AGRICULTURE

 
1- RICH WHEAT AND COTTON CROPS
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FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE UNDER WTO
 

FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE UNDER WTO

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By DR. AMANULLAH CHAUDHRY
Mar 21 - 27, 2005
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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.

 

 

FOOD SECURITY

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