Bureau Chief, Islamabad
Sep 17 - 23, 2007

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MINFAL) has been allocated Rs.6.10 billion against it demand for Rs.4.5 billion for its new projects to be launched in the current (2007-08- financial year for strengthening and enhancing food crops like pulses, vegetable, rice and wheat, a source in the MINFAL told this correspondent. The normal share of the Agriculture in the public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), which hovered between Rs.300 to 500 million a few years back has been increased to over Rs13 billion, he added.

The short production of pulses and vegetables and alarming rise in their prices has forced the government to pay attention to this neglected sector. It has perhaps now being realized that, in a basically an agrarian economy like Pakistan, the shortage of pulses and vegetables cannot be explained. It sounds unbelievable but it is fact that Pakistan is import g pulses to augment their supplies and control rising prices.

According to reports pulses imports have surged by 43 percent to 225.192 million dollars during the 2006-07 fiscal year due to low production of the commodity in the country, which was only 0.35 million tons against its demand of over 60 million tones. Pulses production during the 2006-07 fiscal year remained lower than their increasing consumption across the country, as a result the country relied on high imports. According to official statistics, the pulses import figures reached 225.192 million dollar mark during the 2006-07 fiscal year, as compared to 157.442 million year, witnessing an increase of 67.750 million dollars.

Agriculture remains the single largest sector of national economy and the main source of livelihood for about 67 percent of the country's population residing in the rural areas. Agriculture contributes around 25 percent to gross domestic product |(GDP) and employs over 45 percent of the country's total labour force.

It contributes about 65 percent 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 percent of whom derive their food from agriculture in some way or the other. It provides food, fodder and raw materials for major industries, such as textile, sugar and to several other medium and small scale industries, which accounts for about 50 percent of total value of industrial production.

Pakistan like many developing countries of the world is facing the problem of low productivity despite the fact that country has multiple climatic zones, rich soil and irrigation water. 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. 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.

Though Pakistan made progress in food and agriculture front but 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 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 problems 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 crops.

When Pakistan came into being in 1947, the total population of Pakistan was 30.5 million, which has increased to 160 million now. In 1947 wheat, rice sugarcane, mustard, potato, onion and black gram were grown largely in the country. At that time crops were grown over an area 17.080151 million acre of which wheat was sown over an areas of 9.77073 million acres, rice 0.195210 acres, maize 0.42 million acres, sugarcane 0.48680 million acres, cotton 3.056750 million acres, mustard 1.06 million acres, potato 7415 acres, black gram 0.326185 million acres, whereas, during this period population of the country increased by 425 percent as compared to this cultivation areas increased by 155 percent.

In 2005-06 total cultivated area of country was 43.232 million acres of which, wheat was planted over an areas of 20.875 million acres, rice 6.477740 acres, maize 2.575 million acres, sugarcane 2.043 million acres, cotton 7.66823 million acres, mustard 0.561 million acre, potato 0.290 million acres, black gram 2.542 million acres.

In 1948-49 per acre yield of black gram was 7 maund, which reduced to 5 maund in 2005-06, similarly potato production was recorded 131 maund in 1948-49 which marginally increased to 135 maund in 2005-06. However, per acre yield of sugarcane increased to 498 maund in 2005-06 from 360 maund in 1948-49. Moreover, oilseed cultivation and production decreased during last 60 years as cultivation and per acre yield of mustard used for edible oil purpose dropped substantially while production of rice could not be synchronized with growing population of the country.

Comparison of major crops showed that in 1948-49 production heat in the country was 3.354 million tones, which increased to 21.2768 million tones in 2005-06, and 23.4 million tones in 2006-07. Production of rice in 1948-49 was 0.693 million tones which increased to 5 million tones in 2005-06. In 1948-49 production of cotton was recorded 1.156 million bales, which increased to 13.0189 million bales, while sugarcane production in 198-49 was 6.947 million tones, which increased to 44.66 million tones in 2005-06.

The total Arabic area of Pakistan is 35.4 million hectare, forest land 3.5 million hectare, arable waste 8.6 million hectare, cultivated area 22 million hectare, waterlogged and salt affected area in the Indus Basin is 6.8 million hectare, salt affecte areas outside Indus Basin is 6.3 million hectare. The deserts expend over some western area and Thar, Cholistan and Thal. The Thar and Cholistan are part of the Great Indian Desert and cover the acres east of the southern half of the Indus plains. The Thal are is between the Jhelum and Indus Rivers.

Agricultural production in Pakistan is still there to four times less compared with some developed countries like USA. Japan, Holland, France, UK etc. The total cultivated are increased from 19.2 million hectare in 1965 to 22 million hectare 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.