COMBINED PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR RESEARCH IN AGRICULTURE CAN PRODUCE DESIRED RESULTS

KANWAL SALEEM
Dec 17 - 30, 2007

Pakistan is predominantly an agricultural country. Despite favourable conditions of soils, irrigation water and climate, agriculture in the country suffers from under-production both in terms of yield per hectare and production per farm worker. The country is heavily dependent on agriculture for food and fibre requirements of the ever-increasing population.

Pakistan is still far behind in research in agriculture sector. Per acre yield in the country is less when compared with other developing countries. We are still lagging behind in research field and desired results could not be achieved of the research activities carried out during the last 20 years.

Punjab, which is the largest province of Pakistan, is lacking resources as well as macro planning in agriculture research but now due attention is being paid on research in agriculture sector. However, still a lot is to be done in this regard. The need is to combine the research activities of both public and private sector apart from putting in place effective monitoring system to make the agriculture research more effective and results oriented. Punjab is producing 78 % of total wheat production while share of the province in cotton production is 80 percent and rest of the crops around 70-80 percent.

According to Secretary Agriculture Punjab Mr. Fayyaz Bashir, as many as 32 institutions are engaged in carrying out research in agriculture sector. Under a three-year programme, 3.5 billion of rupees are being spent on research in agriculture sector. During the current fiscal year, an amount of Rs. 35 million has been earmarked for disbursement among the agriculture scientists so that desired results in agriculture sector could be achieved.

Agriculture Extension, Adaptive Research and In-service Training Institute wings act as a bridge between the agriculture research and the farming community through which latest crop production technology is passed on to the growers and their problems are referred back to the researchers for appropriate solution. Over the years, Agriculture Extension, Adaptive Research and In-service Training Institute wings of the agriculture department have played a significant role in dissemination/ popularizing the recommendations of research among the farming community. Resultantly, the average yield of cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane and maize has increased significantly, Mr. Fayyaz Bashir said.

He said new technology and variety in agriculture sector could not be introduced mainly due to lacking centralisation. However, he said they have already made the Punjab Agriculture Research Board effective and presently research is being conducted on five products. 'We believe in 'ADOPT' instead of 'INVENT'.

Mr. Fayyaz Bashir further said that Fruit and Vegetable Project has been started to overcome vegetable shortage research is being carried out on vegetables through plastic tunnels.

According to Mr. Sikandar Khan, Chairman of Millat Tractors Limited, the importance of agriculture in Pakistan's economy and the ongoing pressure on the sector to productivity has meant that the farmers have been adopting more modern techniques and there has been an increased use of machinery in recent time.

''Millat Tractors has been a major contributor to the agriculture sector and has been making a tremendous contribution through its locally manufactured equipment. Five years ago, we were doing about 15000 tractors annually and we are now almost doubling that manufacturing capacity'', Khan said. According to Dr Mubarik Ali, Head of the Punjab Agriculture Research Board, the board has planned to take the stakeholders into confidence about their requirements vis-a-vis seeds requirements and problems confronted to them due to virus attack. The major problem in agriculture research is that private and public sectors organisations are carrying out research on a similar line.

He said China and other developed countries had undertaken research on chromosome and germ plasma. We have planned to invite the Chinese scientists to carry out research projects in Pakistan, he said. According to analysts, most of the land in Pakistan is arid and requires adequate supply of water. Pakistan has one of the most extensive canal-based irrigation systems in the world. Pakistan has a wide range of agro-climatic zones where all kinds of crops, fruits, vegetable and food can be produced. During the past decades, the Government also developed favourable credit and loan policies for farmers.

They said Pakistan could substantially boost its exports earnings by investment in production of value added food products. Pakistan has embarked on experimentation in the field of tea cultivation, olive production and oilseed production. The exports can be increased subject to meeting quality and standard related concerns of quarantine issues, food standardisation and grading, quality control, cold chain, food storage, food processing and preservation techniques, etc, they added.

Moreover, a committee endeavouring to promote science and technology in the OIC region, COMSTECH has transferred 13.707 million pages to 13,556 researchers and scientists under its Literature Search Service (LSS) during this year. This Service has been designed for active researchers of the OIC region, who frequently require abstracts of current research in fields similar to their own research work, said a senior official of OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH). The information is the key to growth of knowledge and dissemination of information is crucial for scientific enterprise. In today's world there is a tremendous proliferation of journals and many of them, especially those published by commercial firms, are expensive and out of reach to most of OIC universities and research institutes.