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Time to make agriculture sector important again

At the time of independence Pakistan was basically agriculture based country. Pakistan turned into more diversified country as industrialization took hold. Although the share of agriculture had declined substantially since its birth the role of agriculture in the economic development of Pakistan cannot be denied and Pakistan is still an agricultural country.

Agricultural sector provides food to consumers and fibre to the industry, earns foreign exchange, and provides a market for industrial goods. The share of agriculture in gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since independence, falling from 53 per cent in 1949-50 to 19.8 percent in 2016-17. From 1947 to 1950, Pakistan produced raw materials for the rest of the subcontinent as well as some other world markets. Inter-district movement and the export of major crops were banned, while wheat and sugar were subsidized for consumers.

The sector benefited from the Korean War (1950-53), but an overvalued rupee adversely affected agricultural exports. Livestock emerged as an important subsector contributing around one-third of the agricultural GDP. Livestock accounts for 40 percent of the agricultural sector and 9 percent of the total GDP.

Livestock is one important element of agriculture sector. The livestock provides milk, meat and yogurt to the community. Continuous growth in livestock is increasing and it becomes an ideal sector for diminution of poverty especially in rural areas

Fisheries and forestry also grew rapidly. In the crop sector, cotton became as import as wheat in terms of value-addition, accounting for one-fifth share of total earnings. The share of rice and sugar cane, however, fell from 20 percent in 1970s to around 15 percent in 2014. Grains, fruit, vegetables increased manifold in the past 70 years.

Pakistan’s major focus is on the industrial sector. The continued fall in production has threatened largest foreign exchange earning sector. Lowest GDP in the region is the result of the decline in the sector. Although Pakistan has an agricultural economy, rapid decline in sector has forced Pakistan into importing several food commodities to achieve its own consumption needs.

Some of main problems faced by farmers in Pakistan include rising input costs, indirect taxed on farm operations and inputs. Lack of modern technology, inaccessibility to agriculture credit and water shortages are threatening irrigated lands.

The loans receiver by the farmers, in most of the cases, is not spent to improve farming. Thus there is a need to ensure proper utilization of loan. Lack of interest on the part of government combined with farmers’ resistance to change has led to a dismal state of the agriculture sector.

The government has announced special packages and fiscal incentives for agriculture sector over years but these are not enough for revival. Pakistan’s agricultural performance has been poor in comparison with neighbouring India, which has conditions similar to ours. Pakistan could not translate these factors into the export of processed or value-added by-products of the farm produce. A lot is also being done to facilitate the farmers but lack of education, not enough publicity and cumbersome process of disbursement of loan are main hurdles in the proper and timely payment of loan.

 

Agriculture sector is still the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy

The agriculture sector is still the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy although its share in country’s total output and its capacity to drive growth and development are registering a downward trend.

Agriculture, however, remains a major source of income for the country’s rural poor and an important driver of the rural non-farm economy where there is untapped potential for pro-poor growth.

It is important to mention here that climate change is a serious threat to the security and prosperity of Pakistan’s agriculture. The country is more exposed to the impacts of climate change because of its geography.

According to a recently published index, Pakistan was ranked number 12 on the list of countries most likely to be affected by impacts of climate change.

Punjab is experiencing high and low temperatures, high and low rainfall with clear symptoms of climate shift.

Consequently, sowing and harvesting season of many important crops has been disturbed, harvesting and post harvesting losses have been increased and there has been a delay in sowing of crops.

Sudden fall in cotton production is a peculiar example of impact of climate change wherein, high temperatures at early stage of the crop lured sucking pest attack and afterwards, heavy rainfalls impacted the overall production.

The government should make sure that small farmers also be given a due share in relief as it is vital for reviving declining agricultural sector. Regular monitoring of policies and its sub-sectors, financial position of farmers and contribution of agriculture can help in this regard.

The government strongly needed to invest in agriculture research and follow footsteps of developed countries.

The world has turned to precision farming, using GPS sensors, nitrogen sensors, and guidance system in agriculture farming.

The revival of the agriculture sector needs to lay an extensive and carefully formulated plan. Federal and provincial governments must guarantee execution of the plan so that an agriculture sector regains its past glory.

Agriculture sector recorded a growth of 3.46 percent in fiscal year 2017 as compared to the growth of 0.27 in the preceding year.

Zarai Taraqiati Bank is playing an effective role in the promotion of economic growth, by improving the loan distribution system to the agriculturists, through special lending programs, technical assistance, and other products and services.

Pakistan is one of the world’s largest producers of raw cotton and a major rice exporter. Tobacco is grown mainly in the North-West Frontier Province and Punjab and is an important cash crop. On the other hand Pakistan’s fishing industry is relatively modest, but has shown strong growth in recent years. Forests cover an area of 4.2 million hectares or about 5 percent of the total area of Pakistan.

The principal forest products are timber, principally for house construction, furniture, and firewood. Many of the country’s wooded areas are severely depleted as a result of over-exploitation.

Fisheries and poultry contribute 1.3 percent Growth in GDP and contribution is livestock 10.8 percent and 6.1 percent in agriculture.

Agricul­tural production and productivity in Pakistan continue to rise. The growth is increasingly on intensification patterns rather than technological change, according to a report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

The agriculture sector is still the foundation of Pakistan’s economy. Its share in country’s total output and its capacity to drive growth and development are diminishing.

Given its large share in the gross domestic product, it will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to achieve high overall growth without substantial agricultural growth.

Agriculture is no longer the largest sector of Pakistan’s economy today; however, it remains a major source of income for the country’s rural poor and an important driver of the rural non-farm economy.

This sector is being grossly neglected in the absence of the public sector while the government’s focus is only on the support prices and subsidies. Agriculture has not performed to its full potential. Scope for technological change exists, but the gains associated with the Green Revolution have long disappeared.

A number measures taken, including the recently approved Seed Act Bill and Plant Breeders Bill in addition to reduction in the prices of fertilizers, support prices and increase in loans for farmers will encourage international seed companies to enter into Pakistan. There is expectation of the revival of agricultural sector in the near future.

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