THE STATE OF AGRICULTURE RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT IN PAKISTAN

HAMMAD BADAR
Lecturer, Department of Marketing and Agribusiness,
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (hammd_badar@yahoo.com)
Dec 17 - 30, 2007

Agriculture productive growth has increased substantially over the years in many developing countries, which is mainly attributed to investment in agricultural research systems. It has been argued since long that spending on agricultural research and development (R&D) contributes a lot of welfare effects to the society. It boosts agricultural and economic growth through improvement in productivity. Agricultural research can be highly instrumental in bridging the gap between demand and supply of important food and fiber crops, reducing imports and increasing exports, increasing income and thereby reducing rural poverty to improve quality of life of rural populace.

The conventional estimates of reported rates of return to investment in agricultural research are in the range of 40 to 60 percent per year. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study titled "A Meta Analysis of Rates of Return to Agricultural R&D" estimates rate of return with reservations as 100 percent per year for research, 85 percent for extension, 48 percent when research and extension were jointly studied and 81 percent for all the studies combined. In the approaching times the agricultural growth will largely be dependent on the inventions due to the agricultural research as resources like water, area and other inputs are getting scarce day by day.

Agricultural sector in Pakistan has a key role in the overall economic growth of the country. According to Economic Survey of Pakistan 2006-07, it is a dominant source for growth and the main source of livelihood for 66 percent of the population. It accounts for 20.9 percent of the GDP and employs 43.3 percent of the total workforce. Agriculture remains at the center of the national economic policies and treated as engine of national economic growth and poverty reduction. Contrary to the importance of agriculture in Pakistan, budgetary allocations to agriculture research are altogether inadequate to meet the demands of modernized agriculture. The incidence of poverty in Pakistan is greater in rural areas. The farmers" income is not sufficient enough to meet their basic needs that is why the quality of life is not very good in the rural areas. This situation is due to lack of appropriate investment in agriculture research in Pakistan.

In Pakistan, agricultural sector is mostly carried out by public sector research organizations and universities. The publicly funded Pakistan agricultural research system is organized at both the federal and provincial levels. Agricultural research is mostly confined to the promotion and coordination of research on the development of high yielding varieties of important crops. In spite of meager allocation, the agricultural research has played its role in enhancing agricultural productivity. This was even truer during the era of green revolution. Along with other factors agriculture research has been responsible for escalating per acre yields, productions and overall income of farmers.

Nonetheless, with the ever increasing population, the research activities have not been able to catch up with higher demand for agricultural commodities. The country has faced food and fiber shortages on many occasions during recent past. The recent wheat, sugar and cotton crisis bears testimony to this fact. As the use of natural resources cannot be extended beyond certain limits, this shortage can only be bridged through higher yielding varieties, which in turn is realized through intensive research in the field.

In spite of agriculture's dominant importance, agriculture research in Pakistan is beset with many problems. It has never been accorded top priority in the budgetary allocations. In Pakistan budgetary allocations for agricultural research and development are very meager. According to Pakistan's notification to the World Trade Organization, expenditure incurred on general services on research have not been considerable in the recent past. From 1995 to 2002, it gradually decreased from $12.8 million to $ 1.67 million. Nonetheless, in the year 2003-04, this sector received and an allocation of $17.2 million. Another related problem is that most of these funds are spent on non development purposes like salaries and administrative expenditures at the cost of actual research. This factor has greatly hampered the scientific community in the realization of their objectives and functions.

TABLE:
EXPENDITURE INCURRED ON GENERAL SERVICE ON RESEARCH IN PAKISTAN

YEAR

Amount (US $ Million)

1995-96

12.8

1996-97

7.7

1997-98

7.6

1998-99

2.44

1999-00

3.18

2000-01

1.67

2001-02

2.14

2002-03

6.03

2003-04

17.2

Source: WTO (Pakistan's Notifications)

Brain drain is another serious problem that has virtually crippled the agriculture research system. The scientists are thought to be eyes and brains of any society and they are accorded higher status in the society by providing them monetary and non-monetary rewards and incentives. But unfortunately, the scientists here in Pakistan are moving towards developed countries as they do not find their proper place both professionally and financially. In Pakistan, perhaps the agriculture sector has faced the major brunt of the phenomenon of brain drain. A significant part of the scientific community has either left the country or planning to do so.

Another problem is that agriculture research in Pakistan is not problem solving and is mostly confined to the laboratories of research institutions. Very little is done by the researchers and extension people to involve the target beneficiaries i.e. farmers in the whole process. Majority of the farmers are unable to benefit from the research and remain oblivious of the new findings in terms of new techniques and high yielding varieties. Furthermore, there is a problem of lack of coordination and cooperation between research institutions and universities. Most of these institutions are doing some research work without sharing these and benefiting from the expertise of each other.

Only few major crops like wheat, cotton, sugarcane and rice have been the focus of agricultural research activities in Pakistan. These receive major chunk of research budget while rest of the crops receive very little. Most of the research is carried out to solve production problems and virtually very emphasis has been placed to solve marketing related problems of the farmers

Under the WTO regime, agricultural producers are confronted with many challenges that call for an increased investment in rural public domain such as agricultural research to further improve agricultural technology and to provide producers with better production conditions in comparison with their foreign competitors. In this direction, Govt. of Pakistan should (a) accord high priority to agricultural research and investment spending on agricultural research should be increased manifolds immediately, (b) ensure that major proportion of budget of the various research organizations is incurred on the operational research (c) bring drastic institutional changes in the provincial research organizations in order to stem the current outflow of competent agricultural researchers. (d) fill all the vacant positions in the research organizations of the province. Fresh recruitment, promotions and appointment against various administrative posts should be on merit and should be tied up with performance, (e) ensure agricultural research be problem solving and target oriented.

New crop varieties and then-production technology alone will not lead to revolution in the agricultural growth. The maximum beneficial effects in agricultural research and technological advancement will materialize only if government policies are appropriate and scientists given the package and status they deserve. The vital role of research in the development of agriculture needs more attention and agricultural research is essentially required to obtain increased and sustained production to meet the food needs of growing population as well as to provide raw materials for the agro-based industries in the country. Pakistan earned a major share of its foreign exchange from agricultural exports. Since international markets for agricultural products were highly competitive, it was important that national products competed in quality and prices. This requires continuous research to improve product quality as well. In this regards, there is an urgent need to conduct research on issues like marketing, agribusiness and WTO if Pakistan wants to compete in the international market and ensure food security of the country.