DEVELOPING KEY SECTORS OF BALOCHISTAN'S ECONOMY

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
July 06 - 12, 2009

Balochistan budget for the fiscal year 2009-10 has neglected the key sectors of provincial economy including agriculture, livestock, and fisheries. Less than two percent of the annual development program for new fiscal has been allocated for the development of these key sectors. Though agriculture, livestock, and fisheries have immense potential, yet these sectors could not attract the attention of finance managers in Quetta and Islamabad. The development of these sectors is linked with the achievement of poverty alleviation objectives in the least developed and the poorest province.

For instance, livestock contributes 20 per cent to the provincial GDP and it is the primary sustainable source of living for about 80 per cent of the population of Balochistan.

LIVESTOCK & DAIRY SECTORS

There is a lot of potential for development in the livestock and dairy sectors, as Balochistan can earn a substantial amount of income by exporting the products in these sectors to the lucrative markets in the food deficit region- Afghanistan and Central Asia.

There is no organized cattle-farming activity in the province. The local livestock farmers even have no idea or familiarity with modern animal husbandry practices. Organized cattle-farming on scientific patterns will improve the quality of livestock. It will increase the quantity of available cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats, and thus increasing the availability of hides and skins for leather industry. It will also improve the quality of hides and skins to fetch more value by upgradation.

The livestock study in Pakistan was undertaken in 1987. A comprehensive updated review of the livestock sector is required for maintaining and strengthening the livelihoods of the poorer rural segments of population largely dependent upon livestock sector and for earning the foreign exchange revenue. According to a rough estimate, more than 30 million of livestock is found in Balochistan.

Balochistan maintains 10.841 million sheep, 9.369 million goats, 1.341 million cattle, 4.964 million poultry and 0.750 million other livestock. About 120,000 livestock producers or flock owners are engaged in livestock breeding in the province. Steps should be taken for making available the green fodder and a health cover for livestock round the year to get improved breed and good production in the province.

A well-orchestrated strategy needs to be formulated to effectively transform the dairy sector in the province. It should include all aspects of dairy development, which means improving milk collection network, increasing the quantity of available cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats and enhancing milk processing and marketing. The provincial government should fix an annual target of milk production each year and should make concerted efforts to achieve it. Small dairy farmers in Balochistan generally keep animals as a part of tradition for meeting household milk needs. They consider dairy a side income, as commercial dairy farming is non-existent in the province. The animals are not properly fed, as majority of the households keeping the livestock are landless. They sell only morning milk and remaining is lost due to lack of mechanization, automation, and refrigeration. This causes loss in their income.

Moreover, unhygienic handling leads to poor quality milk well below international standards. No production recording is practiced because of the illiteracy and lack of awareness at farmer level.

The experts stress the need for establishing milk pasteurization plants in various districts of the province. There is an urgent need to improve extension services to increase dairy production in the province. The local dairy farmers should be provided overall technical support including automated milking machines and herd management. They should also be given feeding recipes for the animals in different seasons.

HORTICULTURE

Balochistan is considered as fruit garden of Pakistan. The province produces millions of tones of fruits annually. The date production of 130 varieties in Mekran may earn a large foreign exchange for the country by exporting it to foreign countries. Apples of the province are popular all over the world for their superb quality. Availability of vast areas of cultivable wasteland, its strong potential for expansion of agriculture base, low transportation cost, and developed routes to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs) make it ideal for corporate farming. The province due to its strategic location has comparative advantage in the region.

Government should provide relief to the local growers of fruit crops by providing them essential infrastructure facilities like farm to market road, cold-storage houses, and regular and sustainable supply of electricity in order to enhance production and export of quality fruits. There is a dire need to overcome the scarcity of water through construction of check/delay action dams in suitable areas of the province. The micro-irrigation systems need to be introduced widely to cope with the problem of water shortage in fruit growing areas of the province. A strong agriculture research system is needed to efficiently and fully tap fruit export potential of Balochistan- the country's fruit basket.

FISHERIES

Balochistan has an ideal land and suitable conditions for shrimp farming. The province has immense potential for development of shrimp fishery in Sonmiani, Jewani, Kalmat, Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara and other coastal towns. There are greater prospects for generation of employment for local people, as a huge labor force may be required to run the shrimp farming units in coastal areas.

The 770-km long Balochistan coast makes up 70 percent of Pakistan's total coastal line, which is the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. According to an estimate, 60 species of fish and 10 of shrimps, including the best in the world, are found in Balochistan. The land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province. Shrimp farming can develop unproductive salty coastal areas of the province as centres of tremendous economic activity. It may bring economic bonanza for the people of coastal areas. The fish farming projects can improve the socio-economic conditions of the people and elevate their standard of living. These projects can not only earn huge foreign exchange for the country but also prosper the local fishermen by providing them a constant source of income.

Balochistan government should allot lands in coastal districts to private parties interested in promoting shrimp farming in Pakistan. First, the potential of shrimp farming in coastal areas of the province should be assessed. The necessary statistics and authentic data should be available that can ensure efficient exploitation of this valuable sea resource. The government should announce incentives for induction of the private sector in this field, as the interested entrepreneurs and investors could play a key role in promoting the shrimp farming in coastal areas purely on the commercial basis. New hatcheries should be set up in coastal districts like Lasbella and Mekran for shrimp production as viable business -ventures.