May 17 - 23, 2010

Agriculture is the largest sector of Pakistan's economy and accounts for 26 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It provides employment to over 40 per cent of total employed workforce. Agriculture has an enormous influence on the socioeconomic fabric of the society. Approximately 70 per cent of Pakistan's foreign exchange earnings come from the sale of agricultural products such as cotton, rice, fruits and vegetables, etc.

According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2008-09 agriculture has grown at an average rate of 4.1 per cent per annum since 2002-03. In FY 2009-10 the country is facing a severe shortage of water and electricity and modest growth of 4.5 per cent is being predicted against actual growth of 4.7 per cent in FY 2008-09. However there is a remote possibility of food crisis this year.

There are two principle crop seasons in Pakistan: "Kharif" the sowing season begins in April-June and harvesting during October-December; "Rabi" which begins in October-December and ends in April-May.

Rice, sugarcane, cotton, maize, mong, mash, bajra and jowar are Kharif crops while wheat, gram, lentil (masoor), tobacco, rapeseed, barley and mustard are Rabi crops. Major crops, such as wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane account for 89.1 per cent of the value added in the major crops.

The agricultural GDP comprises of four major sub sectors including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry.

The most important food crops in Pakistan are wheat, rice, maize, millet and pulses. The most important cash crops in Pakistan are cotton and tobacco. Cotton is the country's leading export. Tobacco is also an important cash crop. The best tobacco growing areas are in Mardan and Peshawar.

Pakistan lags behind the world's major agricultural producers in crop yields. There is an acute shortage of water in FY 2009-10 which may lead to production lower than the targets. However, overall output of cotton and rice is better than in fiscal 2009. The country has produced 6.88m tonnes of rice so far in 2009-10, exceeding the target of 6.1 million tonnes. The Federal Committee on Agriculture has a target of 14 million bales of cotton in 2009-10, but output is likely to be 12.8 million bales.

The unprecedented water shortage is a threat to achievement of cotton goals. Pakistan is likely to reap 24 million tonnes of wheat in 2010, matching 2009 production. There is an expectation of a surplus of 4 million tonnes (including 1.5 million tonnes left over from last year), which will enable it to store 2 million tonnes and export another 2 million tones.

LIVESTOCK: Livestock plays an important role in the economy of the country. Livestock sector contributed approximately 51.8 per cent of the agriculture value added and 11.3 per cent to national GDP during 2008-09. Poultry sector is one of the vibrant segments of agriculture industry of Pakistan. This sector generates employment (direct/indirect) and income for about 1.5 million people. Its contribution in agriculture growth is 4.81 per cent and in livestock growth 9.84 per cent.

FISHERIES: Fisheries as a sub-sector plays a significant role in the national economy and towards the food security of the country, as it reduces the existing pressure on demand for mutton, beef and poultry. Seafood includes tuna, mackerel, shrimp, prawns, molluscs, lobsters, crabs and barnacles etc. It is considered as one of the most important activities along the coastline of Sindh. Pakistan needs to improve hygiene and environmental conditions in handling fish and its products to increase its share in EU and Japanese markets

FORESTRY: Value addition by forestry has been experiencing a continuous decline since last five years. The production of timber and fire wood has dropped to 280,000 cubic meters. This awfully disappointing performance is primarily due to massive deforestation - unabated cutting of trees and forests coupled with dismal law and order situation in Northern Areas.

Agriculture also has indirect economic contribution and linkages with the other parts of the economy. The development of agriculture is synonymous with the development of the economy. The sector provides the raw materials for major industries, such as textile, sugar and to several other medium and small scale industries which account for about 50 per cent of total value of industrial production. Any change in agricultural productivity, therefore, sends a ripple effect throughout the other sectors


Pakistan can become an agricultural market leader in the South Asian region if there is some diversification in the cultivation of crops. India and Brazil have a dynamic agriculture model which is a powerhouse for the economy. We need to follow the same robust pattern. The government should motivate private sector to invest in agriculture and rural development. Pakistan should concentrate more on production of staple cereals such as wheat, rice and sugarcane. Also, we need to work more on fruits and vegetables in order to add value to our export trade.

The domestic banks should provide more credit to farmers to enhance auxiliary services like cold storage facilities and better logistics which are likely to strengthen our supply chain. There should be a comprehensive strategy to construct new dams and water reservoirs. Farmers should also adopt means to conserve water. Drip irrigation system is a good option which produces more crops per drop and supplies enough water to moisten the soil at each root but leaves the ground otherwise dry. The cultivation of hybrid cotton and lining of waterways is also necessary in order to enhance crop output and to reduce waste of irrigation water.

Investment in agriculture research can yield more output as opposed to government subsidies on inputs such as fertilisers. The government should extend technical and financial support to farmers in adopting modern technology to enhance crop yield. A considerable amount of investment and dedication are required to address these issues.