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Agriculture in Pakistan | An Overview

The foremost objective of Agriculture sector in Pakistan is to ensure adequate production and availability of food for the population. It is the main source of livelihood for the rural population and it also ensures food availability to rural and urban inhabitants. It is a key sector of the economy as it provides raw materials to main industrial units of the country and also has a major contribution in export earning of the country. The attainment of sustainable growth in agriculture sector fulfils macroeconomic objectives through its forward and backward linkages with the other sectors.

Background

Pakistan has a rich and vast natural resource base, covering various ecological and climatic zones; hence the country has great potential for producing all types of food commodities. Agriculture has an important, direct and indirect, role in generating economic growth. This sector is truly the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. It is a considered opinion of experts that Pakistan has a huge untapped potential for grabbing a significant share of the world agro-food exports.

Importance

The foremost objective of Agriculture sector in Pakistan is to ensure adequate production and availability of food for the population. It is the main source of livelihood for the rural population and it also ensures food availability to rural and urban inhabitants. It is a key sector of the economy as it provides raw materials to main industrial units of the country and also has a major contribution in export earning of the country. The attainment of sustainable growth in agriculture sector fulfils macroeconomic objectives through its forward and backward linkages with the other sectors.

The agriculture sector accounts for 21.0 percent of GDP and absorbs 43.7 percent of labour force. The potential role for agriculture in development is to reduce poverty and drive growth for countries whose economies are agriculture-based. Growing population size requires agriculture growth compatible to meet required level of food. The potential role for agriculture in development is to reduce poverty and drive growth.

Subsectors and Their Performance in 2013-14

The performance of Agriculturde sector in previous fiscal year remained moderate. During fiscal year 2013-14, agriculture sector recorded a growth of 2.1 percent against the growth of 2.9 percent in 2012-13. The decline in its growth was due to drop in cotton production and other minor crops due to extreme weather conditions. Let’s have a brief analysis of all four subsectors of the agriculture sector:

1. Crops

The agriculture’s crop subsector component, which includes important crops, grew by 3.7 percent while other crops and cotton ginning showed a negative growth of 3.5 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. Important crops accounted for 25.6 percent of agricultural value added and has experienced a growth of 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2013-14 against growth of 1.2 percent during the same period of 2012-13.

2. Livestock

Livestock sector is the mainstay of farming communities. It plays an important role in poverty alleviation as it can uplift the socioeconomic conditions of country’s rural masses. Livestock’s contribution to agriculture value added stood at 55.91 percent while it contributed 11.8 percent to the national GDP during 2013-14 as compared to 55.5 percent and 11.9 percent during the corresponding period last year, respectively.

3. Fisheries

Fisheries contribute directly to food supplies, a source of livelihood for the coastal inhabitants, export earnings and boosting the economy. This subsector has 2.03 percent contribution in agriculture and it registered a growth of 0.98 percent as compared to the growth of 0.65 percent last year. The sub-components of fisheries such as marine fishing and in-land fishing contributed to an overall increase in value addition in the fisheries subsector. The growth is expected to rise further in coming year due to lifting of the ban by EU in fish export from Pakistan.

4. Forestry

The forestry sector of Pakistan is a main source of lumber, paper, fuel wood, latex, medicine as well as food and of ecotourism. Growth of the forestry subsector in 2013-14 stood at 1.52 percent as compared to the growth of 0.99 percent last year.

Problems and Their Solutions

Despite the popular lamentations about the neglect of agriculture in the country, the performance of the sector has been simply impressive. Here is a cursory look at the problems, which have been impediments to the growth of agriculture in Pakistan, alongwith some solutions:

1. Irrigation System

Agriculture production in Pakistan is dependent on one of the world’s most elaborate system of irrigation from surface canals and groundwater. In other countries, this advantage would have been of immense value in transforming the pattern of agriculture. But, in Pakistan, this resource has not been optimally utilized and has produced much lower return than its potential. A comparison of wheat yields in the Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab shows that the productivity in Pakistan can be raised by 40 percent through better use of irrigation water. Inefficient irrigation application at the field level can be curbed through zero tillage, laser levelling and regular de-weeding.

2. Water Resources

Water is now becoming scarce and has reached the stress level of 1000 cubic metre per capita and is on a downward slope. The situation has been aggravated by the latest findings arising out of the studies on climate change. Pakistan is among South Asian countries going to be adversely affected by the melting of glaciers in Himalayas from where most of the Indus Basin System draws its sustenance. As water availability decreases, cropping patterns get disrupted due to changes in the monsoons. With the risks of floods and droughts increasing, the prospects of decreased agriculture productivity and food insecurity will face us starkly.

3. Education

The education status of those engaged in the agriculture is a key factor. Farmers with even five years of average schooling demonstrate higher productivity as compared to those with no or only a little schooling. They are able to follow the instructions for the use of fertilizers, seeds and planting techniques better than the illiterate farmers. Expansion in schooling facilities in the rural areas is an area of public policy that will have a high pay off.

4. Storage and Marketing Facilities

The inadequacy of marketing and processing facilities needs to be looked into as well. Small farmers are found to suffer relatively higher losses due to a lot of waste, particularly in perishable commodities such as fruit and vegetable, milk, etc. because of inadequate storage facilities, absence of agro processing and packaging facilities nearby and lack of farm-to-market roads and transport infrastructure. Private sector should be allowed to set up rural markets and the Government’s exclusive monopoly in this respect should be dismantled.

5. Private Investment

Empirical studies have found that public development expenditure leads to enhancement in private investment in agriculture. The implementation of well-targeted public investment in infrastructure projects complements and stimulates private investment in agriculture. Provincial governments should allocate resources for undertaking public infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads, on-farm storage, silos and cold storages, lining of water channels, etc. in the rural areas. Small farmers would thus be able to store, and transport, their goods to the nearest markets. They would not make distress sales to the middlemen who procure the produce directly by visiting the farms soon after the harvest and pay much lower prices than the prevailing market prices.

6. Credit Facilities

Next comes the issue of credit to small farmers that has been a major constraint in the adoption of new technologies and productivity-enhancing inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, renting agriculture machinery, etc. In recent years, microfinance services have also reached the rural areas.  Their penetration rate is still quite low.  The availability of credit on time would facilitate them to purchase certified seeds, fertilizers and other inputs.

7. Cropping Pattern

The cropping pattern in Pakistan hasn’t changed very much during the last 67 years. The same four major crops figure prominently. Diversification into high value products such as fruits and vegetables, oil seeds, pulses, etc. should form the main plank of our agriculture development strategy as the demand of higher household incomes shifts from cereals and staples to meat, fruits, vegetable, etc. The economics of irrigation also dictates that water should be utilized for high value crops.

8. Livestock

The potential in livestock subsector has not been fully exploited because of a number of constraints. Limited supply of forage and fodder, more physical exertion of animal during grazing, frequent incidence of diseases, drought cycles, lack of access to veterinary health services and vaccination, limited marketing opportunities for milk, meat and poultry and non-existence of milk preservation facilities with the herders are some of the difficulties faced by the farmers. Income from livestock production should be enhanced as it is a powerful means for poverty reduction.

Conclusion

Agriculture sector faces certain challenges which require immediate and focused attention at research as well as policy level. Sustainable agricultural growth based on paradigm that secure more profitable farming, high productivity of major farming systems, diversification of high value crops and demand-based production is the need of the hour.

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