INTERVIEW WITH MR MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH, A PROGRESSIVE AGRICULTURIST

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Aug 6 - 12, 20
12

PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF:

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: By profession I am an agriculturist as well as the fact that I manage my family business in Tando Allahyar, Hyderabad and Matli. I also represent growers at different forums. I have been elected General Secretary of Sindh Abadgar Board which is a growers' advocacy group. Apart from this, I am on the Board of The Privatisation Commission, Board of Zarai Taraqiati Bank and Board of Sindh Board of Investment. I started my education in Hyderabad and did my Undergraduate in Marketing and M.S. in Engineering Management from George Washington University in the USA.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR IN PAKISTAN:

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: To my knowledge Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries were seeking land to grow crops for food security purposes. Middle East specially Saudi Arabia tried their best by providing heavy subsidies to grow crops in their respective countries but as the population increases and the resources come under pressure, they are looking elsewhere and Pakistan was one of the countries they wanted to work in but till today they are unable to get the land of their choice.

PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR OF PAKISTAN?

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: Agriculture is one of the vibrant sectors of Pakistan. The vibrancy can be judged from the fact that even after two years of continuous disasters for agriculture, Pakistan was not a food insecure country. Rather Pakistan exported rice worth 2 billion dollars, produced surplus wheat ,sugar and cotton. With this Pakistan produces about 28 billion litres of milk and is one of the top milk producing countries of the world. Having said this, there is a productivity gap between a progressive grower and national agri-yields. There is a yield gap of 20 to 40 percent depending from crop to crop. This yield gap if compared to international production figures will be even higher. This yield gap in milk is even more in Pakistan. The average lactation per animal is of about 2000 litres whereas there are countries which even produce about 12000 litres per animal per year. If distortions are removed, quality of inputs at the right price are provided to growers, right price of commodities are given, agriculture credit is provided and with appropriate agriculture extension services, the agricultural economy could add between 300 to 500 billion rupees at farm gate value. e.g: Current agricultural economy is of about US $ 50 billion and the credit provided to the sector is of about US $ 2.75 billion. If agriculture credit is provided, growers will be able to purchase proper inputs which could help in increasing yields. The agricutural economy provides inputs to the major industry including textile, sugar, rice and oil sectors of Pakistan. Apart from this, the agricultural sector is one of the biggest consumers in Pakistan helping the industry to flourish.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON FOOD SECURITY:

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: In my view there are two aspects of food security one is availability and the other is affordability. What we have seen internationally that countries which can even afford to import food into their countries like USA, Europe, Japan now Middle East still prefer to have their own food producing resourcing. So even if agriculture is not competitive in these countries, but with heavy subsidies they continue to produce just because they want to be food secure.

Pakistan produces close to 40 million tons of grains and does not consume more then 30 million tons. This was quite evident during the floods & rains of last two years. It is important to add that Pakistan's agriculture with its low productivity has potential to increase its production by one and a half times more. Therefore, its one of the few countries in the world which can actually increase its production substantially and can become the bread basket of other countries.

PAGE: YOUR COMMENTS ON VARIOUS CROPS:

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: There are comments on grains & rice in the question above. With vegetables, I will like to include fruits and floriculture to call it as horticuture. Pakistan produces about US $ 3 billion worth of fruits & vegetables at farm gate value. According to official figures, one third of this is wasted which means that about US $ 1 billion worth of fruits & vegetables is lost. Moreover, we do not export more than US $ 150 million of produce every year. While there is huge potential of US $ 86 billion worth of international horticulture market. The prices fetched internationally are one of the lowest. Therefore, there is great potential in the exporting of fresh as well as value added produce from Pakistan due to the wide base of raw material availability at competitive prices.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE STATE BANK OF PAKISTAN'S ROLE IN AGRICULTURE CREDIT FOR FARMERS?

MAHMOOD NAWAZ SHAH: I think, SBP understands that this sector is neglected and there should be more credit injection and attention by banks. They keep on trying by creating incentives and interacting with the banks to enhance credit. But the private banks as of now have not really started to provide agriculture credit in an aggressive way. As mentioned earlier, there is a huge demand and supply gap and therefore small and medium sized growers are affected the most.