Feb 13 - 19, 20

Agriculture, industry, and commerce are the three sectors on which every economy depends for its development. These sectors are mutually connected. Development and downfall of one sector become the cause of progress or regression of other two sectors.

Pakistan is an agrarian economy and therefore agricultural sector is comparatively more important for its economy than the other two.

Agriculture sector is of strategic importance for the economy because it provides livelihood to the people and raw materials to the industrial sector. Forty five per cent of total exports are contributed from agricultural sector. Twenty six per cent of GDP is contributed by agriculture, 52 per cent of total population of the country gets livelihood and 67 per cent of total population finds residential accommodation and employment directly from agricultural sector.

There are two crops in this sector namely Rabi (sown from April to June and reaped from October to December) and Khareef (sown from October to December and reaped from April to May).

The major crops of Pakistan are wheat, rice, maize, cotton and sugarcane and the minor crops include canola, onion, mangoes and pulses. Moreover, fisheries and forestry are also parts of agriculture sector.

The agriculture sector is facing various problems even though its contribution to the national income is dominant. Here, we highlight some of the problems that are the cause of agricultural backwardness and impede economic growth and development of the economy.

1. WASTE OF WATER: Rate of water wastage is very high in Pakistan. Archaic method of flood irrigation is being used due to which 50 to 60 per cent water is wasted. New system like drip irrigation has been introduced at different parts of the country which saves not only water from wastage but also provides water to the plants according to their need.

2. SOIL EROSION: Land is eroded through water and wind. Dry land is eroded by wind gust while barren land is eroded by water. Both of these problems exist in the province of Sindh. Trees and plants keep the land wet. There is acute shortage of forests and greenery in the province. A considerable area of land under cultivation is eroded ever year throwing land out of cultivation. No effective measures have so far been taken to address this issue.

3. FAST EXHAUSTION OF FERTILITY: After reaping the crop, steps are not taken to compensate the spent energy of land. Consequently, fertility of land is persistently diminishing. Agricultural land has six feet thick layer of fertile soil in Sindh and Punjab but productivity is lower than the countries, which have less than four feet thick fertile layer of soil.

4. USE OF OUTDATED TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES: Mechanized farming guarantees high productivity but outdated tools and techniques of cultivation are used due to which per hectare production is extremely low. In other words, average productivity of all the corps is one fourth in comparison of developed economies. Nepal, India, and Bangladesh are using modern methods to enhance the agricultural output and for this purpose are focusing on the use of modern tools like tractors, threshers, harvesters etc.

5. WATER LOGGING AND SALINITY: Water logging and salinity are tow-hidden enemies of crops. Water logged and saline area is spread day by day and proper measures have not been taken to combat this issue. According to a cautious estimate, approximately 100 hectares of land is becoming victim of these two problems.

6. SHORTAGE OF IRRIGATION WATER: Water storing capacity of two dams, due to silting, is decreasing constantly. Therefore, availability of irrigation water per hectare is also decreasing. Consequently, farmers are busy in making efforts to install tube wells for irrigating crops. Resultantly, in major parts of Sindh and Punjab problem of salinity is becoming more severe day by day.

7. WATER LOGGING IN PUNJAB: British government, during its regime, spread the network of canals in Punjab extracting the fertility of land. Canal irrigating system is the best system in Asia. These canals are flowing having nonmetallic bottom for more than 250 years. Consequently, seepage of water has raised the level of water underground creating problem of water logging. Cultivation in waterlogged land is not possible.

8. FRAGMENTATION OF LAND: According to the law of inheritance, after the death of father his moveable and immoveable property is distributed amongst his successors. The successors divide the land equal to the inherited portion and nothing can be grown on raised division lines.

Moreover, Pakistani farmer is born indebted, lives indebted and dies indebted. Chronic poverty compels the farmers to acquire loans from moneylenders pledging their land. Since they don't become capable to repay their loan with the money lender who, ultimately, snatch the land and divide it. Both these causes reduce the farm sizes on which mechanized farming is neither feasible nor possible. Majority of the cultivators have not more than four hectares of land.

9. SHORTAGE OF FINANCE: Finance and development are complementary. Farmers, due to their poverty, cannot use insecticides, pesticides, testified seeds, and chemical fertilizers. Credit facilities are almost nonexistent for cultivators. Agricultural credit banks provide loans to big zamidars or feudal lords who do not use these loans for betterment of land but for leading luxurious life.

10. ABSENCE OF SENSE OF OWNERSHIP: Majority of the farmers cultivate the land of feudal lords either as laborer or tenant. Since they do not have sense of ownership of land, they lose interest in the development of land. Sometimes the tenants are forced to leave the farm premature.

11. IGNORED CULTIVATORS: As the focus of the government rests on land, crops, and problems of productivity, the man behind the plough is ignored. At the time of planning for five or ten years, the importance of solution of the farmers problems is over sighted. Majority of Pakistani farmers are poor and illiterate therefore, loans acquired from banks or moneylender are used for other than agricultural purposes like marriage of children, repayment of old loans etc.

12. UNDERUTILIZATION OF AGRICULTURAL LAND: Vast lands are occupied by the feudal lords which are not manageable by them. Therefore, they bring only manageable area under cultivation and remainder is left uncultivated.

13. LOSS OF INTEREST IN CULTIVATION: As a consequence to expending urbanization, farmers are migrating from rural to urban areas on a large scale and so the lands that can be used for cultivation are used for their rehabilitation in the form of new colonies. Consequently, area under cultivation is reduced day by day.

14. MONOPOLY OF INSECTICIDE COMPANIES: Insecticides and pesticides making companies are monopolists which, acquiring huge loans from IMF, produce fictitious insecticides, and pesticides on large scale and provide at high prices to the poor farmers. These fictitious products cause harm to the crops.

15. WITHDRAWAL OF SUPPORT PRICES: The government withdrew subsidies on insecticides and pesticides. This coupled with energy crisis is damaging the sector.

16. UNDER UTILIZATION OF RESOURCES: Resources in agriculture sector refer to land, labor, and capital. A vast area of land that can be cultivated but due to many reasons, is lying uncultivated. Labor farmers are migrating to urban areas because small landholdings cannot provide them employment. So far, capital is concerned major part of rural capital is possessed by the big landlords who are using it for leading a luxurious life.

Solutions to the Problems: Solutions to the agriculture problems are suggested as under:

- Income from agriculture should be taxed but the tax ceiling should be fixed at higher level. Otherwise, small farmers would be penalized.

- Feudal landlordism should be abolished and the land should be distributed amongst landless farmers. This step would increase productivity of all the crops because the farmer would cultivate with the sense of ownership.

Preference should be given to the problems of small farmers.

Federal seed certification and federal seed registration system should be implemented but the approval for the seeds should be cautious because 36 seeds have already been approved. Registration of the seeds should be cancelled which are suspected to create pest problems in near future. Pest problem is generally found in cottonseeds. The makers of seeds are producing the seeds that are not successful as they have not been in the soil.

Consumer friendly policy should be adopted.

Productivity enhancement programs should be prepared which is possible only through price support.

Mechanized farming should be encouraged and promoted to enhance per hectare productivity. The poor farmers to fulfill this objective should be provided easy and sufficient loans on concessional rates.

Different agricultural zones should be introduced. For instance, Multan is the home of mangoes and citrus fruits. Therefore, Multan should be made 'Mango-Citrus Zone' through which perishable agricultural items may be exported. This step would promote agro-based industries and foreign exchange reserves will increase. Pasco (Pakistan agricultural storage and Service Corporation) can play an effective role.

Corporate farming may also be a good suggestion. The landowners who own vast fertile area beyond their managing control should give the excess land to companies for corporate farming.

The problem of irrigation can be solved through modern techniques like drop irrigation or sprinkle irrigation etc.

More dams/water reservoirs should be constructed on Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers. This measure would increase the water storing capacity through which cost of crops would decrease. These methods of irrigation would also control water logging and salinity because excess water spread by tube wells creates these problems.

Surplus fruits and vegetables should be exported for which agro-export processing zone can be established. This step would introduce commercialization in agriculture.