S.KAMAL HAYDER KAZMI,
Research Analyst, PAGE
July 4 - 10, 2011
Pakistan is a developing country and agriculture is its backbone. Over 70 per cent of the population in this country is living in the rural areas and associated mainly with the agriculture activities.
The country is blessed with vast agricultural resources on account of its fertile land, well-irrigated plains, extremes of weather, and centuries old tradition of farming. It is because of its central importance in the economy that the government has identified agriculture as one of the four major drivers of growth. The country produces one of the best quality food items such as wheat, rice, sugarcane, maize, fruits, vegetables, grams, cotton, livestock, and fisheries.
But unfortunately, this sector has lost significant growth momentum as its growth slowed down to 2.7 per cent in the decade of 2000s as against 4.4 per cent in 1990s and 5.4 per cent in the 1980s. The structural problems and lack of mechanization remained main impediment to growth.
Major crops remained the victim of natural calamities during the last few years and three out of last four years witnessed negative growth in the major crop sector. The unprecedented floods in July 2010 destroyed two major crops, i.e. rice and cotton.
As reported by Suparco, an area of 2.364 million hectares under Kharif crops 2010 was damaged. During the outgoing year 2010-11, the overall performance of agriculture sector exhibited a weaker growth mainly due to negative growth of major crops and forestry. Against the growth target of 3.8 per cent, and previous year's performance of 0.6 per cent, agriculture is estimated to grow by 1.2 per cent. Major crops, accounting for 31.1 per cent of agricultural value added, registered a negative growth of four per cent for second year in a row mainly because of decrease in production of rice and cotton by 29.9 and 11.3 per cent, respectively. Minor crops accounting for 10.9 per cent of overall agriculture value addition, grew 4.8 per cent as against negative growth of last two years.
The livestock sector having 55.1 per cent stake in the agriculture sector was also impacted by the massive floods and witnessed marked slowdown recorded growth at 3.7 per cent in 2010-11 as against 4.3 per cent last year. The sector is immune from weather related problems and thus offers prospects for consistent growth.
Fishery sector grew 1.9 per cent as against last year's growth of 1.4 percent. Forestry has experienced negative growth of 0.4 per cent this year as compared to last year's growth of 2.2 per cent.
Pakistan faces enormous challenges in agriculture sector. It produces some of the finest food items. Despite being an agriculture country, it faces shortage of food, which is extremely unfortunate for the country. There are number of reasons for the current situation. The neglecting attitude of the government towards agriculture resulted in non-availability of seeds, pesticides and rising inflation because of which input costs are high. Pakistan's agricultural performance is dependent upon availability of irrigation water. Against the normal surface water availability at canal heads of 103.5 million acre feet (MAF), the overall (both for Kharif as well as Rabi) water availability has been less in the range of 2.5 per cent (2005-06) to 20.6 per cent (2004-05). Relatively speaking, Kharif season 2010 faced more shortage of water than any other Kharif seasons since 2003-04. During the current fiscal year (2010-11), the availability of water as a basic input for Kharif 2010 has been 20 per cent less than the normal supplies and 21 per cent less than last year's Kharif season. The water availability during Rabi season is, however, estimated at 34.6 MAF, which is five per cent less than the normal availability, and 38 per cent more than last year's Rabi crop. Pakistan has a large proportion of soils, which is unsuitable for agricultural practices and only 21.2 per cent land is under cultivation. The major factors attributed to affect the land-use include soil salinity and sodality, water logging, and soil contamination with heavy metals and metalloids, which are thought to have a drastic affect on crop yield and quality; the contaminants are also posing health risks to the environment.
In the country, the small farmers are increasing as the lands are dividing generation by generation. So, there are large number of farmers who own only four acres of land. These small farmers do not get credit facilities to purchase seeds, pesticides, fertilizers etc. Additionally, feudal lords own a large area of land and the farmers, who work on their lands, are just tenants. This uncertain situation of occupancy neither creates incentive of work nor does attract capital investment.
Agriculture occupies a substantial proportion of Pakistan land, and consequently plays an important role in maintaining natural resources and cultural landscapes, a precondition for other human activities in rural areas. Unsustainable farming practices and land use, including mismanaged intensification and land abandonment, have an adverse impact on the country's natural resources. Therefore, the government immediately should device proper short term and long-term strategy.