A LOT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE TO IMPROVE YIELD.
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Nov 09 - 15, 2009
The government has set GDP growth target at 3.3% for the current fiscal year while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted 2% growth. The State Bank of Pakistan has predicted an economic growth rate at 2.5 to 3.5 per cent for the current financial year. The economists at the central bank believe the most sustainable impetus to the economy is expected to come from the agriculture sector and the country might achieve the agriculture growth target this year.
Pakistan is an agrarian society and bulk of the population is involved in agriculture but the sector share in GDP is around 25%. Major crops include wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton. However, yield obtained in the country is nearly half as compared to India. Lower yield is due to poor quality of seed and inappropriate crop management. Inadequate research and failure in developing high yielding varieties does not allow any significant increase in production and productivity.
Bad on-farm water management and imbalanced use of fertilizer also affects yield and failure in applying timely and proper dosage of pesticides/insecticides expose crops to pests and insects attacks. All these inadequacies can be clubbed under lack of research and development by institutions particularly responsible for imparting agriculture education.
Despite tall claims literacy rate in the rural areas is very low and farmers either do not have resources to educate their children in the disciplines which could help in cultivation on scientific grounds or the curriculum being followed by the institutions is outdated.
The role being played by the fertilizer manufacturing companies in educating farmers has helped the growers in understanding nutrient requirement of various crops, depending on the quality of land under cultivation. However, nutrient is one of the various factors affecting yield. It is also noted that often the farmers do not apply various types of fertilizers. One of the common mistakes is use of additional urea when DAP prices are high, mainly due to the impression that urea is a substitute for DAP.
Citing cotton example may help in understanding the gravity of issue. Pakistan is among the top five cotton producing countries of the world. According to the experts the country is capable of producing over 20 million bales from the existing area under cultivation. However, invariably the country suffers from shortfall in cotton production.
Prices have remained high mainly due to high cost of input but experts attribute higher cost of inputs to low yield. Cotton output is affected due to virus and pest attacks, which are the outcomes of sowing varieties having lower resistance. India has managed to develop BT cotton but Pakistani researchers have not attained much success.
Same is the case for sugarcane because average recovery in three cane producing provinces has huge gap. While the average recovery in Punjab is around 8.5%, the average is above 11.5% in Sindh. Higher recovery in Sindh can be attributed to more favorable soil and climatic conditions whereas many of the areas of Punjab are not suitable for the cultivation of sugarcane due to high temperature and dry climate (ideal for the cultivation of cotton).
The investigations undertaken by Page to find out reasons for the recent sugar crisis revealed that the country had an installed capacity to produce around nine million tons sugar per annum but output over the years had been hovering around 3.5 million tons. It was also found that the industry could help in containing import of motor gasoline through sale of ethanol and producing electricity by burning baggase as fuel. However, none of the objectives can be achieved unless sugarcane production in the country is tripled.
As stated earlier, production of sugarcane can double without bringing additional area under sugarcane cultivation.
In achieving this target research institutes can play the most important role in developing both the early and late maturing sugarcane varieties to extend crushing period and also the varieties containing higher sucrose content. Since it has been proposed to fix sugarcane price on the basis of sucrose content rather than weight developing varieties capable of yielding higher sucrose content has become mandatory.
Yet tremendous popularity of Kinnow Pakistan has not succeeded in exploiting the US market, the biggest market for tangerine (citrus). It is mainly because the US buyers demand seedless fruit, which Pakistan has not been able to develop in more than five decades.
It is said Pakistani mangoes have attained a significant share in the global markets but it is mainly due to the efforts of individuals rather than the institutions. Some varieties developed through cross breeding have been evolved. These varieties have unique taste and flavor.
It is not necessary to try to reinvent the wheel. Around the world a lot of research is going on and Pakistan should try to benefit from it. The key objectives should be to develop varieties having resistance against the most common diseases and capable of giving higher yield. These should also have the capacity to survive on lower water supply and nutrient contents.
It must also be kept in mind that 'food security' should be the top item on all plans of the economic managers all over the world. Food security cannot be achieved without improving production and productivity. Increasing support prices of various crops may be an incentive but growers have to be taught that achieving higher yields can improve their income further.
The beauty of education in any discipline is that it helps people doing their jobs more efficiently. Effectiveness of institutions imparting education and research in agriculture can only be established when Pakistan succeeds in achieving yields comparable with other countries. In the US only 2% of the population is involved in agriculture but they not only meet the domestic demand but the country is also a major supplier of agriculture commodities to rest of the world.
FAST DELEGATION VISITS HINOPAK
National University of Computer & Engineering Sciences FAST is one of the leading educational universities in the country offering wide range of subject for specialization and contributing to the national cause of spreading knowledge and education to the youth. In order to strengthen the mutual relationship between the two organizations, a high powered delegation under Director Dr. Zubair A. Shaikh alongwith Prof. Zafar Nasir, Head of Computer Science Department, Dr. Asim ur Rehman, Prof. Telecom & Computer Engineering Department, Dr. Nadeem A. Syed, Head of Management Science Department and Syed Masroor Ali, Manager Administration National University visited Hinopak Motors Limited.
Mr. Irfan Shaikh Director Sales & marketing Hinopak welcomed the team of university in Hinopak and expressed his thanks for procuring Hino vehicles for their institution. During his visit to Hinopak's Body Operation Plant Dr. Zubair A Shaikh appreciated the quality workmanship by Hinopak.
During the handing over ceremony of their buses Dr. Zubair said that our business relationship with Hinopak is a matter of great pride and we are confident that this mutually beneficial relationship will continue to prosper in future. They also discussed and agreed if university student can initiate some project which can benefit the auto industry thus scholastic institutes play their role in nation building.
Mr. Mohammad Irfan Shaikh, Director Sales & Marketing ensures that Hinopak will provide extensive strong backup support so that operation becomes more efficient and economical.