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Pakistan agriculture needs potential stability enlightened and consistent policies and the generous infusion of economy and technical assistance

By Dr. S. M. ALAM, R. ANSARI and M. A. KHAN
Nuclear Institute of Agriculture, Tando Jam, Pakistan
May 08 - 21, 2000

Agriculture is a dominant sector in the economy of Pakistan which accounts for one-forth of the gross domestic products. It absorbs about 60 per cent of total labour force of the country. Agriculture sector is important to meet the food demand of growing population enforcing the foreign exchange resources through the export of farm produce, to provide raw materials for expanding the industries especially the textiles and sugar and also other small and medium scale industries and to employ a much larger proportion of the rural population. Poor producing segment results in huge imports of commodities at the time of shortage and that too at the expense of foreign exchange hence there is a need not only to increase per hectare yield of major crops, but also the expenses of cultivated areas so that our country may acquire self sufficiency in all food crops to meet the requirement of rapidly growing population as well as to compete with other developing countries in agriculture sector. The gap between food production and food demand is widening in Pakistan for every passing day and if immediate steps are not taken to check this trend, the country might face serious crisis. According to an estimate Pakistan would need 2.5 to 3.9 billion dollars for import of 7.5 million tonnes of wheat to meet the need at home by the year 2010. The lower level of wheat production and huge government expenditure on the input of wheat has become as permanent feature. This implies a serious food security risk for the country. To-day our total production of food is about 21 million tonnes against 6.10 million tonnes in 1950-60. However, this increase alone is outstripped by high growth of population. Among food grains, wheat alone accounts for 37% of the total cropped area. Wheat is by far the major food-grains in the country.

At present, Pakistan's agricultural research system is funded, organized and managed at a level, where only maintenance research is mainly being achieved. Research communities have indicated that an optimally funded Pakistan agricultural research system would require funding 5 to 6 times more than the amount of funding levels. One of the main driving forces for increased agricultural productivity has been the agricultural researches. The green revolution of 1960's and 70's was a result of years of national and international research in various disciplines related to agriculture. The green revolution of 60's in Pakistan and India was supported by the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundations of USA. The Green revolution of 1960's enabled some Asian countries to increase the production of staple crops sharply. Higher food production was made possible not only because of per unit rise in the production by using higher yielding varieties and agro-chemicals but, new land was also brought under cultivation. It is also a fact that higher yields were made and often achieved at the cost of increased land degradation mainly due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, salinization and other environmental damages.

Agricultural research scientists in Pakistan have made definite advance during the last 3 to 4 decades. Many new improved varieties of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, pulses and vegetable fruits with high yields and quality have been developed to evolve varieties resistant to pests and diseases. Agro-techniques for getting higher crop production have been generated. Chemical control of insect pests, diseases and weeds have proved useful in reducing the exorbitant losses due to their attack. For their control appropriate technology is generated by the scientists. Practical research on a continuing basis is essential at the provincial and federal level to develop high-yielding varieties of crops. Like edible oil seeds, sugarcane and wheat, it would not have been possible for the grower to get higher yields per acre without following efficient production technology developed by the agricultural scientists of the country, which have improved the economic growth of the country.

The growth and development of crop plants are generally developed on the suitable agricultural inputs. The agricultural inputs play important role in the productivity of the crops. Some of the agricultural inputs are i) Fertilizers: It has been established that there are at least 16 elements essential for plant growth and productivity. They are required by plants in varying quantities. Some nutrients such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus are needed in greater quantities and these are called macro-nutrients. Some nutrients such as iron, manganese, copper, zinc boron molybdenum and chlorine are also very essential for the growth of plants, but they required by crop plants in very small quantities and are called micro-nutrients. ii ) Manuring: Manuring is still a mainstay in the soil fertility programmes. However, due to the rapid increase in use of commercial fertilizers and the greater interest in the most profitable production, the use of manure in the soil has been neglected. To sustain the soil fertility, the use of manure is pre-requisite for any crop farming. Manure contains to a large extent nitrogen followed by potassium. The manure from poultry contains 1.56% nitrogen and 0.4% phosphorus. For potassium, the sheep manure is good, which contains 1% of potassium. In the field experiment, it has been found that all the fruits and vegetable crops are more responsive to the farm yard manure. Therefore, the field for these crops should be adequately manured. Among the field crops sugarcane, rice, maize and jute are more responsive to farm yard manure than other field crops. On the other hand, crops such as wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, pearl millet ground nut, linseed, sesamum, castor and cotton are less responsive to farm yard manure application. Organic matter acts as a store house of nutrients such as NPK improves quality of the soil, iii) Green manuring: Green manuring is an age-old practice adopted to improve the productivity of soil. Legumes are important and green manuring also fixes nitrogen, iv) Water: Water is also absolutely essential for plant life. Plants use more water than any other substance they absorb. A good crop of wheat extract enough water during the growing season. About 1000 kg of water is needed to produce 1 kg of wheat. The function of soil moisture in plant growth is very important. v): Irrigation: Irrigation is the application of water to soil for the purpose moisture essential for plant growth.

The official figures reveal that the total lands under cultivation is increased to 22.3 mha, out of which the net area for different crop is estimated at 16.7 mha. The break-up of land utilization indicates that 8.3 mha is used for wheat, 2.4 mha for rice, around 3 mha for cotton, and the rest of the land is used for maize, bajra, gram etc. The utilization of this land yields about 18-19 mt of wheat 4.5- 5 mt of rice, 8-9 million bales of cotton. The average per acre yield of wheat is estimated to be between 20 and 25 mds. And above it needs an extra effort as well as natural supporting factors. Out of these crops expect cotton and rice, the agriculture sector is unable to produce enough to feed 145 million population of the country. The increased production of crops has been mainly due to favourable weather conditions, adequate availability of various important inputs and above all due to increase in area under wheat cultivation as a result of increase in wheat support price to Rs 300 per 40 kg. The production figures of another important crop viz. sugarcane for 1998-99 was 55.2 million tonnes and that of sugar was 3.9 million tonnes.

Of the total agricultural land in South Asian countries (43%), 140 mha lands are affected by degradation. Of this, 31 mha are severely degraded and 63 mha moderately saline. The worst affected country in this regard is Iran with 94% of the agricultural land degraded, followed by Bangladesh 75%, Pakistan 61%, Sri Lanka 44%, Afghanistan 33%, Nepal 26%, India 25% and Bhutan 10%. The area under cultivation in Pakistan has remained constant at 22 million hectares for the last 5 years. On the contrary, due to salinity, water-logging and accelerated urbanization, a substantial proportion of its arable land may have already been lost. Consequently, difficulties to feed its burgeoning population. Over the last 50 years, agriculture research has been mainly supported foreign aided projects. A nucleus of scientific manpower in Pakistan has been developed through the generous assistance of several donor agencies. Over the years donor assistance has vanished. This has had adverse effect on our agricultural research system. Our research institutions have not yet been able to produce for the farmers that type of cotton which they did in 1991-92, with higher yield potential. Presently, funding levels of agricultural research need extensive of as low as 0.2 percent of GDP, while the research expenditure on crops and livestock is less than 0.1 per cent. The average annual growth rate of major crops has been declined from 3.44 percent during the 1980's to 2.36 per cent during 1990's. If we consider wheat, the average annual growth rates have been steadily declining since the Green revolution. Although, the production of wheat per acre differs from area to area, farm to farm as some allied and supporting factors have to be taken into account while calculating the yield. Weather and the availability of the irrigation water through canals also contribute to the yields. Rice is our principal exportable commodity. Its export to Iran, Iraq and UAE has declined due to poor quality content by exporters. Basmati rice constitutes one third of total rice exports, earning foreign exchange.


Pakistan agriculture needs potential stability enlightened and consistent policies and the generous infusion of economy and technical assistance. There should be a complete co-ordination among the official agencies and the farmers should have full access to increase crop production technology and agricultural inputs. Growing of crops must be in time and greater use of machinery should be made available for sowing cutting and threshing. There is a need for strengthening of proper link between extension workers and farmers to increase our agricultural crop yields. If farmers are provided proper guidance for using fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, insecticides and correct pattern of cropping and proper use of farm machinery, we can expect substantial increase in the yields. The agricultural prices commission are also play a stabilising role by advising the government on support prices which are remunerative to the farmer and encourage him to stabilize production. Besides helping in fixation of reasonable support prices for various crops, the agricultural prices commission may also ensure that proper arrangements are also made to enable the growers to receive these sale proceeds regularly in time. It needs to be emphasized that increase in agricultural production would play the desired dividends when a proper budget for each crop is made. Pakistan is more or less an arid country with poor vegetation cover. Out of the total area of about 79.61 mha, only 10% receives less than 100 mm rainfall, while 74 % gets 300 mm annually. Abolishing of Zamindari systems (landholdings by feudals) under land reforms in India and the then E. Pakistan now Bangladesh soon after partitions of the sub-continent is generally cited as an example of economic stability in those parts of the region. The feudals in Pakistan hold power in the society. As a whole, they hold on poor rural masses and ultimate appearance of fuedals in active politics and legislative assemblies, causing negative politics, loss of national moneys, economic bankruptcy and all sorts of socio-economic and political corruption in the country. Because of these feudals, the agriculture sector has so far failed to enter to the needs of the people and a huge amount of foreign exchange approximately about one billion dollar is spent every year on inputs of wheat and edible oils in Pakistan. Many of our scientists have left the country to seek employment elsewhere for several reasons. Such habits must be stopped, so Pakistan may continue to have access to modern technology. Therefore the scientists of the country should have all sorts of facilities to work peacefully in order to boost up of the economical products of the country. Devoted efforts and concerted efforts associated with scientific approach are needed to make not only self sufficient in food, but producing export surplus to give a strong helping hand to the national economy.