AGRICULTURE SECTOR

DR. S. M. ALAM & DR. M. A. KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Feb 13 - 19, 20
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Agriculture sector is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy. It is the biggest sector of the economy. Pakistan like many developing countries of the world is faced with the problem of low agricultural productivity. The country is totally dependent on agriculture for the supply of food and fiber.

Therefore, it is imperative to increase food and fiber production to cope up not only with ever-growing demands, but also for the sake of foreign exchange earnings and to attain self-sufficiency. Rapid agricultural growth can stimulate and sustain the pace of industrial growth, thus setting into motion a mutually reinforcing process of sustainable economic growth.

Agricultural sector is usually divided into four main sub-sectors: crops, livestock, forestry, and fisheries.

Blessed with favorable climate and soil conditions, Pakistan stands as an ideal place for crop, animal, forestry, and fish production.

All research activities pertaining to agriculture are carried out by both provinces and federal government. The federal government plays a defined role in policymaking, inter-provincial coordination, and foreign trade of agriculture related materials.

Agriculture accounts for over 20 per cent of gross development product (GDP). The sector employs over 17 million workers representing 44 per cent of total workforce. About 68 per cent of population are living in the rural areas. About 65 per cent exports are agro-based.

Agricultural production is dominated by grain productions, which directly or indirectly depend on agriculture. Agriculture is very important for Pakistan. Over 70 per cent of total population lives in the rural areas, and the major source of their incomes is agriculture.

Pakistan is the 6th most populous country of the world, with more than 180 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 south-east, Pakistan can boast of having a significant location advantage with a vast, only partially tapped, potential consumer market.

Having 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 subzero level on the mountains in winter to scorching heat in the plains in summer.

It provides friendly habitat to exquisite ranges of flora and fauna and a large variety of agricultural crops used for both food and raw materials for industries and exporting purposes.

Total export income is about $20 billion, which comes through exporting cotton, textiles, rice, leather items, sports goods, carpets, fruits, handicrafts, and seafood. Similarly, the total import expenditure is about $33 billion, on industrial equipments, vehicles, iron ore, petroleum, edible oil etc.

The sector is exposed to a number of problems including poor yields, inadequate marketing channels, water shortages, and indiscriminate use of pesticides.

The yields of major crops like cereals production are decreasing due to variety of reasons. The most significant factors appear to be ecological changes and timely availability of inputs like pest-resistant stock of seed varieties and water fit for irrigation.

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.

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 overall agriculture. The sustainability of agriculture depends on the prudent use of natural resources and careful considerations of environment.

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. Similarly, production of all other major food products shall have to be increased to meet the demand. The per capita agricultural land continues to shrink and land resources are increasingly depleting. The perpetual problems of salinity and deforestation have become menace.

Fertility is decreasing day by day due to intensive cropping in order to fulfill the needs of rapidly growing population. To maintain the fertility of soils, application of different fertilizers is recommended by the agriculturist scientists.

Like many other parts of the world, salinity and water logging are the major constraints limiting crop production.

Of the 22.2 million hectares (mha) of the total cultivable land in Pakistan, 6.62 mha are salt-affected land.

Soil salinity may be robbing about 25 per cent of its potential production of major crops.

In Pakistan, conservation and management of water supplies is crucial as the demand for water continues to rise because of burgeoning population. Agriculture is predominantly irrigated. Fluctuations in weather conditions, inadequate storage capacity, and poor use of available water culminate in water acting as a major constraint to agricultural growth.

A substantial amount of water is also lost annually to water management inefficiency. 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 watercourses.

The most basic constraint in the development of agriculture in our country is inadequate irrigation supplies, widespread occurrence of water logging and salinity and low level of modern farm inputs.

Inadequate water supplies have resulted in low cropping intensities and are responsible for low yield.

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 flow 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 products are comprised of major and minor crops, vegetables and spices, fruits, edible oils, livestock, milk, poultry, fisheries etc.

Cash crops are sugarcane, cotton, sugar-beet and guar-seed. Pulses are gram, mung, masoor, mutter, and mash. Edible oilseeds are linseed, groundnut, soybean, sunflower, canola, safflower, and cottonseed.

Fruits, vegetables and floricultures have important impact on agricultural economy. The annual production of fruits, vegetables and spices is more than 12 million tons.

The important fruits include (in 000 tons): citrus (2,348), mango (1,074), dates (622), apples (380), banana (158), apricot (206), almonds (23), grapes (49), guava (571), peach (70), pears (31), plums (61), and pomegranate (50).

Some of fruits grown have great potential for exports, which are available in volumes. These are mangoes, citrus, grapes, dates, apples, peaches, and cherries. Other prominent fruits with enormous export potential are plums, pears, guava, etc. Among vegetables, potatoes, garlic, ginger and onions are vastly grown nationwide.

Pakistan spends a huge amount on edible oil import bill to meet 75 per cent of local demand. The production of vegetables (in 000 tons) include tomato (426), potato (2025), onion (1,817), garlic (56), chilies (91), turmeric (38), and ginger (41).

The per capita consumption of food items is (kg/capita/year): cereal 155, wheat 125, rice 22, pulses 8.08, edible oil 14, milk 121, sugar 24, mutton 1.44, beef 4.9, chicken 0.96, fish 0.72, fruits 15.7, vegetables 65.6, tea one, sugar 24 etc.

There are two growing seasons of crops in Pakistan: Kharif and Rabi.

Mostly rice, cotton, sugarcane, maize, etc. are produced in Kharif. Wheat and vegetables are grown in Rabi. Other crops grown in the country are bajra, barley, tobacco, sugar beet, guar, pulses, rape seed, mustard, peanut, linseed, castor seed, cumin, onion, garlic, chilies, turmeric, ginger, potato, tomato, radish, turnip, cabbage, cauliflower etc.

Wheat is a major and most important food crop and a staple food. Wheat is the main staple food for the vast majority of the country's population and occupies a central and pivotal position among food grains of the country.

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 most remarkable progress has been made in the improvement of wheat yields during the last few decades.

The availability of the irrigation water through canals mainly contribute to the growth and production of wheat. Wheat remains the central theme of self-sufficiency program in the country. With the advent of 'green revolution', national wheat production increased from four million tons in 1965-66 to over seven million tons in 1968-69, making Pakistan the first developing country in Asia to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production.

During the last 40 years, the new wheat varieties have been regularly evolved by various wheat breeding programs. 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.

There is an urgent need to increase the yield of wheat per acre and that can be increased by the use of high yielding varieties, certified seed, fertilizers in right proportion, pesticides, adequate quantities of water, larger labor, inputs resulting in better tillage operations, and strictly following the crop calendar. This is only possible when the crop is properly planted, at an optimum time, with an insuring optimum stand, and the required tilling.

Some important measures which could raise yields 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 (this is crucial for sustaining momentum and deserves almost attention); iii) wheat should be sown at proper time (timely and adequate irrigation should be ensured); iv) fertilizer application in adequate quantities in right proportion and at the right time must be ensured; v) farmers should be inspired to eliminate weeds from fields.

The major area of wheat lies in Punjab followed by Sindh. Pakistan has all the required basic ingredients such as fertile land, sufficient irrigation water, hard working farmers, certified seed varieties of local and foreign origin and modern technology in abundance, but these should be utilized at optimal. About 75 per cent of wheat are sown in irrigated area and 25 per cent in the rain-fed regions.

Rice is the second most important crop, bringing economic prosperity and earning billions of rupees through its exports for country. Basmati enjoys monopoly in the international market, due to its quality characteristics, strong aroma, slender and long kernel, intermediate amylase content, gelatinization, temperature, and high degree of elongation on cooking. However, the grain yield of basmati rice varieties is very low. In order to remain in the international market, we have to further improve the quality as well as yield of basmati varieties.

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. All rice is irrigated and mainly transplanted. On an average, each household in Pakistan spends about 3.8 per cent of its total food expenditure on rice and rice flour.

After Thailand, Vietnam, U.S., and India, Pakistan is one of the largest rice-exporting country in the world.

Cotton is obtained in the shape of seed cotton and cotton lint. Cotton is the second most important cash crop of our country after wheat, in terms of area and value added. It is a creditable source of valuable foreign exchange for the country with an annual production of nearly 12 million bales accounting for over 60 per cent of Pakistan's foreign exchange earnings. Cotton is the country's most vital economic asset. During 1991, Pakistan ranked third globally after china and the U.S., in production.

Cotton crop is cultivated in the southern Punjab and Sindh. It brings cash returns to the farmers, supplies raw materials to the textile industry, and provides employment in both the rural and the urban areas.

Cotton is the major textile fiber used by man. It is also providing livelihood to over five million people at the farm and industry and trade and furnishes raw materials 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. The time of sowing is so adjusted that the young seedlings escape the early summer heat as much as possible. The climate of lower Sindh is milder than that of upper Sindh and the Punjab. It is sown on nearly three 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.

Cotton is mostly grown on the alluvial plains of the Indus basin. Cotton is grown on loamy soil, and requires a minimum temperature of 25oc and a maximum of 35oc. Cotton needs 5-6 watering, 24 inches from flat fields and 16 for ridge cultivation and 6-7 pesticide sprays depending on the intensity of pest infestation.

It competes directly with rice in those areas where both crops can be cultivated. Cotton in combination with winter crops also competes indirectly with sugarcane as the latter occupies land resources round the year.

The yield of cotton in the Punjab, which contributes nearly 82 per cent in the total production, ranges from 470 to 602 kg/hectare. Series of virus have significantly lowered the yield, although Pakistan's agricultural scientists have produced virus resistant seeds that have revived the crop.

Sugarcane is grown in three soils and climate zones, the tropical Sindh, the subtropical Punjab and the temperate Peshawar valley. It is cultivated successfully in tropical area but nowadays it can also be grown well in sub-tropical areas, where summer temperatures favor this crop and irrigation facilities are available. Sugarcane is an important cash crop. It ranks fourth in average cultivation after wheat, rice, and cotton. It is the mainstay of the sugar industry.

Yield per hectare of sugarcane has increased remarkably since the inception of Pakistan, but it is a matter of great concern, that yield per hectare and sugar recovery is very low as compared with other sugarcane growing countries of the world. Sugarcane growers are always interested in the cultivars that offer more tonnage, while miller is more conscious of quality.

The average production is 46 tons/hectare. Sugar consumption is about 4.2 million tons per annum. The per capita consumption of sugar in the country is about 25 kg.

EDIBLE OIL: despite the fact that Pakistan is overwhelming an agrarian economy, it is unable to produce edible oil sufficient for domestic requirements and substantial amount of foreign exchange is spent on imports of soybean and palm oil from foreign countries.

Edible oil is produced from cotton, rape seed, mustard, groundnut and sesamum, while sunflower, soybean and safflower are recent introductions.

Tea: Pakistan National Research Council established the national tea research institute (NTRI) in 1970 to lead the country towards self-sufficiency in tea production and to reduce the import bill. Pakistan imports 150,000 tons of tea every year. A huge quantity of tea is smuggled from land and sea routes. Forestry: Pakistan does not possess adequate forest resources since forest area constitutes a meager 4.8 per cent (3.81 million hectares) of the total land area of 79,61 mh. A desired level of 22 to 25 per cent is considered to be essential for economic growth of a country as suggested by the United Nations. The forest sector supports 30 million herds of livestock, conserves soil, regulates water flow for irrigation and power generation, reduces sedimentation, maintains ecological balance, and provides 3.7 million cubic meters of wood and one third of the nations energy requirements. There is a great need for increasing forests to meet the growing requirement of firewood, timber, which provides vital coverage to the country's watersheds and regulates the supply of water in the rivers. Pakistan's forests are a valuable basic natural resource, which provides food, fodder, forage for cattle, fuel wood, timber wood for building and other materials, and medicinal plants. They provide shelter and protection and are a source of income and employment. Forests play a crucial role in the protection of the environment and provide oxygen to the air. Forestry is generally characterized by lack of adequate area under forests, very low per capita consumption of wood and use of outdated forest technology in planting and harvesting operations.

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES: Pakistan experiences different climatic conditions in its different regions, which provides it with a unique opportunity of growing fruits and vegetables all year round. Each region of Pakistan is adept at growing particular kinds of fruits. The horticultural sector has the potential of contributing significantly to the income of farmers and export incomes.

FISHERIES: The fishery sector contributes a small percentage to GDP, but a large per cent to the export sector through its exports of shrimp and fish. The sector contributes substantially to the national income through export earnings. Fish and fishery products are exported to Japan, the U.S., UK, Middle East, Sri Lanka, China etc. Everybody knows that fish production is an important source of protein and income through export, and employment.

Livestock sector accounts for 46 per cent of agricultural value added and about 10.8 per cent of GDP. The livestock population is (in million): buffalo (26.3), cattle (24.2), goat (56.7), sheep (24.9), poultry (366), camels (0.8), asses (4.2), horses (0.3), and mules (0.3).

Livestock products are (in 000 tons): milk (31,051), beef (1,115), mutton (740) and fat (136.3).

The dairy products are milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, power milk, and ice cream. Poultry farming is an agro-based industry.