Agricultural statistics revealed that Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy, where majority of the population directly or indirectly depends on this sector. Agriculture has been a big source of foreign exchange earnings, but unhappily this sector has been neglected, forcing people to migrate from rural to urban areas for career opportunities. Statistics revealed that agriculture contributes 18.9 percent to the GDP and employs 42.3 percent of the labour force. It is also registered that the sub-sectors of agriculture, which include minor crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry, have the potential to increase growers’ earnings by ensuring the export of surplus stocks to neighbouring markets. Unluckily, various educated people believe that agriculture is old-fashioned. What they fail to understand is that agriculture-related businesses have a greater trickle-down effect and create greater career opportunities. Young people should invest their energies, knowledge and skills to attain higher productivity in agriculture.
The Board of Investment (BoI) is also trying to lure firms, mainly agro-giants around the world, to come and invest in the country. Different sources also recorded that Cargill, the US agro-giant, met Prime Minister aide Dawood and proclaimed an investment of $200 million in Pakistan’s agriculture sector. Cargill would bring world-class innovations to support the flourishing dairy industry in the country, which is already moving towards modernisation. Investors are keen now to invest in the agriculture sector of the country.
However, the Government of Pakistan should take strictly measures to enhance the quality of agricultural products, particularly in the livestock sector, in line with international standards. Different countries are now focusing on agriculture in Pakistan. The Netherlands has enlarged its support for enhancing agriculture and agro-business. A Dutch agro-business delegation is coming to Pakistan in March, which is predicted to sign contracts for investment, trade and research in agriculture with private-sector firms of Pakistan.
Pakistan-China mega project
Various experts recorded that China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) could have offered an opportunity to increase the agriculture sector, but the Government of Pakistan should now pay attention on it. Pakistan has always been a traditional exporter of textile products, but the government experts did not pay heed to calls for diversifying exports in the previous eras. Diversification could have been attained had there been a policy to ensure value addition in agricultural products for rising exports. It is also said that the present government appears to be focused on agriculture and livestock sectors to grow exports and assist the farming community.
Currently, the government formally approached the Chinese government, seeking support for agricultural research to enhance crop productivity and decline post-harvest losses. Chinese investment and support can turn around Pakistan’s agriculture sector.
In the international market the demand for food is also growing and it is expected to more rise in future. For instance, in 2016-17, 2.68 billion tonnes of grain were produced globally. By 2050, additional 1.5 billion tonnes will be required to feed the world’s rising population. Simultaneously, meat production will rise from 200 million tonnes to 500 million tonnes. This means that the growers have an opportunity to make the economy vibrant by seizing foreign markets. Unluckily it is tragic that our domestic growers are burning their crops because of low market rates. Statistics also showed that major imported food commodities are tea, spices, juices, palm oil, soybean oil, powdered milk, dried fruits, soft drinks, flavoured water, chocolate, biscuits and cheese. Our country imports various food products that it once used to export like: beef, mutton, chicken and eggs. Furthermore, Pakistan imports fruits and vegetables worth hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. Despite an abundance of agricultural and natural resources, Pakistan is not meeting the demand for food products which is intensifying food security issues.
We believe that this sector fuels industrial growth of Pakistan because the country’s industries deeply rely on agriculture and livestock like textile and leather sectors. The adepts’ main focus is on making interventions for the promotion of agricultural trade, agribusiness and investment in agriculture and livestock. It is also said that the current government wants to bring competitiveness in exports of agriculture sector to become a main regional exporter by upgraded production technology and standardized service provision. The government officials also want to take measures to decline the cost of doing business, promote high-value crops and ensure profit for producers. It also aims to launch commercial farming integrated with foreign and local value chains. Different sources also recorded that the government wants to focus on agricultural research, education and extension to promote export-focused production that cannot be avoided anymore as it is key for agro-based industrial development. Statistics also revealed that the country is among leading importers of oil and oilseeds in the region. The government is working on import substitution by bringing innovation in this sector.
The Government of Pakistan must take serious action to enhance the sector’s performance. The government should encourage small industrial units to boost the rural agrarian economy.