PAKISTAN'S AGRICULTURAL SECTOR

DR. S.M.ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
May 31 - June 6, 20
10

Pakistan is blessed by nature with fertile lands, network of rivers, sunshine, versatile climate, and vast potential of agricultural production. The country's major agricultural areas lie within the smooth plains formed naturally by mighty Indus River since time immemorial and its several tributaries such as Kabul, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej, which flow in southwardly directions, finally enter into a single stream and flowing into Arabian Sea near Karachi.

However, due to mismanagement of water resources, inadequate drainage systems, poor performance of existing irrigation and drainage systems, the agricultural production is far below its potential. At present, only 16.5 million hectares are under canal irrigation being fed by Tarbella, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs, 22 barrages, 12 inter-river link canals and 48 main canals.

Agriculture is economically important sector for the Pakistan's economy and it accounts for over 20 per cent of the GDP of Pakistan. The sector at present employs over 17 million workers, who represent 44 per cent of the total workforce while about 65 per cent exports from the country are agro-based.

Pakistan is the 6th most populous country of the world, with more than 170 million tough, diligent and hardworking people. Flanked by Iran and landlocked Afghanistan in the west, the central Asian Republics and China in the north and India in the southeast, Pakistan can boast of having a significant location advantage with a vast, only partially tapped, potential consumer market. With one of the highest peaks of the world in the north and vast plains in the south, it offers an unusual diversity of temperatures ranging from sub-zero level on the mountains in winter to scorching heat in the plains in summer.

Textile, sugar and many other industries mainly depend on this sector directly or indirectly for raw materials. It also happens to be the biggest source of foreign exchange earning by serving as a base for major industries. Large varieties of crops are cultivated throughout the year, including wheat, rice, cotton and sugar cane which account for 90 per cent of the value-added in major crops. Minor crops including oil seed, pulses and vegetables account for 12.4 per cent of the value-added in the overall agriculture.

Pakistan's natural resource base like land and water is under great stress because of growing population. It is now necessary that cereal production should be increased by at least 40 per cent over the next 25 years to meet needs for food, livestock feed and fiber crops.

It has been noted that the fertility of good soil is decreasing day by day due to intensive cropping in order to fulfill the needs of rapidly growing population. To maintain the fertility status of soils, application of different fertilisers is recommended by the agriculturist scientists. Like many other parts of the world, salinity and water logging are the major constraints limiting crop production in Pakistan.

Of the 22.2 mha of the total cultivable land, 6.62 mha are salt-affected. Soil salinity robs the country of about 25 per cent of its potential production of major crops. A major part of salt-affected soils (about 3.5 mha) is presently cultivated to rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, rape seed and other crops with substantial reduction in yield.

Conservation and management of water supplies is crucial as the demand for water continues to rise because of burgeoning population. Water shortage is a major factor impeding growth of the agricultural sector. Fluctuations in weather conditions, deficient storage capacity and poor use of available water culminate in water acting as a major constraint to agricultural growth.

Water losses are estimated to be approximately 25 per cent from the canal head to the outlet and another 15 per cent from the outlet to the farm gate mainly due to poorly linked canals and water courses.

Agricultural sector of Pakistan is usually divided into four main sub-sectors: crops, livestock and fisheries. Blessed with abundantly available national resources and favorable climate, Pakistan stands as an ideal place for crop, animal, forestry and fish production.

There are about 65 large and small institutes and over 62 sub-stations in the country. All research activities undertaken in the country pertaining to agriculture are being carried out by both provinces and federal government. The federal government plays a defined role in policy making, inter-provincial coordination, and foreign trade of agriculture related materials.

There are two growing seasons of crops in Pakistan: Kharif and Rabi. In Kharif season, mostly rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, etc. crops are grown, while in Rabi, the crops like wheat and vegetables are grown. Other crops grown in the country are bajra, jawar, barley, tobacco, sugar beet, guar, pulses, rape seed, mustard, groundnut, linseed, castor seed, onion, garlic, chillies, turmeric, ginger, potato, tomato. A

WHEAT: About 75 per cent of wheat are sown in irrigated area and 25 per cent in the rain-fed regions. On an average each household spends about 17 per cent of its total food expenditure on wheat and wheat flour. It contributes 12.5 per cent to the value added in the agriculture sector of the economy and accounts for nearly 38 per cent of the total cultivated area, 30 per cent of the value added by major crops and 76 per cent of the total production of food grains. The availability of the irrigation water through canals mainly contributes to the growth and production of wheat. Pakistan stands within the ten wheat producing country in the world. Wheat is grown on an area of 83.03 million hectares with an average of 2590 kg/ha. However, the yield per hectare is low compared to other wheat producing countries of the world.

Poor seedbed preparation, late sowing, lack of quality of seed, inadequate and ill-time irrigation, fertiliser, weed competition, insect and disease control, cultural practices, harvesting losses are major problems. Increasing the yield per acre is vital if self-sufficiency in wheat is to be attained. This can be done only by technological advancement and improved irrigation. Some important measures which could raise yield are: i) Plant breeders should be motivated to develop new high yielding wheat varieties especially those which are fit for late sowing; ii) Production and distribution of certified seed of the existing recommended varieties should be undertaken earnestly on an emergency basis; iii) fertilizer application in adequate quantities in right proportion and at the right time must be ensured; and iv) Farmers should be inspired to eliminate weeds from fields.

RICE: Rice is the second most important crop and the country earns billions of rupees through its export. Pakistan fine rice commonly known as Basmati is world famous and enjoys monopoly in the international market, due to its quality characteristics, strong aroma, slender and long kernel, and high degree of grain elongation on cooking. However, the grain yield of basmati rice varieties is very low. Rice occupies 11 per cent of the country's cropped area and contributes about 17 per cent of food grain production. Punjab is the biggest producer of rice in the country and contributes 48 per cent to national production. On an average, each household in Pakistan spends about 3.8 per cent of its total food expenditure on rice and rice flour. The contributions of basmati and coarse rice in rice exports were 54 per cent and 46 per cent, respectively.

COTTON: Cotton and its produce is obtained in the shape of seed cotton and cotton lint. The highest yield achieved in Pakistan was 12.28 million bales in 1991-92.

In Pakistan, cotton crop is cultivated in the southern Punjab and Sindh. It is the main input of textile industry. It is also providing livelihood to over 5 million people at the farm and industry and trade, furnishes raw material for 1035 ginneries and 445 textile mills and 650 oil expelling units. Cotton is a major summer crop and planted in March/April in Sindh and picking is done in September and in upper Sindh and Punjab. Sowing is carried out between May and June, while the picking period extends from October to January. Cotton picking is done entirely by women. It is sown on nearly 3 million hectares, contributing 29 per cent to the value added by major crops, thus, is grown on about 12 per cent of the cropped area which is higher than any other cash crop. The yield of cotton in the Punjab which contributes nearly 82 per cent in the total production ranged from 470 to 602 kg/hectare. A series of virus have significantly lowered the yield, although Pakistan's agricultural scientists have produced virus resistant seeds that have revived the crop.

SUGARCANE: Sugarcane is grown in three soils and climate zones, the tropical Sindh, the sub-tropical Punjab and the temperate Peshawar valley. It is an important cash crop of Pakistan. It ranks fourth in average cultivation after wheat, rice and cotton. Sugar industry of Pakistan is second to textiles. Sugarcane was cultivated on an area of over 1000 thousand hectares during the current fiscal year. In Pakistan, the yield of sugarcane is very low as compared to other sugarcane producing countries of the world. At present, sugar industry consists of 78 units - 32 in Sindh, 40 in the Punjab, and 6 in Sarhad. These mills crush 29 million tons sugarcane and produce about 2.4 million tons of sugar. Based on 160 days season, these sugar mills have a total crushing capacity of 60 million tons of sugarcane capable to produce 5 million tons of refined sugar and 3 millions of molasses. It is grown on an area of 1.12 million hectares. The average production is 46 tons/hectare. The per capita consumption of sugar in the country is about 25 kg.

EDIBLE OIL: Substantial amount of foreign exchange is spent on the import of soybean and palm. Per capita consumption of edible oil is 11 kg. Edible oil in Pakistan is produced from cotton, rape seed, mustard, groundnut and sesamum, while sunflower, soybean and safflower are recent past introductions.

TEA: Import bill stands at Rs15 billion annually. Pakistan imports 150,000 tons of tea every year. A huge quantity of tea is smuggled from land and sea routes. National Tea Research Institute cultivates tea over 360 acres. A private organisation has brought 900 acres under cultivation and the Sarhad govt has carried out tea plantation over 100 acres in Mansehra and Swat districts.

FORESTRY: Forest constitutes a meager 4.8 per cent (3.81 million hectares) of the total land area. A desired level of 22 to 25 per cent is considered to be essential for economic growth of a country, according to the United Nations. There is a great need for increasing forests to meet the growing requirement of firewood, timber which provide vital coverage to the country's watersheds and regulate the supply of water in the rivers. Forests play a crucial role in the protection of the environment and provision of oxygen to the air.

LIVESTOCK: The share of livestock in agriculture has increased from 30 to 48 per cent. Its foreign exchange earnings increased to Rs53 billion in 2007-08, 12.34 per cent of the total national export earnings as compared to its share of 5.3 per cent in 2007-08. It covers about 38 per cent of the agricultural value added and in providing directly or indirectly employment to about 50 per cent of the population and 8.3 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP).

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: The horticultural sector has the potential of contributing significantly to the income of farmers and export incomes of Pakistan. Citrus, mango, banana, apple, guava, apricot, peach, pears, plums, grapes, pomegranate, dates, almonds etc are grown in the country. The vegetables grown in the country are: lady finger, carrot, onion, tomato, potato, garlic, cauliflower, brinjal, peas, beans, cucumber, turnip, pumpkin, green chillies, ball pepper, kakri, ginger, cabbage, spinach, kulfa, turnip etc.

FISHERIES: Fish and fishery products are exported to Japan, the USA, UK, Germany, Middle East, Sri Lanka, China etc. The total number of persons engaged in fisheries during 2008-09 was estimated at 495,000 and 270,000 in inland fisheries. It has been reported that in Balochistan coastal area the catch is lower than the coast of Sindh. About 45 per cent of the total fish productions are utilised in the production to fishmeal, 35 per cent marketed as fresh fish and for local consumption.

The general problems associated with agriculture of this region are scarcity of water, floods, water logging, soil erosion, low yield per unit area, traditional and old methods of cultivation, quality of inputs, pests and disease attacks.