Under the WTO, main beneficiaries are likely to be
agricultural exporting countries. The countries, which will be hardest
hit, will be those with small family farms. Family farms are
culturally and socially valuable but economically vulnerable. Pakistan
will have to adopt considerably to maintain a viable agriculture. For
example fruit, vegetables and special crops may be better suited to
small farms. Agricultural tourism and organic farming may be important
as new sources of farm income. Amendment in Pakistan Companies Act for
encouraging farmers, farm producers and marketing companies will be
needed, while investment in biotechnology, integrated pest management
and efficient marketing system will be necessary. Sustainable
management of agricultural resources, reducing post harvest losses,
use of information technology in agriculture and providing subsidies
comparable with the rest of world are the important measures, which
should be considered to survive under WTO regime.
In ten years, World Trade Organization has emerged
as a mammoth organization of 148 countries (representing 98 percent of
global trade) more than two-thirds of which are developing countries.
While this is good, what is significant to note is that with growing
membership, the WTO is getting increasingly fragmented into diverse
interest groups. As many would say, the over-ambition of developed
countries has severely dented the creditability of WTO. In many
respects, the last ten years have been a tumultuous period for the WTO,
sometimes challenging its existence and often, its relevance. As of
now, there is little for WTO to showcase its achievements.
To prevent regionalism from completely taking over
world trade, the WTO must begin to deliver results at a faster pace
and improve its credibility. The challenges of consensus are growing.
What is worse, the problem on account of a growing diversity of
interest and the complexities of consensus is not going to go away and
the members have to live with it. While consensus is the backbone of
the WTO, the spirit of mutual accommodation is totally missing. If we
simply take into account the wide-ranging debates within the WTO over
the last decade, what needs to be addressed in the coming years is the
broader issue of reforming the WTO. The good thing is that relevance
of WTO is not in doubt. Its repeated failures notwithstanding faith in
the WTO are abiding. What is needed is the identification of areas
that need improvement for greater credibility, more confidence and
large commitment for meaningful progress in trade liberalization.
Under WTO, member countries can no longer protect their domestic
market from cheap imported food. The members will be restricted in
giving subsidies and other production support to farmers. For farming
to survive, the Pakistan's farmers must become competitive in
production, marketing including promotion of their local products.
Here it is discussed, how Pakistan can achieve food security under
free trade, and what policies and programs might help small farms
become more sustainable in a future free trade environment.
Most developing countries have experienced severe
food shortage in the past and well into this century. Because of this
experience, the question of food security arouses very deep concern in
developing countries. Pakistan imported wheat for 11 times in the last
14 years period. Bumper crop production in 1999-2000 not only enabled
exports but also left the country with enough reserves for two years.
Many developing countries feel that the WTO agreement will reduce the
level of food security in most developing countries, rather than
increase it. They fear that domestic production will be damaged by
cheap imports, so that they will become dependent on imports of wheat
and other staple foods, with fluctuating stocks and prices. Obviously
food security is of greater concern for food importers (or potential
importers), than it is to food exporters. To food exporters, a sudden
fall in yield mean only lower export earnings — may not even this,
if world food stocks are low and prices are high. For food importers,
a shortfall may mean shortages or even hunger at home. It will be
difficult for developing countries, which have worked so hard to
achieve self-sufficiency in food grains, to maintain their success in
the face of cheap imported food grains. Under WTO, measures to promote
domestic production and protect local farmers, such as subsidies and
price supports, will be substantially restricted. No one knows what
level of domestic wheat production will remain viable and survive.
However, another point of view is more optimistic:
it suggests that developing countries under WTO will still have stable