July 14 - 20, 2008

LAHORE: With a view to further boosting production in food, agriculture and livestock sectors, the government has decided to spend Rs. 1503.224 million on 10 new schemes.

Sources in the Ministry of food Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) said that the government has allocated a huge amount of about Rs. 20515.876 million for the development of agriculture sector for the financial year 2008-09. Special attention would be paid in crop and livestock sector to enhance crop and livestock production by introducing modern techniques of cultivation and to give trend to cultivate hybrid seeds to increase per hectare crop production.

An amount of Rs 18 million will be spent on establishment of 'Monitoring of crop through satellite technology" to provide latest information to the growers of far-flung areas of country and to save the crop from insect attack, the sources said, adding that every year a lot of area under cotton crop is attacked by a deadly insect called Mealybug which destroys the crop. This year, the government will spend Rs. 150.224 million for eradication of the insect. Further, National Pesticides Residues Monitoring System will be set up with Rs 20 million to check the quality and standard of pesticides and other chemical used in agri-sector.

An amount of Rs. 500 million will be spent in "Wheat maximization programme" to increase wheat production to fulfill the domestic consumption of wheat as well as to export, the sources claimed.

Moreover, the head of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said soaring food prices have pushed 50 million more people to go hungry and this call for more global cooperation to boost food security in poor nations.

"Donor countries, international institutions, governments of developing countries, civil society and the private sector have an important role to play in the global fight against hunger," Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General said in an address to a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Jacques noted that the current crisis was triggered by a confluence of factors: the surging demand for agricultural products due to population and economic growth in emerging market nations; increased use of biofuels; and inadequate supplies of cereals at their lowest levels in three decades and other products due to climate change.

Further aggravating these problems are the restrictive protectionist measures taken by some exporting nations, speculation on futures markets and high prices of agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, Diouf said.

Climate change is also playing a substantial role, with the world losing between 5 and 10 million hectares of agricultural land annually due to severe degradation. The consequence of a global temperature rise of over three degrees could be a drop in major crop yields by 20 to 40 per cent in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

"The present situation is a result of the international community's neglect of agriculture in developing countries for a long time," Diouf said.

He pointed out that the proportion of agriculture in official development assistance has plummeted from 17 per cent in 1980 to only 3 per cent in 2006, while investment in agricultural research in developing countries is shy of 0.6 per cent of gross domestic product. Bolstered public and private investment is needed to enhance agricultural production in developing countries, the Director-General said, adding that farmers in these nations must receive additional support through the supply of seeds and fertilizers.