Sep 17 - 23, 2007

There are two principal crop seasons in Pakistan, namely the "Kharif", the sowing season of which begins in April-June and harvesting during October-December; and the "Rabi", which begins in October-December and ends in April-May.

Rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, mong, mash, bajra and jowar are "Kharif" crops while wheat, gram, lentil (masoor), tobacco, rapeseed, barley and mustard are "Rabi" crops. Major crops, such as, wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane account for 90.1 percent of the value added in the major crops.

The value added in major crops accounts for over 35-percent of the value added in overall agriculture. Thus, the four major crops (wheat, rice, cotton, and sugarcane), on average, contribute around 31 percent to the value added in overall agriculture. The minor crops account for 12.3 percent of the value added in overall agriculture. Livestock contribute almost 50 percent to agriculture - much more than the combined contribution of major and minor crops (47.5%).

Agriculture experts told PAGE that growers must adopt advanced technologies to enhance yield per acre and improve their socio-economic condition.

''Agriculture is backbone of country's economy and it needs special attention with allocation of sufficient grant for agriculture inputs. The government should make the process of granting loans to the growers more easy so that maximum growers could get advantage of such bank loan for utilisation of crop cultivation'', they added.

Emphasising the need for launching a massive awareness campaign about the benefits of the use of advanced technologies in agriculture sector, they said provincial agriculture departments need to be activated in this regard.

They called for providing water at the tail of the irrigation system so that the growers of the province could not suffer any inconvenience in getting sufficient water for crops cultivation.

They urged upon the ministry of commerce to adopt a comprehensive policy regarding export of different crops so that the same could compete in the international markets and earn valuable foreign reserves for the country.

Sources in the provincial agriculture department told this scribe that the government is striving to introduce advanced agriculture technologies to increase the yield per acre and improve the socio-economic condition of the farmers. The farmers friendly policies of the government has boost up the agriculture sector and despite natural disasters, experienced by the people, the process of production of bumper crops is still in progress, they claimed.

Talking about allocation for agriculture in Public Sector Development Projects (PSDP), they said that the efforts of the government could be gauged from the allocation of Rs 16 billion for development of agriculture sector during the year 2007-2008. In order to make agriculture a profitable sector, the sources said that the growers need to focus their attention for cultivation of such crops, which could compete in the international markets and provide maximum benefits as compare to cost of production.

It may be mentioned that there are 92 percent small growers who possessed less than one and half acres of land while the possessors of 12 and half acre land are 6.5 percent in the country. This rate clearly indicates that all policies, being formulated by the Government in agriculture sector are providing benefits to the small growers.

Financial experts said that in the year 2006-2007, the banks have provided agriculture loans to the growers to the tune of Rs 168.5 billion while in the year 2007-2008, the banks have scheduled to provide agriculture loans of Rs 200 billion. The Government is also giving subsidy of Rs 6 billion upon Urea fertiliser aimed to provide maximum benefits to growers, they added.

According to experts in Pakistan Horticulture Development and Exports Board, horticulture crops are grown on 1.34 million hectares in the country, producing over 13 million tonnes of fresh produce, Punjab with 49 percent area and 67 percent production of fruits and vegetables has a loin share in the production.

"Pakistan is bestowed with diversified agro-climatic conditions suitable for a wide range of horticultural crops, which are an integral part of our agriculture system. Horticulture provides an enterprise for local and international market in many forms from fresh to process. There is a lot of potential for the export of Pakistani fruits and vegetables in the international market", they said.

Highlighting the significance of horticulture sector, they said that horticulture was being focused from production to processing and value addition. "We simply couldn't afford 25-40 percent loss of horticultural crops due to poor pre and post harvest conditions. By adopting good agricultural practices, using improved planting material and practices and controlling pests and diseases especially fruit fly and viruses, we can curtail these losses", they added.

It may be mentioned that agribusiness development and diversification project at a cost of 4.1 billion rupees had been launched especially to cater to the agribusiness needs of horticulture.

According to University of Agriculture Faisalabad Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr Bashir Ahmad the newly introduced tunnel technology was gaining momentum while export of citrus and mango was being enhanced due to better incentive to the exporters.

According to him, yield of various horticultural crops although comparable with the regional competitors are 1/4th of the developed world, while application of available technologies may double the yields.

Expressing his concern over drainage of Rs 387 billion on vegetable seed import inspite of the fact that indigenous seeds excel them in yield, Professor Dr Iftikhar Ahmad Khan, Dean Faculty of Agriculture said that to achieve the cherished goal of boosting exports and reducing imports to projects on post harvest management and vegetable seed maximisation have been floated for funding by the government in the university.