AGRICULTURE OUTPUT IS THE KEY TO ITS PRODUCTIVITY AND EXPORTS

SYED ALAMDAR ALI
Hailey College of Banking & Finance Lahore
Sep 17 - 23, 2007

Agriculture plays pivotal role in the economic development of developing countries. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan for the year 2006-07 it accounts for 20.9 percent of the GDP and employs 43.4 percent of the total work force. At the same time the growth in this sector registered a sharp recovery in 2006-07 and grew by 5.0 percent as against the preceding year's growth of 1.6 percent. Major crops posted strong recovery from negative 4.1 percent last year to positive 7.6 percent, mainly due to higher production of wheat and sugarcane. The importance of can further be analyzed from the fact that about 11% of the exports of Pakistan are Food products that are directly dependent on agriculture and 64% of the total Pakistani exports are based on textile that are again wholly dependent on agriculture. This situation therefore requires increased participation on the part of the government authorities and the cultivators to manage their agriculture and more scientific basis in order to ensure maximum foreign exchange earnings.

The field of agriculture is not more merely the job of an old farmer plowing his area of land. In the present era of high competition it has become a whole science that consist of arranging the resources to buy highly productive inputs; arranging resources for cultivation; managing the health of the crop by arranging timely availability of anti-pesticides sprays; harvesting the crop at the right time to get the required results; looking for the adequate markets to sell the produce at reasonable price; and managing the waste and the land itself after the crop in order to make is usable for the next crop etc. Each and every of these aspects is too scientific and complex that a medium cultivator and sometime even the large ones always find it difficult to make a right portfolio of services available for them.

A cultivator has to face many risks while ensuring the high productivity of its crops. What is required on the part of the government is to make an Agricultural Produce Risk Management Department with its many Agricultural Produce Risk Management subunits (APRMU) at Tehsil levels whose objectives will be to develop a portfolio of excellent services for the farmers of a particular area so that the desired productivity and output could be achieved. Such teams shall comprise of a group of representative farmers, a qualified accountant, a lawyer, a government agriculture officer, a banker, and a few field officers depending upon the area under review. It shall be their ultimate responsibility to manage the output on competitive business basis. The government Food department shall directly buy the food from such APRMU's. The officials of these APRMU's shall also be awarded Performance bonuses based upon their performance based on the last years. In order to achieve the desired objectives the following risks should be identified and minimized by such APRMU's :

GENETIC RISKS OF SEEDS: Genetic manipulation using conventional and advanced approaches as well as genetic resource conservation and evaluation is an on-going activity. However, the main focus should be on self sufficiency in wheat maize, sugarcane; export enhancement in rice; import substitution in edible oil (sunflower & canola), & pulses and value addition in fruits (citrus, mango, apple, banana) and vegetables (potato, tomato, chilies, onion, peas, cucumber, radish, cauliflower, cabbage etc.).

RISK OF MAINTENANCE OF RESOURCES: The maintenance of resources (land, water, energy) saves cost for water, energy and protects environment while leading to improved productivity on sustainable basis. Targeting the resource maintaining technologies offers newer opportunities of better livelihood for the resource poor small and marginal farmers. The major areas of research under this theme cover water conservation, planting techniques such as raised bed and bed furrow planting; orchard floor management, mitigation of desertification and case studies on resource economics.

RISK OF ANIMAL DISEASES: Animal diseases still continue to be the major factor limiting livestock productivity in development countries. Every year these diseased stake a very heavy toll of livestock both in the form of mortality and morbidity. Survivors of these diseases generally do not attain their optimum productive level throughout their remaining life. Information on their etiology distribution pattern and seasonal trends greatly helps in understanding these diseases and thereby devising proper control strategies. Early diagnosis and effective vaccines are tools which can be used for effective disease control.

RISK OF PRODUCTIVITY: Population boom and encroachment of farm land by other sectors of economy necessitates that research is focused on productivity improvement on a long term basis. Productivity improvement underpins profitability and better wages. Productivity improvement research focuses on cropping patterns and management practices that enhance production and farmers' income without increasing inputs. Further biological innovations should emphasize the direction and efficiency of production and sources of improvement.

RISK OF POOR HARVEST TECHNOLOGY: Too much of the food harvest is lost to spoilage and infestations on its journey to the consumer. In countries like Pakistan, where tropical to subtropical weather and poorly developed infrastructure contribute to the problem, losses are sometimes of staggering proportions. Losses occur in all operations from harvesting through handling, storage, processing and marketing. Value addition from harvest to consumer would reduce losses and increase profitability margins of the produce. Proper evaluation of post harvest technologies includes technical, economic and social components and is being increasingly focused in agricultural research.

RISK OF WATER USE EFFICIENCY: Water is lifeblood of Pakistan agriculture and economy. Its efficient use is a necessity and not an option .In view of global climatic changes water availability in Pakistan through river system is constantly on decrease. It has decreased from 104 MAF (Millions acres feet) 80 MAF in the last five years. The main causes of such decrease are beyond the control of humans, therefore, water research is required to study such variables to ensure its efficiency in-terms of productivity per drop of water for sustained food security.

RISK OF ENVIRONMENT: Failure to move conservation policies towards a more sustainable development has manifested itself in a range of environmental problems, particularly in agriculture sector in Pakistan. In addition to deforestation and desertification issues across much of country's territory, agro-chemical contamination, particularly by irrational use of hazardous pesticides has raised the problems of food chain, human and environmental health. Therefore, research based protection and conservation of environment including land, water, air and diversity of fauna and flora are crucial for sustenance of society and sustainable development. Research at PARC is focused on pesticide residue problems and fertilizer loading and fate in agricultural land, water, food chain and their effect on human health.

RISK OF INTEGRATING THE PEST MANAGEMENT: Integrated Pest Management was identified as a key element of sustainable agricultural development in the Policy and Strategy for Agriculture developed by Government of Pakistan as part of its response to increasing misuse/overuse of pesticides and their negative impacts on the society. IPM research activities at PARC seek to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farm families, thus helping to alleviate poverty and health risks while protecting the environment.

RISK OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER: Transfer of Technology implies supporting farmers to improve their ability to use new technology and to become more actively embedded in the agricultural knowledge and information system. The phenomenon offers new options to growers to meet emerging challenges of globalization and adds-in the performance of the agricultural research systems and its feedback linkages.