NEED TO EXPLOIT THE RICH LANDS AND SEA WATERS

In the past, the country achieved near self-sufficiency in food production and maintained high GDP growth

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Apr 17 - 23, 2006

Despite having a strong and rich agriculture base besides one of the largest irrigation network at the disposal of agriculture sector, a great deal of improvement is desirable to harvest healthy and secure agriculture and livestock production in Pakistan.

According to a UN report, a large portion of population lack adequate income to purchase the food they need for a healthy life in Pakistan. The fact that about one third of the population does not have access to food needed for adequate nutrition is manifested by the widespread incidence of malnutrition.

In 1998, the estimated number of malnourished children was about 8 million. Nearly half of the children under five years of age are underweight. The country also lags behind in other socio-economic indicators. Among the 174 nations covered by the latest survey applying the Human Development Index (HDI), Pakistan ranked 135.

In the past, the country achieved near self-sufficiency in food production and maintained high GDP growth for long periods. It reduced incidence of poverty to about 17 percent in the late 1980s. Considering these

Accomplishments and the fact that the Government accorded high priority to poverty reduction and achievement of food security, the ever increasing food prices specially the essential items like wheat floor, sugar, milk, beef and mutton is a serious cause of concern on the back of sharp decline in power of purchase and average income level.

Though the statistics suggestive that economy is growing on a faster track and hit the unprecedented mark of 8.4 percent last year and is about to cross the level of 7 percent by the end of the current financial year, yet the fruits of this impressive economic growth are not visible at the grass root level primarily due to gross level of disparity in distribution of national resources.

Pakistan has a rich and vast natural resource base, covering various ecological and climatic zones; hence the country has great potential for producing all types of food commodities.

The total geographical area of Pakistan is 79.61 million hectares (ha), of which 59 million ha have been covered by soil survey. In 1998-99, the cropped area was 22.96 million ha, of which 18.00 million ha is irrigated, while the remaining 5.0 million ha is rain-fed. The area under forest is 3.60 million ha. The cultivable wasteland is 9.29 million ha. From 1959 through 1998-99, the cultivated land has increased at a minimal rate of 0.82% (Fig. 2). In this regard, Pakistan has one of the highest proportions of irrigated-cropped area. The cultivable wastelands offering good possibilities of crop production amount to 9.3 million hectares.

However, a good part of Pakistan is classified as arid to semi-arid where rainfall is not sufficient to grow agricultural crops. About 68 percent of the geographical area have annual rainfall of 250 mm, whereas about 24 percent have annual rainfall of 251 to 500 mm. supplemental water is required for profitable agricultural production in these areas, which is mainly possible through water harvesting.

Land holdings are fragmented making on-farm water management and other farm operations difficult. There have been efforts aimed at land consolidation but the results are not very visible. The skewed distribution of landholdings has not only adversely affected the access of the rural poor to basic production resources but also cropping intensity and

CONSEQUENTLY FARM PRODUCTIVITY.

The main reasons for this negative relationship are the large proportion of absentee landlords in large farms and limited access to farm inputs and technology by small farmers.

WATER

Diversion from the Indus river system and groundwater extraction account for about 60 and 25 percent, respectively, of the annual water supply for agricultural production. In order to suffice existing water resources, the present government had seriously endeavored to develop water reservoirs as rest of the countries doe yet the elements of vested political interest opposing the government efforts of developing new water reservoirs. These political opponents however taking advantage of an atmosphere of mistrust developed amongst the small and big provinces in the country. The improved water management, development of new high dams including Bhasha, Munda and Kalabagh dam can address the issue of water shortage in Pakistan.

Agriculture is an important sector, providing food to the population of the country. With a population growth rate of 2.23 percent, there will be a net addition of 3.0 million people each year. In order to cater to the food requirement of the coming generations long term planning are imperative which need a consensus amidst the government of the day and the opposition parties in the larger national interest.

The most serious inequities exist in the rural areas mainly because of the pattern of land ownership. Despite three land reforms (in 1959, 1972 and 1977), about 40 per cent of the total farm area is operated by only 7% large farmers with average holdings of 10 hectares or more whereas 81 per cent of the farmers are small with average holdings of 5 hectares or less. This basic inequity in land holdings is clearly reflected in the differences in their respective economic and social positions.

The larger landowners have more access to water, credit, fertilizer and other resources. Since the large and the medium landowners devote greater proportion of their holdings to produce marketable surpluses, probably 60 per cent of all agricultural income accrued on these holdings, which also receive a larger proportion of agricultural credit and subsidies. Some share of these goes to their tenants. Correspondingly 81% small farmers with holdings of 5 hectares and less probably receive between 20 to 25% of agricultural incomes and even a lower share of agricultural credit and subsidies. Women are mostly deprived within the low-income rural perpetuation, as they don't have the needed collateral to obtain credit.

The need to address inequity is not only for greater social justice, but also due to the fact that inequity risks is a constraint to future growth, as well as agriculture growth.

Concentration of wealth and resources leads to policies that protect sectional interests and obstruct growth for the rest of society. A systematic link between the distribution of wealth and subsequent growth is based on credit market imperfections. In addition to a direct growth-reducing effect, high land ownership inequality also poses a limit to the effectiveness of educational policies in contributing to aggregate growth by the negative and significant interaction between inequality and the stock of human capital. Furthermore, asset inequality appears to have a negative

"Incentive effect" that goes beyond the traditional channel of credit market imperfections and reduced investment. Considering that asset in equity can only be imperfectly substituted for by public investments, well-designed measures to redistribute assets should be vigorously pursued and this would allow Pakistan to increase growth, equity and efficiency at the same time.

Pakistan has a tremendous potential for food crops production due to large areas under cultivation and further availability of cultivable waste. Out of the total cultivated area about 80 % is irrigated, while the remaining is rain-fed. Land related problems like depleting soil fertility; soil erosion, water logging and salinity need immediate attention to achieve yield potential of crop.

The other option is to take up new lands for agriculture. At the moment there is about 4 million acres land in the river belt of the country. These are virgin lands where there is no shortage of moisture. A crop intensity of 140% and more is achievable in this area if these lands are opened up.

The special conditions attached to these areas, especially bio-diversity have to be taken into consideration. In addition the coastal zone of Balochistan and Sindh are available for growing crops on brackish water.

MAJOR FOOD CROPS

Wheat is the main staple crop and to a greater degree fulfils the country food requirement. This crop is considered as a main contributor to food security. The average crop yield ranges 20-22 million tons, which is considered as sufficient to meet country's requirement. However, an improved management can ensure sufficient food supply besides placing the country into an export surplus.

Rice is the second major food crop in the country and is a major export item among food crops. This is perhaps the only crop, which has provided an export surplus because almost 50 percent of the total crop that is 4 million tons contributes significantly to the economic growth of the country. Again this area also needed some variety of seed to more and market related quality and variety of the crop. This crop contributes significantly to the export regime and has the potential to earn at least $1.5billion a year.

MAIZE

This crop is mainly grown in the rain-fed areas of NWFP and Punjab. This crop besides meeting direct food requirement also help in producing edible oil, which is an essential food item as well.

Recently, in the aftermath of bird flue people have shifted from chicken to Beef and Mutton in general. This abrupt change in food requirement has resulted in increase in prices of Beef and Mutton obviously due to change in demand and supply situation. The area of livestock also calls for serious attention of the policy makers. Currently, it is an open secret that most of the beef and mutton requirements are met through smuggled cows and goats from across the border.

Another food -rich area, which also needs serious attention of the policy makers, is to invite the attention of the people towards seafood. A very small portion of the population includes seafood as an essential part of their daily diet. Services of health specialist as well as Media can be utilized to mobilize people's food habits towards use of fish and prawns and their health benefits.

FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT - Company Wise

(Companies Attracting More Than 0.09 Million US $ - ( July 2005 -January 2006 )

Food

Jan. 06

Dec. 05

Nov. 05

Oct. 05

Sep. 05

Aug. 05

July. 05

S. No

Company Name

Total

EQU US $

1

Nestle Milkpak Ltd

8,293

.

8,293

.

.

.

.

.

2

Mapak Edible Oils (Pvt) Ltd.

1,003,000

503,000

500,000

.

.

.

.

.

3

GAM Corporation (Pvt) Ltd

91,751

.

91,751

.

.

.

.

.

4

Evain Fats & Oils (Pvt) Ltd

(20,417)

(20,417)

.

.

.

.

.

.

5

Nestle Milkpak Ltd

2,071,479

294,227

294,227

294,227

306,117

294,227

294,227

294,227

6

Golden Food Industries

334,932

.

334,932

.

.

.

.

.

7

Whoopee Food Products

150,000

.

.

.

150,000

.

.

.

8

4B Marketing Pvt Ltd

21,069,147

197,194

18,529,433

2,342,520

.

.

.

.

9

Amanullah & Company (MASALA)

189,975

.

.

.

189,975

.

.

.

10

Chaudhry Poultry Farms

299,940

.

.

.

299,940

.

.

.

11

Evain Fats & Oils (Pvt) Ltd

6,000,000

6,000,000

.

.

.

.

.

.

12

BP Food Industry

299,898

299,898

.

.

.

.

.

.

13

Rafhan Maiz Products Co. Ltd.

4,612,811

658,973

658,973

658,973

658,973

658,973

658,973

658,973

.

Total

36,110,809

7,932,875

20,417,609

3,295,720

1,605,005

953,200

953,200

953,200