PAKISTAN TO EXPORT WHEAT
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Jun 19 - 25, 2000
Pakistan has achieved a major break through this year in Agriculture sector by ceasing to be an importer of wheat. Instead Pakistan will export over 1 million tonnes which is surplus to its requirement for the year 2000-2001.
The Federal Food and Agriculture Minister, Shafqat Ali Jamote, proudly announced a Press Conference in Islamabad last week, that wheat production this year has been estimated at 21.5 to 22 million tonnes surplus to our domestic requirement by 1 to 1.5 million tonnes. "We will be exporting about 600,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan and are looking for potential buyers for the remaining surplus," the Minister said adding that Pakistan would be saving about 150 to 200 million dollar which it was spending on the import of wheat in the past. It would earn about 300 million dollars through export of surplus wheat. We are now focusing attention on production of oil seeds and within the next 2 years we will make country self sufficient in oil seeds and save about 600 million dollar which we are presently spending on imports of oil, the Minister hoped.
In order to protect the farmers from any decline in the prices, the government has increased the procurement targets'. The government was fully alert and was monitoring the market conditions and would not allow the farmers to suffer. The government was improving the storage and distribution system. Federal government has asked the provincial governments to soften the interdistrict movement of wheat. By and large the farmers are getting Rs.300 for 40 kg of their wheat and the government would ensure that they continue to get the same return, the minister added.
The bumper harvest of wheat is the result of a comprehensive package of measures taken by the government to boost production. The most important incentive that was provided to the farmer was in the form of a 25 per cent increase in procurement price which was raised from Rs.240 per 40 kg to Rs. 300. It was done well in advance of the sowing season, allowing farmers enough time to prepare maximum land for cultivation. Secondly, cleaning and desilting of canals through the joint efforts of the army and the farming communities, which made larger supplies of water available for irrigation, contributed fairly to the achievement of the target. The monitoring of the distribution of water was done by army personnel which made it certain that big farmers did not steal water in excess of their allotted share and that the farmers at the tail end received their due share. Thus the dividends of the increased yield have been widely and equitably distributed. Thirdly, apart from water other inputs, like certified seeds, fertilizers and credit were also made available in required quantities and at the right time.
The realization of the target of wheat production shows that if right policies are adopted and their effective implementation is ensured, agriculture can play a major role in getting the economy out of its straits much earlier than expected. If a similar crash programme in respect of oilseeds is devised and put into operation, the country can become self-sufficient in edible oil as well in a few years and imports can be cut down by another over $ 600 to 700 million a year. A saving of over a $ 1 billion in imports is certainly within reach from agricultural commodities within a short period of two to three years provided policies and efforts are right and well coordinated and their implementation is ensured. The example of wheat production shows that it is possible.
Experts are unanimous that the Agricultural sector has the required potential to change the country's destiny in the first decade of the new millennium. It is a matter of satisfaction that the present government has kept agriculture on top of its agenda of economic development. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in collaboration of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has prepared agricultural strategies to be followed during the next 10 years.
While launching "Pakistan Agricultural strategies for the first decade in the new millennium" at the United Nations information centre. Federal Secretary Food and Agricultural Dr. Zafar Altaf said recently that the vision for agriculture sector for 2010 is to achieve self-sufficiency in food, improve crop and livestock productivity, promote sustainable development and conserve the resource base, i.e. land, water and environment. The efficient management of land and water resources and improving the availability of agriculture inputs will be the key elements for improving agricultural productivity. This vision is to be realized through achievement of targets of agricultural production set in the policy document.
The strategic policy options will be:
1) Higher growth rate of agriculture than the population growth.
2) Food security and self-reliance in food crops.
3) Enhancing productivity of wheat, rice, oil seeds, cotton and sugarcane.
4) Land and water development for a sustained agricultural growth.
5) Agricultural inputs supplies and appropriate technology to the farmers timely and at the user's end.
6) Balanced emphasis on all aspects of agricultural production, including livestock, fisheries and forestry.
7) Improving marketing of agricultural commodities.
8) Emphasizing agricultural research to generate innovative technology including biotechnology for raising productivity per unit of land, water and livestock.
9) Improving the productivity of small farmers while encouraging the large farmers for utilization of modern technology.
Agricultural Production: The production targets of various crops have been worked out taking into account population growth, daily calories intake, the per capita food demand, self sufficiency ratios and 5.0 per cent growth in agriculture.
Following target are fixed for the year 2010:
Wheat from 18.8 million tonnes in 1998-99 to 26.4 million tonnes.
Rice from 4.6 million to 6.3 million tonnes.
Maize from 1.7 million to 3.0 million tonnes.
Pulses from 0.9 million to 1.5 million tonnes.
Cotton from 8.8 million to 18.0 million bales.
Sugarcane from 55.2 million to 60.0 million tonnes.
Oilseed from 3.6 million to 9.4 million tonnes.
Fruits from 6.3 million to 9.8 million tonnes.
Milk from 24.9 million to 34.3 million tonnes.
Meat from 1.9 million to 2.7 million tonnes.
Eggs from 5.9 billion to 14.1 billion.
Fish from 0.6 million to 1.1 million tonnes.
Main tools to achieve the targets will comprise appropriate use of agricultural inputs which include efficient use of water, increased and balanced use of fertilizer, certified seed, and enhancing the pace of mechanization through the use of agricultural machinery and Equipment.
"We have accordingly designed action plans for natural resources, physical inputs, crops sector, horticulture/floriculture crops, livestock, fisheries, small enterprises, institutional reforms, agricultural research, agricultural price stabilization funds and agricultural marketing, the federal secretary agriculture told the newsmen.
It may not be out of place to mention here that financial resources would be required to implement the strategies. We will be striving to increase allocation of financial resources from the annual Public Sector Development Programme from the existing less than 1 per cent to 5 per cent by 2010. We also aim at increasing liquidity with the farmers by introducing credit card scheme and thus increasing the institutional credit. We also aim to take certain fiscal measures to decrease prices of agricultural machinery and equipment in order to increase pace of mechanization in the country", Dr. Zafar Altaf added.