AGRICULTURE IN SAARC COUNTRIES

South Asia is one of the most densely populated regions in the world and livelihood of millions of people of this area depend mainly on agriculture

By Dr. S.M. ALAM & Dr. M.H. NAQVI, NIA, Tandojam
Aug 11 - 17 , 2003

The SAARC, which stands for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is comprised of seven South Asian member countries namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Agriculture has always been the mainstay of SAARC countries economy. Most of these South Asian countries are primarily agricultural. Their economy is also based largely on agriculture. The World Bank and other statistics clearly bear out the above proposition, and attribute rural poverty in these countries to somewhat due to poor agricultural productivity: In general, agricultural growth in South Asia contributed positively towards overall economic development. During the decade of l990s, these South Asian countries have achieved much progress of human development as well as in agricultural development. But this progress has neither been adequate not equitable in lifting the regions half a billion people out of poverty. If agricultural growth is sufficiently high and is broad-based, it generates income and employment, which are utmost necessary conditions to improve human well being in rural areas of these countries.

South Asia is one of the most densely populated regions in the world and livelihood of millions of people of this area depend mainly on agriculture. A lot of agricultural scientists and extension workers in the region are engaged in research and transfer of technology for increasing the production of food and fibre alleviation of hunger and poverty from the SAARC region. The importance of different agricultural crops in human nutrition is well-known. These crops play an important role in balancing the diet of human being by providing not only carbohydrates and proteins but also promise supply of essential minerals and vitamins. SAARC region has a rich topographic and climatic endowments and variations, where a wide varieties of agricultural crops such as wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, vegetables, fruits, roots and tubers, ornamentals, medicinal and aromatic plants, plantation crops, spices and others are grown. A significant increase has been observed in the export earnings from the agricultural crops during the recent years in the SAARC countries. This sector has the potential to provide opportunities to increase income and alleviation of hunger and poverty and curve down socio-economic problems of the region.

A historical analysis of South Asia's agricultural development shows performance of the agricultural sector over five decades and the policy failures that contributed to its lack of sustainability. The first decade. of the independent South Asia did not witness any major improvement in the agricultural sector. The balance between increasing food needs and food supply had remained precarious. Food aid was used to import food from the donor countries whenever there was a shortfall in domestic food production. This scenario happened due to increase in the rapid population growth in these countries.

Agriculture being the life-blood of the SAARC countries, was given priority by the member countries. The main objective was sharing informations mutually for the advancement of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry and allied disciplines. The problems and prospects of agriculture and ecology of the SAARC countries are more or less the same. United by same geographical boundaries and historical ties, sharing of common experience shall be mutually helpful for all. The teeming millions of the region should be well fed and well clad and march for further progress for the achievement of a common desired goal-self-sufficiency in all areas of national arenas. Common efforts and mutual transfer of technologies shall enhance the onward march towards prosperity and peace.

Agricultural research and extension has been found to be the most important contributor to growth in total factor productivity in South Asia. Several studies have found economic rates of return to agricultural research that range from 40 to 100 per cent for India and 20 to 65 per cent in Pakistan. In 1993, India spent more than $1.6 billion on agricultural research. In Pakistan, only $188 million were spent in agricultural research in 1993. In Pakistan, both the federal and provincial governments are involved in agricultural research. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute is the main planning and coordinating body of the agricultural research these are separate research institutes for concluding research on rice, jute, sugar, forests, livestock and fisheries.

The Green Revolution phenomenon of the late sixties and early seventies has brought about a significant transformation in productivity in the agriculture sector. During the last two decades, however, due to structural changes that have been taking place in most South Asian economies, the share of agriculture in GDP has started declining. The yield output of four major crops in South Asia during the period 1999-2000 are given below:

RICE: Rice is the most important food crop in the region. In Bangladesh, rice accounts for about 71 per cent of the total value of gross output. During 1999-2000, Pakistan and Bangladesh sow the highest growth in production of rice at an average annual rate of 4.26 and 3.25 per cent respectively. The yield per hectare of rice was the highest in Bangladesh followed by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and India.

WHEAT: Wheat is the second most important cereal in the region and the staple diet of Pakistan and India. The wheat production in all the SAARC countries tremendously increased. This growth was growing the result of land expansion and land under wheat cultivation grew at an annual rate of 6.9 per cent between 1980-99 while the yield per hectare grew only at 1.1 per cent per annum.

COTTON: Bangladesh sow the highest growth in cotton production during the nineties averaging 6.2 per cent per year between 1990-2000. However, this growth was accompanied by falling yield levels and was mainly the result of expansion of the cultivated area, which grew at an average rate of 7.2 per cent. During the nineties, cotton has been the major contributor to agricultural growth in South Asia. Cotton yield in Pakistan experienced the highest growth at 2.33 per cent.

SUGARCANE: Trends for sugarcane show that the highest growth in production was experienced by Nepal, where sugarcane production grew at an average annual rate of 8.1 per cent between 1990-2000. The production of sugarcane in Pakistan, India and other countries were also satisfactory during these periods.

At present, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shares of agriculture sectors of the SAARC countries are: Bangladesh-30 per cent, Bhutan-45 per cent, India-31 per cent, Nepal 45 per cent, Pakistan-25 per cent and Sri Lanka-25 per cent against the shares of industrial sectors that stand thus: Bangladesh-14 per cent, Bhutan- 25 per cent, India-29 per cent, Nepal-14 per cent, Pakistan-24 per cent and Sri Lanka-26 per cent.

The labour force engaged in agricultural sector in SAARC countries increased faster than the agricultural land and of are: Bangladesh-65.5 per cent, Bhutan-90 per cent, India 63.2 per cent, Nepal-92 per cent, Pakistan-53 per cent, Sri Lanka- 44 per cent and the SAARC average-67.8 per cent. The above statistics clearly indicate the fact that increase of agricultural productivity is one of the keys to poverty alleviation in the SAARC countries. Therefore, the stimulating factor in economic growth is agricultural production. These factors conclusively indicate that utmost priority is set for improvement of agriculture in the SAARC countries.

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of wheat in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (485), (1908) and (2259); Bhutan (7), (5) and (714); India (27398), (70778) and (2253); Maldives (0.0), (0.0) and (0.0); Nepal (641), (1087) and (1696); Pakistan (8312), (19850) and (2162); Sri Lanka (0.0), (0.0) and (0.0).

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of rice in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (10470), (29857) and (2852); Bhutan (30), (50) and (1667); India (44800), (131200) and (2929); Maldives (.0), (0.0) and (0.0); Nepal (1514), (3710) and (2450); Pakistan (2400), (6900) and (2875); Sri Lanka (829), (2692) and (3247).

Imports of rice in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (27.0), Bhutan (0.0), India (0.0), Maldives (18.43, Nepal (29.5), Pakistan (0.9) and Sri Lanka (183.4). Exports of rice in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (0.1), Bhutan (0.0), India (4800), Maldives (0.03) Nepal (0.0), Pakistan (1972) and Sri Lanka (1.4).

Area harvest (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of cotton (kg/ha) in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (42), (45) and (1071); Bhutan (-), (-) and (-); India (9000), (6218) and (691); Maldives (-), (-) and (-); Nepal (-), (-) and (-); Pakistan (2930), (4486) and (1531); Sri Lanka (-), (-) and (-).

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of maize (kg/ha) in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (2.5), (2.7) and (1044); Bhutan (45), (39) and (867); India (6300), (10500) and (1667); Maldives (0.0), (0.0) and (0.0); Nepal (802), (1346) and (1678); Pakistan (880), (1200) and (1364); Sri Lanka (-), (-) and (-).

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of sugarcane in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (165), (6950) and (42127); Bhutan (0.4), (13) and (31220); India (4150), (28225) and (68012); Maldives (-), (-) and (-); Nepal (54), (1972) and (36584); Pakistan (1056), (53104) and (50279); Sri Lanka (18), (946) and (53271).

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of potato in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (149), (1702) and (11424); Bhutan (2.5), (34) and (13640); India (1300), (22500) and (17308); Maldives (0.0); (0.0) and (0.0); Nepal (118), (1091) and (9244); Pakistan (105), (1426) and (13619); Sri Lanka (2.3), (25.9) and (11125).

Irrigation in the SAARC countries (1000 ha): Bangladesh (3844); Bhutan (40); India (59000); Maldives (0.0); Nepal (1135); Pakistan (18000) and Sri Lanka (651). Population growth in SAARC member countries (unit 1000): Bangladesh (137439); Bhutan (2085); India (1008937); Maldives (2.91); Nepal (23043); Pakistan (141256) and Sri Lanka (18924). Agricultural population engaged in the SAARC countries (% of total population): Bangladesh (56.7); Bhutan (93.8); India (55.4); Maldives (28.1); Nepal (93.1); Pakistan (51.2) and Sri Lanka (46.6).

Irrigated land as proportion of agricultural land used in SAARC countries (% land irrigated of total agricultural land): Bangladesh (46.1); Bhutan (25.0); India (34.8); Maldives (-); Nepal (38.2); Pakistan (81.7) and Sri Lanka (34.5). Mineral fertilizer consumption in the SAARC countries (1000 mT plant nutrient): Bangladesh (1300); Bhutan (0.0); India (18372); Maldives (-); Nepal (88); Pakistan (2824) and Sri Lanka (259).

Mineral fertilizer consumption per ha of agricultural land (kg plant nutrient/ha): Bangladesh (154); Bhutan (0.0); India (116); Maldives (-); Nepal (30); Pakistan (129) and Sri Lanka (136). Imports of palm oil in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (243494), Bhutan (0.0), India (1672283), Maldives (-), Nepal (14000), Pakistan (1066486) and Sri Lanka (62000).

Imports of tea in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (1), Bhutan (189), India (2600), Maldives (230), Nepal (760), Pakistan (111559) and Sri Lanka (4226). Exports of tea in volume from SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (25049), Bhutan (-), India (225000), Maldives (-), Nepal (81), Pakistan (43) and Sri Lanka (267726). Imports of tea in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (1), Bhutan (189), India (26003, Maldives (230), Nepal (760), Pakistan (111559) and Sri Lanka (4226).

Forest area (% of total land area): Bangladesh.(10.2), Bhutan (-), India (21.6), Maldives (-), Nepal (27.3), Pakistan (3.2) and Sri Lanka (30). Forest production in SAARC countries (1000 cum): Bangladesh (66635), Bhutan (3457), India (581550), Maldives (-), Nepal (43304), Pakistan (63745) and Sri Lanka (20050). Fish production (1000 mT): Bangladesh (1545), Bhutan ( - ), India (5353), Maldives (133), Nepal (26), Pakistan (675) and Sri Lanka (279).

Agricultural machinery total tractors in SAARC countries in number: Bangladesh (5450), Bhutan (-), India (I520000), Maldives (-), Nepal (4600), Pakistan (554000) and Sri Lanka (8000).

The area harvested (1000 ha) production (1000 mT) and yield (kg/ha) of cereals in the SAARC countries: Bangladesh (11405), (37785) and (2791); Bhutan (102), (112) and (1097); India (101606), (239814) and (2264); Maldives (0.0), (0.0) and (0.0); Nepal (3253), (6986) and (1987); Pakistan (12526), (29923) and (2129); Sri Lanka (865), (2804) and (3156).

Imports of cereals in volume in the SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (3684), Bhutan (81.8), India (2224), Maldives (31.4), Nepal (38.0), Pakistan (2527), Sri Lanka (1132). Exports of cereals in SAARC countries (1000 mT): Bangladesh (0.1), Bhutan (2.9), India (4828), Maldives (0.0), Nepal (1.0), Pakistan (1976) and Sri Lanka (1.5).

Imports value of agricultural products in the SAARC countries (US $): Bangladesh (1336), Bhutan (19.2), India (3435), Maldives (56), Nepal (156), Pakistan (2058) and Sri Lanka (781). Exports value of agricultural products from SAARC countries (US $): Bangladesh (159), Bhutan (15.4), India (5882), Maldives (0.0), Nepal (72), Pakistan (1153) and Sri Lanka (1079).

Total availability of cereals (1000 metric tons) in SAARC countries: Bangladesh (27425), Bhutan (-), India (173557), Maldives (34141), Nepal (5178), Pakistan (25730) and Sri Lanka (3121). Domestic utilization of cereals (1000 metric tons) in SAARC countries: Bangladesh (25454), Bhutan (-), India (154471), Maldives (32814), Nepal (492), Pakistan (21829) and Sri Lanka (2815).

Per capita supply of cereals (kilograms per year) in SAARC countries: Bangladesh (189), Bhutan (-), India (156), Maldives (116), Nepal (186), Pakistan (159) and Sri Lanka (150).

Cereals imports (1000 metric tons) in SAARC countries: Bangladesh (4765), Bhutan (-), India (1779), Maldives (27816), Nepal (46),. Pakistan (3249) and Sri Lanka (1232). Cereals exports (1000 metric tons) in SAARC countries: Bangladesh (-), Bhutan (-), India (2619), Maldives (-), Nepal (30), Pakistan (1796) and Sri Lanka (3).

Daily per capita energy availability from major Cereals Crops in SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (1673), Bhutan (1573), India (1545), Maldives (1066), Nepal (1666), Pakistan (1396) and Sri Lanka (1186); Daily per capita energy availability from major root crops in SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (27), Bhutan (20), India (40), Maldives (79), Nepal (74), Pakistan (21) and Sri Lanka (66); Daily per capita energy availability from major pulses in SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (43), Bhutan (19), India (109), Maldives (16), Nepal (52), Pakistan (62) and Sri Lanka (72). Total energy availability from vegetables in the SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (2050), Bhutan (1950), India (2466), Maldives (2451), Nepal (2170), Pakistan (2447) and Sri Lanka (2314); Daily per capita energy availability from vegetables in the SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (1981), Bhutan (1850), India (2284), Maldives (1982), Nepal (2013), Pakistan (2068) and Sri Lanka (2168); Daily per capita energy availability from animals in the SAARC countries (in kilocalories): Bangladesh (69), Bhutan (60), India (182), Maldives (469), Nepal (157), Pakistan (379) and Sri Lanka (151).

Total milk production in the SAARC countries (unit 1000 mT): Bangladesh (2075), Bhutan (32), India (77180), Maldives (-), Nepal (1143), Pakistan (22039) and Sri Lanka (294).

The role of scientific information is becoming increasingly important in the modern context of technological revolution. Availability and accessibility of requisite information is an important facility and its timely absence is irreparable loss. Agricultural information is key for more production and sustainable agriculture. It is more valuable for countries, which have to depend more on agricultural production for their socio-economic development. Modern biotechnology which covers recently developed technologies like cell culture, tissue culture, embryo culture techniques, recombinant DNA technology, etc is a priority area of research. The new technologies so developed need to be implemented which have the potentiality to bring further development in agriculture. The importance of post-harvest technology can hardly be overemphasized in the present context of high agricultural production. Production technology alone can not serve ultimate objective unless it is supplemented by processing, distribution, marketing and consumption technologies. SAARC countries, of course have made significant contributions in agricultural research as a whole but there are still such areas which need more attention and priority. Cost effective post-harvest technology is one of them. In practice, even the accepted technologies are not being utilized due to various reasons.

The industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, through the steam engine gave human beings access to the energy stored in the chemical compounds of fossil fuels i.e. coal, oil and gas. Today basic human needs are traditionally defined as food, clothing and shelter. They might better be described as energy materials. It does not need any emphasis that energy plays a dominant role in our all spheres of life. Almost all our household appliances and office equipments consume energy, its failure or non-availability affects badly our day to day activities. In fact, our dependence on energy is increasing more and more for efficiency and sustained economy. Our resources are scare but their consumption is more. Therefore, needs and requirements are for more generation and renewal of energy resources for human development.

Mechanization is part and parcel of the modern policy making system for moving forward in the agriculture and allied sectors of any developing country. The total production system in the agricultural and allied sector and the farmer himself can be made more dynamic through the application of machinery and modern scientific technology. Plant breeders and genetic engineers have accomplished miracles in the development of more productive crop varieties. These high yielding varieties (HYV) and hybrid seeds can be used to end hunger in the SAARC region. The agricultural institutes in the SAARC countries have generated, developed and disseminated several innovative technologies in different sectors of agriculture such as crops, livestock, fisheries, agro-forestry and such other related sectors including agricultural management.

CONCLUSION:

SAARC member countries have achieved much progress in agricultural development and in raising the levels of human development over the last four decades. Agriculture has always been the backbone of South Asian economy and society. There is now strong evidence that the developing countries which have achieved sustained economic growth are generally the countries in which the rate of agricultural growth exceeded population growth. 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.

However agricultural growth, when stimulated by investment in irrigation, rural infrastructure and agricultural research, is constrained by the availability of land and water, by the pattern of land holdings and by the inevitable variation in climate and rainfall. The introduction of the Green Revolution led to a dramatic increase in agricultural production. The benefits of the Green Revolution, however could not be sustained in the long run because of the absence of the required institutional and policy framework. Recently, many South Asian countries have started undertaking institutional and policy reforms with a hope that a healthy interaction between agricultural and rural development with industrial and service sectors will enhance and sustain long-term development of South Asian economy and South Asian people.