The gap between the supply and demand of agricultural products is widening day by day

By Dr. S.M. ALAM and Dr. M.H. NAQVI, NIA, 
Tando Jam
May 19 - 25, 2003

The world agricultural growth has slowed down in the last three decades. It has 3 per cent per year in 1960s, 2.3 per cent per year in 1970s and 2 per cent per year in the period of 1980-92. This trend has given rise to concern about the capability of world agriculture production to keep up with the growth of world population. This has raised the issue for the world food security particularly the vulnerable regions in the developing countries. The growth rate of gross world agricultural output may slow down further to 1.8 per cent per year between 1990/98 to 2010. On the other hand, these has been unprecedented growth in world's population during last decades. The world population at the start of millennium of 20th century was approximately 1.6 billion and reached a level of 2.52 billion in the year 1950. It is about 6 billion at this stage and there are projections that it will reach 8 billion before the year 2020 and to 9.322 billion in 2050. Similarly, China 1.462 billion; India 1.572 billion; USA 397.1 million; Pakistan 344.2 million and Bangladesh 265.4 million. This will put lot of pressure on land to produce more food and fibre per unit of land to match requirements of growing population all over the world.

Presently, the country is in the grip of population explosion of severe intensity, and has experienced a greater population growth compared to other developing countries. The population of Pakistan is increasing @ 2.61% and the gap between the supply and demand of agricultural products is widening day by day. The population was about 33.82 million in 1951 and just after 20 years it increased to 65 million. The current population of Pakistan is above 145 million but, it may touch 180 million by year 2010 and 344.2 million in 2050. Increasing population pressure on quantity and quality in food supply and dwindling land and water resources forces the agriculture to steadily increase the productivity of the land through higher yields and crop intensity. To meet the challenge of food supply to the acceleratedly increasing population of Pakistan, there is an urgent need to boost up crop yield. The issues in developing countries are growing population, fragile food security, low agriculture inputs like fertilizer, poor yields, degrading soils and dependence on imports from the developed world. On the other hand, the land availability per capita will decline. Thus, the country faces great challenge to improve crop productivity per unit of land to ensure national food security in the wake of growing population.

The total geographical area of Pakistan (in square kilometers) is 796,096 (Punjab-205,344; Sindh-140,914; NWFP-74,521; Balochistan-347,190, FATA-27,220 and Islamabad Federal Area-906), corresponding to 80.0 mha, and (20.60 mha; 14.10 mha; 10.20 mha; 34.67 mha of the four provinces of Pakistan, respectively). Most of the areas in the Punjab and Sindh provinces are comprised of plain land, formed by the River Indus. Pakistan is known for its excellent network of irrigation canals and rich agricultural lands, with three major reservoirs Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma, 23 barrages, 12 huge inter-river irrigation canals, 59,200 kilometers irrigation canals and more than 106 kilometers of water courses and 107,000 numbers of field channels. About 1.6 million km (1 million miles ) are covered by water courses, farm channels and field ditches. In addition, the irrigation infrastructure is supplemented by 43.4 MAF groundwater pumpage. The huge network of irrigation serves 43 command areas with 45,000 villages, covering 16.22 mha of the nation cultivated and cropped area of 22 mha. Pakistan had a remarkable 82 per cent of its agricultural area covered by irrigation.

Pakistan consists of four provinces, Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan plus federally administered Tribal Areas. The economy of the country is basically agrarian and is heavily dependent on irrigation largely confined to the Indus Plain. Country is part of the sub-continent south of Himalayan mountains situated between longitude 61 and 76 E and latitude 24 and 37 N. The climate in Pakistan is arid to semi-arid with temperatures ranging between 2C and 50C. The mean annual precipitation ranges from less than 10 cm to more than 75 cm. There are great variations in the soils of Pakistan.

Pakistan is basically an agricultural country and its economy is mainly agrarian. It is the biggest sector of the economy and earns about 35-40% of the national income from it. Pakistan like many developing countries of the world is faced with the problem of low agricultural productivity. Many countries including Pakistan are faced with the challenge of producing more food and fibre, while there is little room for expansion in the cultivated area and yield per unit area of various crops are very low. Inspite of the fact that our country is blessed with a galaxy of climate, soil condition and irrigation water. The country is totally dependent on agriculture for the supply of food and fibre. Therefore, it is imperative to increase food and fibre production to cope up not only with ever growing requirements of the country, but for the sake of foreign exchange earnings and to attain self-sufficiency. Rapid agricultural growth can stimulate and thus sustain the pace of industrial growth, thus setting into motion a mutually reinforcing process of sustained economic growth.

In Pakistan, agriculture is the largest income, generating sector contributing 24.5 per cent to the GDP. It employs more than 45 per cent of the country's total labour force and supports directly or indirectly about 68 per cent of the population for their sustenance. It contributes about 65 per cent to total export earnings derived from raw and processed agricultural commodities. Apart from the sectors immediate economic contribution it also has indirect linkages with various parts of the economy. Any changes in agricultural productivity, therefore, sends a ripple effect throughout the rural population of Pakistan, 67.5 per cent of whom derive their sustenance from agriculture in some way or the other. It provides food, feed and raw materials for major industries, such as textile, sugar and to several other medium and small scale industries which account for about 50 per cent of total value of industrial production.

The agriculture framework in Pakistan is supported to a great extent by a crop sector, with its percentage contribution to agriculture GDP exceeding that of other sector. In 2000-2001, the crop sector contributed 40 per cent to agricultural GDP as opposed to a 38 per cent contribution from livestock and 5 per cent from the fisheries and forestry sectors. It is thus evident that welfare of the vast majority of the population is critically dependent upon efficient utilization of the agricultural resources of the country on a sustainable basis. Pakistani agriculture, with the advent of Green Revolution technologies, has been one of the striking success stories of the post-independence era. The introduction of the Green Revolution, beginning with the rice and wheat revolutions in the late 1960s, and extending to several other crops including oilseeds in recent years, ushered in an era of food self-sufficiency and improved rural welfare of the country. The National Agricultural Research System in the country is at the forefront in guiding these technological breakthroughs.

In Pakistan, both the Federal and Provincial governments are involved in agricultural research. The Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock has the overall coordinating responsibility for agricultural research in the country. The Pakistan Agricultural Research Council is the apex body for agricultural research in the country, which has overall responsibility to support and coordinate agricultural research in the country. Other Federal Institutions involved in research work are ministries of Science and Technology, Water and Power, besides Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Most of these organizations undertake their research activities independently with little coordination in programme planning or budget allocation. Agricultural research by the Provincial governments is scattered among many provincial departments including agriculture (crops), animal husbandry/livestock and fisheries. The maximum numbers of provincial research institutes related to agriculture are as in Balochistan-8; NWFP-7; Punjab-39 and Sindh-10. All these institutes in the provinces are purely deal with research work for the agricultural productivity of crops, livestock fisheries, forestry, poultry, reclamation of salt-affected lands, etc.

Notwithstanding remarkable achievements on the food and agriculture front, several weaknesses persist and future challenges are complex and daunting. The yields of crop in Pakistan are comparatively lower than those of agriculturally advanced countries. The general problems associated with agriculture of this region are scarcity of water, floods, water logging, alkalinity, soil erosion, low yield per unit area, low yield per acre unit and traditional and old methods of cultivation. The most fundamental constraint in Pakistan is water availability which, limits further expansion of agriculture, therefore its efficient use must be given high priority apart from the general problems, other include poor quality seeds, poor soil management, low yielding varieties, lack of crop protection methods, shortage of irrigation water, credit facilities and non-application of modern technology in raising crops, contribute to the low yield and poor quality of crops.

There is therefore, immense need to bring an improvement by strengthening the research programmes for the best utilization of the existing resources. Research programmes should include evolution of high yielding varieties showing maximum potential for various climatic and soil conditions. New varieties may be evolved which should be fertilizer responsive, and can grow well under right moisture supply conditions and are resistant to pests and diseases. All these parameters determine that Pakistan is an agricultural country and agriculture should still play a predominant role in future in order to produce earnings to meet rapidly increasing local food demand and to increase foreign exchange earnings by accrued agricultural commodity export. Researchers may make effort to enhance protein contents of cereals and other edible crops so as to overcome the problem of protein deficiency as most of the people in country fall in average income groups of the population, who cannot afford to consume the much needed but costly, animal proteins.

Pakistan is a land of promise and tremendous development possibilities by virtue of its unique geographical location, fast acquisitional talents of its people, and richness of natural and cultural resources. Most of the land area of Pakistan is classified as arid to semi-arid because rainfall is not sufficient to grow agricultural crops, forest and fruit plants and pastures. The cultureable area of Pakistan is 35.4 mha, forest land 3.5 mha, cultureable waste 8.6 mha, cultivated area 22 mha, waterlogged and salt affected area in the Indus Basin is 6.8 mha, salt affected area outside Indus Basin is 6.3 mha. The hot deserts extend over some western areas and Thar, Cholistan and Thal. The Thar and Cholistan are part of the great Indian desert and cover the area east of the southern half of the Indus plains. The Thal area is between the Jhelum and Indus Rivers. Agricultural production in Pakistan is still three to four times less compared with some developed countries like USA, Japan, Holland, France, UK, etc. The total cultivated area increased from 19.2 million ha in 1965 to 22.0 million ha in 2000. Since area under cultivation cannot be increased significantly, therefore, due attention has to be paid to mechanical as well as other inputs in order to meet the problems of food, fibre and shelter for the growing population of Pakistan.

There are many constrains for decreasing the productivity of the agricultural crop. Soil fertility is decreasing day by day due to intensive cropping in order to fulfil the needs of rapidly growing population. To maintain the fertility status of soils in order to supply adequate nutrients for plants, application of different fertilizers is recommended by the agriculturist scientists. Like many other parts of the world, salinity and water logging are the major constraints limiting crop production in Pakistan. Of the 22 mha of the total cultivable land, 6.3 mha are salt-affected. Soil salinity may be robbing Pakistan of about 25% of its potential production of major crops. A major part of salt-affected soils (about 3.5 mha) are presently cultivated to rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, rape seed and other crops with substantial reduction in yield. According to an estimate there is a net yearly addition of 0.98-2.47 tons/ha through various sources and each year 0.20-0.40 per cent of the total arable land is going out of cultivation because of salinity and water logging. This problem can be tackled through an extensive drainage system as well as by growing plant species tolerant to salinity and oxygen deficiency stresses.

Water is a unique natural resource. In Pakistan, conservation and management of water supplies is crucial as the demand for water continues to rise because of burgeoning population. Pakistan agriculture is predominantly irrigated. Water is one of the most limiting constraint for agricultural production in Pakistan. Water shortage is a major factor impeding growth of the agricultural sector. Fluctuations in weather conditions, deficient in storage capacity and poor use of available water, culminate in water acting as a major constraint to agricultural growth. The recent drought in Pakistan has meant that during 2000-01 production of cotton bales was down by 2.1 millions while wheat, sugarcane and rice crop were lower by 4.1, 7.6 and 1.2 million tons, respectively. A substantial amount of water is also lost annually due to water management inefficiency. Water losses are estimated to be approximately 25 per cent from the canal head to the outlet and another 15 per cent from the outlet to the farm gate mainly due to poorly linked canals and water courses.

The basic constraint in the development of agriculture in our country is inadequate and unreliable irrigation supplies, widespread occurrence of water logging and salinity and low level of modern farm inputs. Inadequate and unreliable water supplies have resulted in low cropping intensities and are moreover responsible for low yield. Pakistan is blessed by nature with fertile lands, network of rivers, sunshine, versatile climate, and vast potential of agricultural production. The country's major agricultural areas lie within the smooth plains formed naturally by mighty Indus River since time immemorial and its several tributaries such as Kabul, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej, which flow in southwardly directions, finally enter into a single stream and flowing into Arabian Sea near Karachi. However, due to mismanagement of water resources, inadequate drainage systems, poor performance of existing irrigation and drainage systems, the agricultural production is far below its potential.

At present, only 14.5 million hectares are under canal irrigation being fed by Tarbella, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs, 22 barrages, 12 inter-river link canals and 43 main canals. Water available at the farm gate after accounting, farm losses and run offs has increased from 50 MAF in 1960-61 to 101 MAF in 1985-86. Estimates show that about 60 per cent of water is lost during conveyance through canals distributions and water courses. Water available from tubewells through groundwater pumpage amounts to 46 MAF. So, the total water available for 21 mha is 144 MAF of which 97% is used in agriculture and the remaining 3% for domestic and industrial purposes. Out of 144 MAF, around 106 MAF is annually diverted into one of the largest irrigation system. Table 1, shows the important crops along with their consumptive use and percentage of total cropped area.

Table 1.
 Water requirements and area under different crops.





33 cm

40 %


65 cm

13 %


90 cm

11 %


133 cm

4 %


35 cm

4 %

Agricultural sector of Pakistan is usually divided into four main sub-sectors: crops, livestock and forestry and fisheries. The crop sector accounts for about 65 per cent of agriculture share in the GDP. Blessed with abundantly available national resources and favourable climate, Pakistan stands as an ideal place for crop, animal, forestry and fish production. Of these, crop sector accounts 69 per cent of agriculture's GDP, while livestock accounts for 30 per cent. Forestry and fisheries make up less than 2 per cent of the total. Agriculture is therefore, the leaching sector and backbone of our economy. There are about 65 large and small institutes and over 62 sub-stations, etc. in the country. All research activities undertaken today's in the country pertaining to agriculture are being carried out by both provinces, (numbering four) and federal government. The federal government plays a defined role in policy making, inter-provincial coordination, and foreign trade of agriculture related commodities. The federal government also provides funds for higher education including that in agriculture and coordinates higher education in the provinces through the Higher Education Commission.

The most important problem of the crop sector is to raise crops under the arid or semi-arid conditions. It is, therefore, imperative to give maximum attention and top priority to agricultural development of these regions. As a very large portion of arable lands is in the arid and semi-arid regions, agricultural productivity of these areas can be increased only by supplying water. Productivity per unit area can be increased through technological change. Many factors contribute to increased crop yields: improved tillage practices, development of high yielding crop varieties, introduction of new crops, improved irrigation techniques, use of commercial fertilizers, better seed, crop protection, food technology and mechanization. The agricultural crops (wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, millet, vegetables and forestry); and sub-sectors (livestock, fishery) are backbone of economy and these are badly affected due to shortage of water in the country.

There are two growing seasons of crops in Pakistan, i.e. Kharif and Rabi. In Kharif season, mostly rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, etc. crops are grown, while in Rabi, which is a winter season, the crops like wheat and vegetable crops are grown. Other crops grown in the country are bajra, jawar, barley, tobacco, sugar beet, guar, gram, mung, mash, masoor, bean, peas, rapeseed, mustard, groundnut, sesamum, linseed, castorseed, onion, garlic, chillies, turmeric, ginger, potato, tomato. At present, the production of cereal crops are: 24880 x 103 metric tons, while the domestic utilization of cereals are 21829 x 103 m. tons and per capita supply of cereal is 144.6 kg/year. On the other hand, the areas of food crops, cash crops, pulses and edible oilseeds in hectares are: 12.358, 4078, 1329 and 516 respectively, with the production of 25986, 45867, 621 and 4091 m. tons, respectively.