AGRICULTURE SECTOR

DR. S.M.ALAM
June 15 - 21, 2009

Pakistan is an agricultural country. Of total geographical area of 79.61 mha (796,096 square kilometers), the total cropped areas of Pakistan are 19.82 mha, of which the total cropped areas of Punjab are 11.04 mha; Sindh 5.45 mha; NWFP 1.93 mha; and Balochistan 1.40 mha. Of cropped areas, only 25% is under cultivation, 4.5 % under forest, about 57 per cent is rangeland.

The irrigated land is 75 per cent (15.2 mha of the total cropped area), 19 per cent (or nearly 4.25 mha) is rain-fed, while the other 4% is irrigated by tube wells and other sources. The main agricultural inputs include fertilizers, water, pesticides, weedicides, laborers, etc.

Pakistan's economy depends on agriculture. The country is fortunate that its soils, topography, and climate are generally suitable for year round agriculture. Due to the existence of the country in arid and semi-arid climatic regions, artificial irrigation has been practiced for a long time. Rainfall in the country is sporadic. About 68%t of the geographical area lies under annual rainfall of 251-500 mm. This leaves only 8 per cent of geographical area where the annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm. Climatic stress due to high temperatures and droughts are characterized as crop growth index and aridity index, respectively.

In the present day of agriculture, considerable diversification has occurred in the economy of Pakistan as this sector has been contributing about 6 % to the national income. In fact, industrial, transport and communication and energy sectors have also expanded. Yet, agriculture remains the largest by contributing 23.3 % to GDP and employing 48% of total labor force. Textile, sugar and many other industries mainly depend on this sector directly or indirectly for raw materials. It provides food to consumers and fibres and raw materials to the industry. It also happens to be the biggest source of foreign exchange earning by serving as a base for major industries.

Pakistan is endowed with diverse climates, fertile lands, and one of the best canal irrigation systems of the world. Large varieties of crops are cultivated throughout the year, including wheat, rice, cotton, and sugarcane which account for 91% of the value-added in major crops.

According to the figures, wheat was harvested over an area of 9.06 million hectares during FY09. The rice output was 6.95 million tons during fiscal year with Punjab producing 3.64 million tons, Sindh 2.53 million tons, NWFP 128,000 tons, and Bolachistan 640,000 tons.

Cotton production was 6.031 million tons and it was sown over 2.81 million hectares. Punjab produced 4.46 million tons of cotton, Sindh 1.51 million tons, and Bolachistan 45,500 tons. Lint production was 11.819 million bales. Sugarcane production was 50.04 million tons and Punjab produced 32.2 million tons, Sindh 13.3 million tons, NWFP 4.408 million tons, and Bolachistan 379,000 tons. The overall total area of sugarcane was 1.029 million hectares. The maize production was 4.03 million tons, pearl millet (bajra) 290.000 tons, and sorghum (Jowar) 164,000 tons.

The fruit production was 7.399 million tons and vegetable production was 5.72 million tons. Different kinds of fruits grown in the country are citrus, mango, banana, apple, guava, apricot, peach, pears, plums, grapes, pomegranate, dates, and almonds. Among the vegetable crops onion, garlic, chillies, turmeric, ginger, potato, tomato, gourd, pumpkin, brinjal, spinach are important. At present, the production of cereal crops are: 30880 x 103 metric tons annually.

The productions of pulses were black lentil (mash) 13,500 tons, red lentil (masoor) 21,100 tons, and green lentil (moong) 150,000 tons. The sustainability of agriculture depends on the prudent use of natural resources and careful considerations of environment. Our natural resource base like land and water is under great stress by getting worse with the growing population. It is now necessary that cereal production should be increased by at least 40% over the next 25 years to meet needs for food, livestock feed and fiber crops.

Similarly, production of all other major food products should be increased to meet the subsequent demand. The per capita agricultural land continues to shrink and land resources are increasingly depleting. The continuing problem of salinity and deforestation has become a menace.

Pakistan like many developing countries of the world is faced with the problem of low agricultural productivity. In spite of the fact that our country is blessed with a galaxy of climate, soil condition and irrigation water. The country is totally dependent on agriculture for the supply of food and fiber. Therefore, it is imperative to increase food and fiber production to cope up not only with overgrowing requirements of the country, but also for the sake of foreign exchange earnings and to attain self-sufficiency. Rapid agricultural growth can stimulate and thus sustain the pace of industrial growth, thus setting into motion a mutually reinforcing process of sustained economic growth.

Apart from the sectors immediate economic contribution it also has indirect linkages with various parts of the economy. Any change in agricultural productivity, therefore, sends a ripple effect throughout the rural population of Pakistan. It provides food, feed, and raw materials for major industries, such as textile, sugar and to several other medium and small-scale industries, which account for about 50% of total value of industrial production.

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

All foods and beverages are prepared for the consumers from the agricultural products. The food processing unit produces confectionary and biscuit, jams, jellies, squashes, snacks, 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.

As a matter of fact, the contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP has declined gradually from 50% to 23%. The shortages and non-availability of fertilizers, original pesticides, quality seeds, credit facility, etc have declined the growth.