Farmers need training and simple technology to immediately bring about increase in productivity and efficiency
Interview with Ms Naheed Memon – Chairperson, Sindh Investment Board
PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR VIEWS FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR OF SINDH, PLEASE:
NAHEED MEMON: I believe in taking small steps towards a clearly identified goal. We have been unable to grow agriculture income equitably on account of two principal failures; firstly after the 60’s green revolution in Pakistan, which increased crop yields, there has been no significant and required technology intervention, and secondly, we have failed to add value to agriculture produce. As a result of these shortcomings, we have seen both a decrease in quality as well as quantity, in output, relative to similar agrarian economies. Our farmers have remained poor because market access has been missing and little or no investment has been made in agri- based industry.
I am working on developing market access for farmers and making all efforts possible to establish agri-based industry in the province. On both these accounts, we have made some notable progress but it is only a small beginning and we need a few major breakthroughs to deliver tangible change.
PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON LOCAL AND FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE SECTOR OF SINDH?
NAHEED MEMON: There is a huge potential in the agriculture sector based on our agriculture and horticulture produce relatively cheap labor and growing road infrastructure. The returns in value added agri-based industry are very high but market access and lack of upward and downward linkages have prevented investment from moving into agriculture. However, I am seeing the beginning of small investment flows into this sector from domestic and international investors. There are a few collaborations and joint ventures, which have been firmed recently and I am very optimistic of the networking effect — these are sure to set about.
PAGE: WHAT MUST BE DONE TO FACILITATE THE FARMERS FOR BETTER PRODUCE OF ALL TYPES OF CROPS?
NAHEED MEMON: We need to improve on farm practices, provide training and simple technology to immediately bring about increase in productivity and efficiency. The more capital intensive but necessary intervention is to introduce better technology and provide modern inputs. I know of some public private initiatives being undertaken to improve crop seed quality and introduce new and better varieties of horticulture. These are very welcome and of critical importance. There is also an urgent need to introduce management and operational technology. On these accounts, the government needs to provide support with a view to improve state of agriculture and not just to subside farmer income.
PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE SECTOR OF SINDH?
NAHEED MEMON: I am very hopeful that the private sector will recognize the potential in doing agri-based business. This will develop backward linkages and improve farmers ‘ income. However, an agriculture sector development program should be instituted via a partnership between the government and agriculturalists to provide modern technology, techniques, equipment and better management. I believe we have the resources and if we support this sector better, we will deliver growth and prosperity.
PAGE: HOW HELPFUL IS THE KISSAN PACKAGE?
NAHEED MEMON: I am not cognizant of its impact so far. However, a direct cash transfer for farmers, will not impact agriculture production or improvement in state of this sector. It may be better to provide support in the form of better technology, farm inputs, machines and training.
In areas where poverty levels are so great, any cash transfers serve to provide temporary relief and subsistence. Hence, in order to bring about improvement and sustainable income increase from farming, a production and process-oriented intervention is preferable.