PROFILE ASLAM AWAN
COLUMN FOR THE RECORD
POLITICS & POLICY NAB: A PERFORMANCE REVIEW
SOCIETY 1- FOOD PRODUCTION POTENTIAL IN THE COUNTRY
2- CHOOSING FIELD OF SPECIALIZATION

 

FOOD PRODUCTION POTENTIAL IN THE COUNTRY

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Food and agriculture sector is the principal contributor to the gross domestic products

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By Dr. S.M. ALAM, Dr. M.H. NAQVI and 
M.A. KHAN NIA, Tandojam.

Mar 10 - 16, 2003
 
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The need for adequate production of food has become more pressing than ever before and it is likely to become increasingly serious with the calamitious growth of population. It is essential that a sense of urgency prevail among the agricultural scientists, technologists and all those who are connected with the agricultural development so that concerned efforts are made to solve the basic problem of food production. The race, between food and population must be won in favour of food before it is too late. It is as well to point here that mere production of cereals alone will not solve the problem of nutrition with according to FAO is already impairing the mental and physical efficiency of the population. To ensure a reasonably balance diet one would call for substantial increase of protective food.

The problem of agricultural development in a country, where land resources are limited and population increase is outstripping the country's food supply, is a complex one. An area of approximately 22 million hectares only is available for cultivation which also is fast shrinking as a result of urbanization, industrial development, construction of roads homesteads etc. Gains in agricultural production will, therefore, have to be obtained from the existing developed and cultivated area by increasing the yield of crops by more intensive cropping. There must be a shortterm measure which would enable the country to meet the present crisis and at the same time give the scientists and technologists enough time for getting into longterm programme for permanent solution of basic agricultural problems of the country.

The measure to be undertaken must have to be based on scientific data and must technically feasible, economically sound supporable. There should a firm policy decision right at the highest level about the support agriculture should get both in terms of economic incentives as also in terms of institutional and technical assistance. The most urgent shortterm need is to make the country self-supporting of rice. It is now the considered opinion of experts that improved varieties and heavy use of fertilizers offer the quickest means of obtaining higher yield.

Experience in many developed countries of the world have also shown that the same two factors contributed largely to phenomenal rise in production in the two countries. Advancement in agricultural technology such as evolution of improved varieties, use of chemical fertilizers, control of pests and diseases, chemical weed control, have opened up potentialities for increased agricultural production, but the adoption of these methods required radical adjustment by farmers which they easily cannot make. While it is possible to induce a farmer to adopt a single innovation it is much more, difficult to induce him to accept a series of innovations all of which alone will enable him to obtain economic return.

In traditional agriculture rarely can a significant economic increase be obtained by changing one single practice. Crop varieties have been selected to grow on infertile or water logged soils and they lack in genetic potentiality to respond to fertilizers or improved soil management practices. An improved variety, if introduce, will require simultaneous adoption of other ancillary practices such as fertilizer application and improved cultural practices in order to give the best performance. The agricultural sector of Pakistan economy has shown promising performance during the last three decades and is poised for a major breakthrough. This sector is capable of sustaining food autarky for the country as well as becoming a major source of foreign exchange earnings. However, in order to harness available resources to their maximum, there is need for more liberal but sound policies creating confidence among the farming class.

Pakistan is essentially an agricultural country. Similar is the case in most of the under developed, where the food and agriculture sector is the principal contributor to the gross domestic products. Nonetheless, it is lamentable fact, that two-thirds of mankind comprising the developing nations produce a mere one-fifth of the world's food supply. Lack of self-sufficiency in food production in the these countries with ever increasing population pressures has rightly been described as a time bomb with which humanity is precariously coexisting. The reasons for the poor performance of under developing countries in agriculture are lack of organization, inadequate economic returns to the farmers, dearth of necessary agricultural inputs and above all a minimal use of science and technology in farming, harvesting and post-harvesting.

One of the finest Pakistani success stories of post independence era has been the Green Revolution of sixties through the uses of Mexi-Pak wheat and IRRI-rice varieties, which turned the country from a chronic importer of food-grains into an exporter of some essential food items. Green Revolution has been instrumental in significant enhancement of productivity in Pakistan, particularly in wheat and rice. The newly developed early maturing and high yielding dwarf varieties of wheat and rice during that; period, helped in increasing the production of food-grains significantly. This has successfully led to massive transformation in the rural and agrarian economy, which came about through the collaborative efforts of farmers, agriculturists, researchers, planners, backed up with necessary administrative and political support. Since independence, while the population increased almost supernumary times, and food grain production also increased many times. From a mere million ton during 1960-65, food grain production increased to an estimated many thousands million tons in 2001-2002 and productivity substantially increased from almost 500 kg/ha to more than 2500 kg/ha of cereal crops.

Besides Green Revolution, significant production advances have been made in sugar, milk, fish, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables. There are different research organizations in the country who have been actively engaged in research work for better production of food grain crops. The major cereals grown in Pakistan are wheat, rice and maize. Wheat breeders in Pakistan have developed over 50 varieties for irrigated and rain-fed conditions in different parts of the country and for different sowing timings. This includes large number of varieties, which are resistant against various wheat diseases. As a result of these efforts, wheat production in the country increased 10 folds after independence. Wheat, the main staple food of people, is the single-largest grain crop of the country. The average production of wheat has increased from 9.5 million tons in 1975-80 to 20.0 million tons in 1999-00, the quantum jump in wheat production was mainly due to the introduction of high yielding and disease-resistant varieties, adaptation of improved crop production technologies and proper plant protection measures and some increases in area of the crop.

 

 

There are many important crops in Pakistan, i.e. wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, tobacco, gram and oil seed. Pakistan is largely self-sufficient in food. Production has increased as a result of investment in irrigation facilities and the wider use of fertilizers. 21.4m ha of land was under cultivation in 1993/4. Many of the holdings are small, 27% less than 1ha. Total cropped area of Pakistan is 22.80 mha. Wheat is the staple, grown on 37% of the cropped area. Planting area and wheat yield have both risen since the 1970s; output in 1994/5 was 17m tons. Rice, the second staple crop, is grown for domestic consumption and export. 10% of cultivated land is used for growing rice. The government is encouraging the production of high-quality basmati rice for the Middle East export market. Production in 1994/5 was 3.45m tons.

Cotton is the major cash crop and largest agricultural export. It is grown mainly in Punjab and to a lesser extent in Sindh. It is vulnerable to bad weather and crop diseases which make production uneven (8.7m bales in 1994/5, an estimated 10.6m in 1995/6), but yields have increased over the past two decades. Since 1988, the export of cotton and rice has been open to the private sector; they accounted for over 30% of exports in 1994/5. Sugar, grown from cane, is the second major cash crop. Output was 47 m tons in 1994/5. Other crops include millet, sorghum, maize, barley, gram, chickpeas and other pulses, onions, potatoes and chillies. Meat and dairy products, leather and draught animals contributed 8% of GDP in 1994/5. The sector has grown by an average 6% over the past decade. There are plans to make poultry a major export.

Rice, is the major food as well as commercial crop of the country. Rice is the second most important cereal crop in Pakistan. It occupies about 10% of the total cropped area of the country. On an average, one-third of its production is exported every. Production of rice has increased from 0.9 million tons in 1975-80 to about 5.0 million tons in 1998-99. In the current year, rice was planted on an area of 2125 thousand hectares and the production is estimated at 5.5 million tons. Outstanding achievements in rice improvement after independence included development of high yielding rice varieties of local and basmati for irrigated areas. Our projected requirement of rice in 2005 AD is nearly 6.0 million tons against the present production of 5.0 million tons and the different research organizations in the country are on their way to developing higher yielders with built in resistance to stresses. With the advent of the Green Revolution, the semi-dwarf varieties IR8 and IR6 were introduced from the International Rice Research Institute, Philippines, in 1967 and 1969, respectively. The area and production of rice have increased by leaps and bounds in Pakistan. However, in spite of this phenomenon progress, Pakistan still ranks only at No. 10 in total rice production among the 14 rice producing countries of the world.

Maize is the third cereal crop of the country. The production of maize has increased with an average growth rate of 3.3% from 0.81 million tons in 1975 to 1.2 million tons in 1993. Research establishments are trying their best to grow maize to the maximum quantity by adopting new techniques suitable for this crop to a large extent.

Sugarcane is an important industrial crop and covers about 5% of the total area of the country. It serves as major raw material for the production of white sugar and gur. Sugarcane has been cultivated on an area of about 1000 thousand hectares in the current year and production has been estimated as more than 50000 thousand tons. Attractive support price of cane and good weather conditions in Punjab and Sindh have helped to bring about improvement in its production. Over the last 40 years, sugarcane has increased by 3% annually. This increase is mainly due to increase in the areas and adaptation of the technologies, which went up from 756 thousand hectares in 1975-80 and to more than 1000 thousand hectares in 1998-99.

Cotton is an important cash crop of the country. It supplies cash returns to farmers, supplies raw material to the textile industry and provides employment in both the rural and the urban areas. It is sown in 3 million hectares and covering 12% of the total cropped areas. It earns a lot in foreign exchange through the export of raw cotton, garments and threads etc. Many high yielding cotton varieties has been released in the country which have changed the economical condition of the country. Environmentally sound, easily adaptable and economically viable integrated pest management strategies have been developed for pest control in major crops such as cotton, rice, wheat, sugarcane, oilseed crops, and pulses. These strategies are expected to reduce the pesticide consumption in these crops by almost 50%.

 

 

Agriculture in modern times requires appropriate machinery for ensuring timely field operations and effective application of various inputs as also for agro-processing. To provide durable solutions to the major problems faced by food and agriculture sector, we have concentrated on synergetic approaches involving new botany, new genetic and nuclear techniques for the genetic improvement of most important agricultural crops. Although, application of modern technologies have resulted in manifold increase in the agricultural production in the country, but the situation is far away from ensuring a complete household food and nutritional security. The country has millions of small and marginal farmers in whose farm, the productivity is very low. To propel Pakistani agriculture into 21st century, the quality technical skills and management of agricultural manpower must improve, for making the research need-based, effective, efficient and relevant. So, the maximum common good is quickly possible with least cost. Science must come to the aid of agriculture in a big way and that calls for massive programme in agricultural education, research and extension. Large number of scientists and technologies and extension workers will be required at all levels to meet the expanded need of research and educational programme and for imparting technical skill to the farmers. There is need for some coordinating agency at the provincial level which could ensure proper integration of educational, research and encouragement, there is no reason why our agricultural scientists should not be able to effect a breakthrough in agriculture as their counterparts have done elsewhere.