MAKING OF FOOD COMMITTEE TO INCREASE AGRICULTURE PRODUCTION

'VARIATIONS IN COST OF PRODUCTION IS INEVITABLE'

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
July 21 - 27, 2008

Food production and supply management is stripping economic managers of their deftness world over tangled with arduous tasks of flourishing free market economy in the midst of exhausted natural resources and along with uncontrollable deregulated economy.

The overriding flaw in the free market economy is universally recognized for its tendency to encourage unwanted and unethical market practices, pushing uniformity in prices of goods and services at a far distance and thus introducing wide differences in the cost of production.

Exercising total power on to curb manoeuvring in the guise of free market economy is as difficult for Pakistan as for other developing countries, especially agro-based economies fluctuation in GDP of which is in direct proportion to agro performance. Coupled with other bottlenecks, the free market structure of distribution of agricultural produce and under capacity utilization impede the optimal outbursts of this sector in Pakistan.

"It is very difficult to maintain equilibrium in prices of goods across the country; also variation in costs of production can not completely be done away," said Nazar Hussain Mehar, Additional Chief Secretary, Planning & Development department, Government of Sindh while talking about the prices of farm produce. All the successive governments at the helm of affairs in Pakistan more or less concentrated to increase production capacity of agriculture sector. However, per acre yield of farmlands in the country is yet to extend; similarly dairy and livestock sectors have not been strengthened enough to independently carve its mark on the list of main revenue spinners.

The weak ground works on infrastructure and governance laxity alike discourage investments in these two agrarian sub-sectors. International development agencies often point at the feeble infrastructure base of the country. According to them poor facilitation services related to basic utilities are putting halts in proper development of, inter alia, agriculture sector in Pakistan.

In urban hinterlands or villages embedded major agriculture activities of the country dilapidated waterlines are in use; electricity shortfall is problematic, several areas are not even electrified; communication and transport network is abysmally in poor condition. Invasion of all these problems direct to cut off outputs from otherwise fertile fields.

Sharing the identical fate, progress in fisheries sector has been hitting snags and showed unimpressive consequences as always. Corporate agriculture, farming and fisheries, is believed to inevitably bring revival of the entire agribusiness. But, no material step has been taken forward in this regard. The steps of present government in rejuvenating corporate farming would be a good sign towards sectoral robustness if executed in accordance with the plan.

It was reported that Rs. 2 billion will be allocated for establishing inland shrimp farms in the province. Such lively measure could certainly revitalize the sagging and underprivileged module of aquatic trade, which has marvellous prowess to prop up the whole economy altogether given that value addition is promoted in it. Until now backbone of this sector i.e. human capital is highly prone to break apart due to indifference of government.

Under about 1100 km lengthy sea belt spanning alongside Sindh and Balochistan and sizable depth, seafood with nutritious and exporting values lies and cherishes naturally. Well centralized plan at provincial level can manage the sea fish catching and add values into catches; besides, inland ponds for breeding shrimps, fishes can excel in GDP growth of the sector.

Of late central government sets provinces into action to ascertain root causes of underperformed agriculture sector and thus to formulate recommendations accordingly for remedial. Therefore, "Sindh government has constituted sub-committee on brainstorming ways to enhance production of essential food commodities in the province", Nazar Hussain told PAGE.

The sub-committee, to be headed by the additional chief secretary (dev), will review the intact measures related to increasing agricultural productivity and advise contemporary measures to increase agricultural production through short, mid and long-terms plans. He said the committee will analyse the cost efficient mechanism to make it compatible with the national system. "To find out methods to recourse to optimal outputs from the agriculture sector is underlying concept behind this committee formation," said he, saying problems are somehow known to us, "we will sort them out in order of resolute priority". He said lack in usage of technology is critical to the success of agriculture sector.

This committee is aimed at to examine the trends in production of farmlands and livestock, yields, and prices of essential food commodities such as wheat flour, rice, edible oil, vegetables, pulses, sugar, milk and meat. And it also helps in devising avenues of farm inputs like seed, feed, fertilizers, water, pesticides and engineering equipments. Effective marketing system, research techniques, credit arrangement, and community mobilization will also be reviewed.

"Sindh committee will forward its final report to federal government within 6 weeks," he informed. He also said that taskforce would also take industrial inputs from fisheries and livestock sectors into assessment.

Agriculture, which is the primary commercial sector of Pakistan's economy, has not received full acceleration to attain its optimal productivity due to lack of technology, cost inefficiency, and inconsistent sectoral focus. Despite growing share of agriculture in real GDP of the country year on year, the portion is not impressive given the size of farmlands under cultivation or cultivable and dairy, livestock, and fisheries sectors. With all these potential-laden sub sectors, Rs. 11.4 trillion of agriculture sector in the real GDP of last fiscal is insignificant in comparison to industry that in spite of its structural weaknesses has Rs. 14.2 trillion. Inconsistent sectoral focus is a cause of crucial concern as it ignites sense of insecurity. Optimal productivity in agriculture sector can mainly be achieved through developing consistent policy framework, not easily to be shacked.