Dec 5 - 11, 20

Livestock and dairy sector, despite having immense potential, has been a victim of criminal neglect by the successive governments in Pakistan including the present PPP led government with a strong rural background.

Even at its lowest yield per cattle as compared to the world level, Pakistan is seventh largest milk producing country in the world. Its production is still surplus to our domestic requirement. However, due to the lack of proper planning and facilities, farmers living in remote rural areas use it per force. In addition to that, massive smuggling of cattle specially to Afghanistan, India and Iran has damaged the livestock sector as prices of meat during the last few years have risen abnormally.

After a long wait, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is now contemplating to take some effective measures to curb cattle smuggling to Afghanistan by establishing several multi-departmental check posts at the entry points of the province and the tribal belt, which would be equipped with computers, vigilance cameras and digital permit readers and manned by officials from livestock department, police and supervised by area commissioners. These latest devices will record data on the movement of cattle to and from the province which will be shared with the home department. Legal export will be allowed but would be restricted to only one point i.e. Torkham border at Khyber Agency.

The cattle export from Punjab will be registered and issued a certificate at Attock Bridge on KP-Punjab and then they would be escorted by police up to Torkham.

The exporters will have to pay tax or levy on their export quantum. A spokesman of the KP province claimed "this elaborate monitoring will not only help check smuggling but will also facilitate legal exporters and minimize corruption and stop the misuse of permit for export of animals and meat to Afghanistan".

Export is a federal subject and its regulation by a province, therefore, requires a very close cooperation and coordination between the federal and the provincial governments. But the way the federal government is being run these days, one cannot be sure that any scheme with the main objective of curbing corruption would be welcome by the federal government.

The outgoing government headed by Gen. Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz, in the year 2006, approved an ambitious five-year livestock development policy envisaging 100 percent increase in the production of milk and meat. The policy was launched with a big fanfare. According to the policy, the government was to focus on enhancing the production of meat, milk and wool through a number of measures to meet the six to seven percent of overall livestock growth annually.

The major thrust in the policy was to encourage private sector for playing the leading role in the development of livestock sector.

However, nothing was visible on the ground till 2008 when the General's government was ousted. Nothing seems to have been done so far by the incumbent during the last four years of its tenure.

With increase in population, the demand for meat and milk is increasing with every passing day. During almost a decade of Musharraf's rule, the prices of meat and milk registered almost 50 percent increase: the prices of milk rose from Rs25 a liter to Rs40, Curd from Rs35 to Rs55 a kilogram, mutton from Rs180 to Rs260 a kg.

The present PPP-led government has surpassed this record during the four years of its rule from 2008 onward. The prevailing prices (in Islamabad) of milk is Rs65 liter, curd Rs75 a kg, and mutton Rs400 a kg making use of these essential items a luxury beyond the reach of common person.

It is now imperative to increase the production of livestock products like meat, milk, and cheese in order to keep the prices of essential items within the reach of common person.

The government and private sector partnership can bring revolutionary changes by harnessing the immense potential in livestock, poultry and dairy sectors which need concrete steps to bring professional management to run this profitable businesses.

Experts believe that only a few good policies of the government can bring a rapid improvement in poverty reduction especially in the rural areas as dairy sector has its roots all over rural areas. The initiative taken by KP government is a timely action which should be fully supported by all concerned as unchecked smuggling of cattle to Afghanistan is a big drain to the country's livestock sector.