PAKISTAN AGRI CONFERENCE
RESEARCH IMPERATIVE FOR AGRICULTURE REVOLUTION
Feb 13 - 19, 2012
The government at the highest level has realized that a revolution in agriculture products and value addition cannot be achieved sans involvement of the private sector in research, development, and value addition in agriculture products.
This was stated by Zafar Mahmood, Federal Secretary for Commerce at Pakistan Agriculture Conference held at Expo Center Karachi. The conference was supported by USAID, FAO, and USDA.
Zafar Mehmood raised another important point while discussing the agriculture issues that it is high time that the government should privatize, or outsource the agricultural research and seed development programs in order to get maximum benefits for this much-neglected sector.
Although the government is spending a lot on the agricultural research and seed development programs since long, there is a need that the government should transfer these programs to the private sector for better results and to catch up with the world trends.
So far, we have neglected value addition in the agriculture sector, and agri extension services of the provincial governments are not available to the poor farmer.
The role of provincial governments in agri exports is minimal. 'The land records should be computerized and traditional old system should be abolished, so that the farmer can spend his time on increasing the productivity of its lands instead of tackling land record issues,' he added.
'An efficient infrastructure development in the agriculture sector has also been neglected which calls for immediate and effective follow-ups. Since today's world is very competitive, the provincial governments are being pursued to go for value addition and provide the people with efficient infrastructure,' said Zafar Mehmood.
Similarly, the Utility Stores Corporation should also be privatized for better supply chain scenario in the country, as they have huge spread and they will be quite much help to the farmers.
He conceded that the government has neglected value addition in the agriculture sector, and agri extension series of the provincial governments are not available to the poor farmer. The role of provincial governments in agri exports is minimal.
Another issue is the agri exports, for which we are not doing enough to get the maximum benefits, he said, adding that we still are not able to export mangoes to Japan despite Japan's plausible assistance in this regard many years back. Even the best Kinnows we have in the Sargodha region were not being exported a few years ago. Now some 150 latest processing plants have been established there by the investors from Karachi, which has resulted in the forex of $100m for the country, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Ali Abbas Qazilbash of United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) said that currently the organization is helping the country through direct technical assistance and investment & technology transfer programs.
'Pakistan needs to have better productivity and value added products in the sector through the use of latest technology, which can maximize the benefits of high value agri exports,' he added.
A project trade related technical assistance (TRTA) funded by European Union (EU) is meant for the support of the country in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, horticulture etc. and will help the country to have access to the international markets, he said.
Dean and Director of Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Dr. Ishrat Hussain while delivering his keynote presentation titled 'Agricultural Productivity & Economical Development' said that at the time of independence Pakistan had 75 per cent labor associated with the agricultural sector that was contributing 50 per cent to the national GDP. Now, agriculture accounts for 40 per cent labors and 20 per cent of GDP.
'Through progressive production practices, wheat production in the country can easily witness the growth up to 35 million tons from the current production of 25 million tons,' he said adding that the issue that needs to be addressed includes inefficiently organized land markets that result in low production, distorted water market (the influential gets maximum water), unequal water distribution (the poor farmer has no water), non-liberal retail market, low preference to the agri sector, and unavailability of quality certification methods (strengthened quality assurance mechanisms to help both the consumer and the exporter) etc.
Chief Executive Officer of Engro Foods Limited Afnan Ahsan while addressing the gathering talked about the challenges and opportunities the dairy industry of the country has been facing. He said that the value of dairy component of the agriculture sector is Rs500 billion, which is 15 times higher than the mango market, but it is overlooked by the policymakers.
The demand of the dairy products is continuously outpacing the supply, as the industry requires 11 liters of milk from one cow, which is currently standing at four liters. Therefore, this gap has been resulting in price increase. Non-commercialized scattered farming is another issue and adding to it is the export of 11 per cent of our female breeding stock to Afghanistan, he added.
'We are 9th among the world's backward countries that are facing quality issues because in Karachi we have 12 million bacteria count in one liter of milk, while in New Zealand the count is 12 thousands per liter. Therefore, we will never be able to export milk,' said Afnan. The government has to establish regulatory framework for this industry, he added.
Many technical experts, government officials, high ups of the private sector, scientists, development mangers of the sectors like sea food & fisheries, horticulture, grain & cereals, meat & poultry, dairy etc. participated in the conference.
The Pakistan Agri Conference 'Agricultural Competitiveness through Value Addition' was supported by the Australian Trade Commission, USAID, United States Department of Agriculture, Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Punjab Government, and Punjab Board of Investment and Trade among many others.