PAKISTAN CAN EMERGE AS A GLOBAL FOOD SUPPLIER

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Dec 17 - 23, 2012

It is generally said that agriculture is the strength of Pakistan which is true to a great extent; however this sector of great magnitudes deserves serious and scientific approach to harvest real benefits of this gift from the nature.

Roughly speaking around 22.7 million hectares of land is under cultivation under major crops which include cotton, rice, wheat, sugarcane etc contributing significantly to the economy, however the real potential of our rich lands, sufficient water can be tapped only after application scientific methods for water management and size of the crops.

According to Syed Ali Raza, former Chairman and President National Bank of Pakistan our agriculture sector can earn the position of a global food supplier for Pakistan and a major source of developing the economy as one of the major economies in the world.

Almost similar views were expressed by Makhdoom Amin Fahim last week at the first ever Halal Food Congress in the Middle East last week. He said that strength of Pakistan being a Muslim country is 100% halal production base with over 180 million consumers and a direct access to a market of 470 million Halal consumers in Afghanistan , Central Asia & Middle East.

Federal Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim said that Pakistan has emerged as an important player of food supplies to the UAE and the Gulf region particularly in rice, meat, poultry, sea food, fruits & vegetables and spices.

Since all food stuff produced in Pakistan are halal that puts the country in a position to claim a huge chunk of the global halal market with a little bit of effort which require certification as halal and subsequent labeling and packaging.

At the moment Pakistan's exports of food products to the UAE have increased to over US$ 500 million and more than US$ 1 billion to the GCC region. However, in order to capitalize on the available food production capacity it is imperative to focus more on value addition that could multiply the export earnings which can be achieved after well planned move towards establishing institutions led by the genuine experts for seeking collaboration of the world fame Halal Food suppliers to develop "Made in Pakistan" brands to capture the regional as well as the world food market.

He also urged upon the international Halal experts to formulate strategies to develop the production and export of halal products from the Islamic countries so that the halal market should source the halal food and other products from Pakistan , UAE and other Islamic countries. This he said will help develop the halal trade with the OIC countries and ultimately the standard of living of our population.

EXPORT OPPORTUNITIES IN THE GULF MARKET

It is learnt that food imports by the Gulf countries will double by 2020 to meet demand by residents enjoying higher levels of income. By the close of the next decade, the region will see food imports climb to $53.1 billion, a spike of 105 per cent from last year's $25.8 billion in regional imports. Research data suggests that the UAE will see a large jump in food imports to $8.4 billion by 2020, a 133 per cent increase from the $3.6 billion last year.

Numbers released also predict that the UAE's growing population will boost food consumption by 5.4 per cent annually from 7.8 million tonnes in 2011-2012 to 9.7 million tonnes in 2015.

Data reveal the UAE produces roughly 70 per cent of the fruit consumed domestically but still relies heavily on imported vegetables. With a hot desert climate, lack of sufficient fresh water to grow crops and less than two per cent of land able to sustain agriculture in large quantities, imports by the Gulf are expected to grow at a yearly rate of 4.6 per cent.

The numbers mean that the region will continue to import from 85 per cent to 90 per cent of its foodstuffs annually.

Members of the food industry are weighing the growing trends in the lead-up to the major Middle East food fair in Abu Dhabi this month that showcases the food, hospitality and drink sectors.

GCC countries are some of the most water-scarce in the world, with only 1.4 per cent of land suitable for agriculture. In this backdrop, Pakistan has the opportunity to grab this growing market by developing its agriculture base on scientific lines by imparting education and training to the farming community to enhance per acre yield of the huge area under cultivation.

LIVESTOCK & DAIRY PRODUCTION

It is estimated that in the current year the population of livestock has slightly improved as the population of cattle was registered at 36.9 million, Buffalo 32.7 million, Sheep 28.4 million, goat 63.1 million and camels population was static at one million for the three four years.

Pakistan has green pastures at a massive scale offering opportunity to increase livestock population manifolds which however requires financial support at an affordable cost to the farmers. The current size of livestock population places Pakistan as the fifth largest producer of milk and with the increasing in livestock population and arrival of some foreign investors in the dairy sector it is seemingly likely that Pakistan may improve its ranking in the world as a major milk producer.

CONCLUSION

In a way, the rural economy in Pakistan was not given due attention of people at the helm of affairs as majority of the decision makers love to spend most of their time in the urban centers. This situation provides an opportunity of the land lords, Wadderas and Landlords to drive the rural population according to their whims and wishes.

Time has come for the policy makers to evolve rural oriented policies and relocate the relevant ministries and government departments and related industries, universities and research centers in the rural centers if we really desire to make a good use of our rural population and develop our economy on sound footings. Presence of government departments and ministries in the rural area will help educational, infrastructural and social development in the so far neglected rural areas of the country where more than 76 percent of the population waiting for improvement of their living standards. It would also be helpful in defusing the ever increasing load of population shifting from less developed areas to develop urban enters in the country.