Dec 14 - 20, 2009

Agriculture sector of the country has a prominent presence of smallholders and sharecroppers, and is fraught with poor infrastructure, lack of technology utilization, as traditional ways still are the driving force of the growth in the sector, large tracts of culturable wastes, high input costs, and inefficient marketing channels.

A logical thinking would perhaps not give a second thought to proposal of investment, and that is too in huge size, no matter if it is local or international, as investment is the only way that can multiply the share of agriculture sector in the economy and bring transformation in the lives of farmers. Growth in agriculture is necessary to give impetus to the economy, as this sector underpins the economic progress.

However, some people from civil society and local non-government organizations are against the investment of foreigners in the agriculture sector. Specifically, they do not want government to allow multinational corporations to farm on local agriculture lands, for various reasons. It is worthwhile to recall that government of Pakistan leased out tracts of agriculture lands to foreigners, reportedly of Middle East.

According to critics, corporate agriculturists rob local small farmers of space to operate because of their highly competitive operation. Abdul Khaliq who is campaigning against the corporate agriculture through online media, and claims to be a small farmer, is of the view that foreigners' entry in the agriculture sector minimizes the participation of subsistence farmers in farming and limits their role to mere a factor of production. Rather, machineries following corporatization of agriculture would replace them, he comments. 'One has to remember that Pakistan's is labor-intensive agriculture sector.'

According to agriculture analysts, corporate agriculture can be a blessing in disguise for agriculture economy if it is 'economically viable, socially responsible, and ecologically sound'. With unnecessary political interpretation of every matter, exploitation of land and labour, and indifference to biodiversity, the present map of agriculture sector is difficult to have space for regulated corporate agriculture, Khaliq tells this scribe. 'The biggest harm is that million of small farmers would lose their income sources and be overpowered by large corporate giants who have profit seeking a primary motive.' But, he could not figure out alternative ways to free farmers from the clutches of local exploiters, who exploit them at will. He says funds are no problem until leakage in distribution of funds is plugged. 'Rooting out corruption is the way-out, alone which can ensure sustainable agriculture, and not handing over state resources to outsiders.' He is against privatization. 'It does not mean that I do favor status quo,' says he.

Since corporation runs on profits, a consistent setback to its profit-line or any other roadblock threatening its existence in a given environment can propel it towards divestment or rollback. There are some examples in particular in agriculture sector in some nations where private sector because of unprofitable agribusiness fled at the peril of dependable peasants on the upstream and local contractors, says he referring to examples of Manila. Pakistan is ceding control over food, water, and local economies to multinationals, in addition to about to have a severe cutback to bio-diversity. According to critics, commercial enterprises invest in crops, which are cash for them and in this bid may bring a downfall for staple crops needed for survival. Mono-crop production unchains a score of negative fallouts on flora and fauna, subsurface, irrigation, and ecology altogether. So they argue, instead of bringing food security, this would result in a damage to food security. Most of Middle East countries in a bid to save import cost of foods are involving directly in crop production in agriculture countries.

Like many other corporate structures in different economic sectors, corporate agriculture is guided by a commercial motive to invest in any project. Multinational corporations out of expansionary strategy bring in to action investment plan across its original operational base. Basically, ample capital is what differentiates them with the state functionary that needs to confine its expenditures within a certain boundary or to maintain equilibrium while deciding about development expenditures.

Corporate agriculture has been a famous agent of turning around agriculture economy in various countries across the world. American agriculture is typified by dominance of multinationals, which once remained a chief participant of agriculture production in the country, investing in farming, taking patents of certain technology, and contracting out local growers to get support for their main operation. The question of significance is of technology through which crops' production can be enhanced and modified (or genetically engineered to have desirable characteristic of product).

For many agriculture economists, making technology and capital available, and market accessible to small farmers in developing countries is possible only through corporatization of agriculture sector as this is followed by improvement in infrastructure. Small farmers play a very important role in the agriculture economy of Pakistan. To say that the percentage of subsistence farming is high in the country is true.

Farmlands' holding is highly skewed in the country, constituted largely by smallholders. Smallholding undermines the agriculture productivity, as per agriculture researches. Through land reforms, government of Pakistan had put a ceiling on 12.5 acres, but some expresses doubt over the capacity of such holding on improving productivity. Ceiling aside, majority of households is without land ownership and pay share of crops to landlords as rent of land. These sharecroppers or tenant farmers farm at subsistence. There are suggestions of establishing direct market links and developing on-farm resources to make small farming sustainable.