FOOD & AGRICULTURE

DR. S.M. ALAM
June 30 - July 06, 2008

The food materials need of Pakistan is continuing to increase due to increase in its burgeoning population. According to one report 15 new babies are born in the country in every minute. Every mouth needs food and food like stuffs for its life. Population growth, income growth and urbanization are the critical determination of food supply and demand. A major share of one's income is spent on food in the country. Income growth with development will be important determinant of food demand. While most of the poor and food deprived people still live in rural areas urbanization is progressing rapidly. This means there will have to be significant adjustments in food production and marketing and food security policy.

Pakistan produces the finest quality agricultural commodities especially rice, wheat, sugarcane, gram, maize, pulses and varieties of fruits, vegetables, livestock and fishery. Agriculture plays vital role in the economic development of Pakistan. It accounts for 20.9% of the GDP and employs 43.3 % of total work force, serves the biggest supplier of raw materials to industry as well as market for industrial products and also contributes substantially to country's export earnings. The government has designed "Agriculture" as the engine of national economic growth and poverty reduction. The country has well fertile land, favorable climate, and well managed irrigation system.

Textile and many other industries mainly depend directly on agriculture for raw materials. It also happens to be the biggest source of foreign exchange earning by serving as a base for major industries. Pakistan grows both major and minor crops, vegetables and spices, fruits, edible oils, milk, poultry, fishes etc. The major and minor food crops are wheat, rice, maize, jawar, bajra, barley; cash crops are sugarcane, cotton, sugar beet and guar seed; pulses are gram, mung, masoor, matter; and edible oils are sesamum, groundnut, soybean, rapeseed, mustard, sunflower, canola, sunflower and safflower and cotton seed.

The wheat, rice, cotton and sugar cane account for 91% of the value-added in major crops. Minor crops including oil seed, pulses and vegetables account for 12.4% of the value-added in overall agriculture. The sustainability of agriculture depends on the prudent use of natural resources and careful considerations of environment. It is now necessary that food production should be increased by at least 40% over the next 25 years to meet needs for food, livestock feed and fiber crops. Among the vegetable crops onion, garlic, chilies, turmeric, ginger, potato, tomato, gourd, pumpkin, brinjal, spinach are important. At present, the production of cereal crops is: 30880 x 103 metric tons annually.

Pakistan experiences different climatic conditions in its different regions, which provides it with a unique opportunity of growing fruits all year round. Each region of Pakistan is adept at growing particular kinds of fruits. Different kind of fruits are grown in the country are citrus, mango, banana, apple, guava, apricot, peach, pears, plums, grapes, pomegranate, dates, almonds. The total production is 6891.7 x 103 tons annually.

Livestock an important sector of food includes buffalo, cow, calf, goat, sheep, camel, and their products are milk, mutton, fat, butter, cheese, powder milk etc. Fishery production is another sector of food and total production is about 800,000 tons. Out of which around 500,000 tons consist of sea fish and the reminder of fresh water species. Shrimp has a great scope as food item.

The food processing unit produces confectionary and biscuit, jams, jellies, and squashes, snacks and potato chips, poultry and dairy products, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, meat and meat production for local consumption and exports. Fermented fruits and vegetables are traditionally consumed in the country. Raw mangoes, olives carrots, turnips, onions, cauliflower, reddish, pepper, and other are picked with the help of mainly lactic and bacteria.

At present the surging food prices is a major challenge for the country's economic managers and people have lost hope for any relief while the officials continue to paint a rosy picture about the economy. The effective demand-supply management led to the crisis currently persisting in the country.