 5pc could boost the overall GDP by 1.25pc. At current growth rate of around 1.5pc its share is a mere 0.30pc. Experts say meaningful efforts in the agricultural sector can increase GDP growth from projected 4.5pc to 5.5pc.
Meanwhile, the food security ministry has set up seven committees on various sub-sectors of agriculture to formulate proposals for evolving a comprehensive strategy.
The committees have been given the deadline of April 24 to submit their recommendations. The financing requirement for the framework would be covered in the forthcoming federal budget and possibly shared by the provincial governments.
The Prime Minister’s Secretariat has advised the ministry concerned to ensure that the consultative process should be completed without delay for approval and appropriate allocation of funds in the budget 2016-17. It lays stress on diversification by promoting new crops and modern techniques.
Besides, there are plans to revitalise research institutions, revive a national agriculture research system by synergising federal and provincial research bodies and put greater focus on development of better crop varieties in terms of yield and pest resistance.
A major challenge the government faces at the moment is how to minimise the cost of production of crops and also increase productivity to make farming an attractive enterprise for the farmers. Bosan says his ministry is working on various mechanisms to bring down the cost of production.
One such mechanism could be reduction in prices or taxes of farm inputs which the growers have been demanding for quite long. At present, the use of farm inputs in the country is below the desired levels because of their high prices, and, also in many cases, quality.
According to FAO, the farm productivity in the country remains lower than other countries in the region, some of which have increased output of major crops during the last 50 years. The per acre output of wheat in Pakistan is low as compared to Bangladesh, India and China although in 1960s its wheat yield was much higher than China and Bangladesh and slightly lower than India.
In 1980, the yield of both China and Bangladesh was higher than that of India and Pakistan. However, in 2014 Pakistan was at the bottom again as its per hectare wheat yield stood at 2,787kg, almost the same level that India achieved 20 years ago, the FAO statistics show.
The PM’s agriculture strategy includes measures for mitigating the impact of climate change on the agriculture sector, long-term groundwater policy aimed at ensuring access as well as efficient utilisation of this scarce resource, a comprehensive framework for seed certification, availability of fertilisers at affordable prices and regulations for pesticide business.