Pakistan’s Struggling Agriculture Sector – The Missing Piece in the Pie?

Pakistan is in dire need to urgently launch reforms to revitalize its agricultural sector. The immediate focus of the government should be on bringing Land Reforms.

Posted on 12/15/20
By Laraib Nisar | Via Matrix Mag
(Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank, CC license)
It is said that, if agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in the country. The ongoing Farmers’ Protest in India has raised many eyebrows across the region, and all the regional countries have a lot to learn from the Indian experience. Being an agricultural country, Pakistan’s economy relies largely upon the finances drawn from the domestic and international sales of Pakistan’s agricultural products.

The agriculture sector in Pakistan does not only guarantee sufficient production and availability of food for the general population but also acts as the main source of income for most of the rural population. It is a fundamental sector of Pakistan’s economy as it delivers raw materials to the main industrial units of the country and also has a key role in the export earnings of the country. The attainment of sustainable growth in the agriculture sector is necessary to fulfill macroeconomic objectives through its forward and backward connections with the other sectors. It accounts for 25 percent of GDP and absorbs almost 35.89 percent of the workforce.

The agriculture sector can contribute significantly to Pakistan’s development due to its role in providing employment and food to the local population. Along with reducing poverty, the agriculture sector can play a role in driving growth for countries whose economies are agriculture-based. Growing population size requires agricultural growth compatible to meet the required level of food.

But unfortunately, the backbone of our economy is not attended to with due importance. A range of hindrances keeps it from producing to its maximum potential. Issues like the availability of limited cultivable area (only 28% of total land), waterlogging and salinity, lack of proper allied products to facilitate the farmers, low per hectare yield, inadequate infrastructure, and supply of agricultural supplies are impacting this sector. Other challenges afflicting Pakistan’s agriculture sector include lack of proper irrigation facilities, unfair land holdings and land reforms, recurring natural calamities like floods, locust attacks, and other crop diseases, lack of education and research on agriculture, farmers’ lack of awareness of the financial services and facilities available for them, unstable market prices, lack of agricultural finances, and political instability lead to a lowering of per acre yield as compared to other developed countries.

Pakistan is in dire need of launching reforms to revitalize its agricultural sector. The immediate focus of the government should be on bringing land reforms. Taking the land from feudal lords and its redistribution among farmers will not only enhance per acre yield but also help in fighting other social evils. Moreover, special focus should be on bringing technological advancements in the agricultural sector. Modern technology should be provided to farmers to replace the traditional methods of agriculture. Proper training and education of farmers are necessary in this regard.

Agriculture production in Pakistan is reliant on one of the world’s most intricate systems of irrigation from canals and groundwater, which is not being optimally utilized. A comparison of wheat yields in the Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab shows that the yield in Pakistan can be raised by 40 percent through better use of irrigation water. Inept irrigation application at the field level can be controlled through techniques like lining the canals, zero tillage, laser leveling, and regular de-weeding.

Moreover, Pakistan’s agriculture sector is mostly water-intensive, which has led Pakistan towards a point that water has become scarce. With decreasing water availability, cropping patterns might get disturbed. Though Pakistan receives a lot of water due to the effects of climate change (e.g. excessive rains in monsoon and glacial melting), unfortunately, we aren’t able to save that water for agricultural purposes. Instead, this water is lost in the form of floods which cause a lot of destruction to crops. With the risks of floods and droughts increasing, the prospects of decreased agriculture productivity and food insecurity will face us starkly. The government of Pakistan should prioritize the construction of large-scale storage projects e.g. Dams, which will help in improving the water storage capacity along with the revitalization of the energy sector.

Furthermore, farmers should be provided with financial services and should be given concessions in taxes on imports of agricultural technologies to enhance the process of farm mechanization. They should be educated about the financial services available for them through mass awareness campaigns. Their access to the banks should be made easy, and the bank staff should be trained to deal with them efficiently and politely.

The supply chain also needs improvement, as our sources of transportation are inadequate, a regular supply of products is not possible for the market. The villages are not appropriately linked to the markets. For proper delivery of products to the market, there must be adequate as well as fast means of transportation. Additionally, the middleman culture should be ended, as middlemen take a big share of farmer’s crops without doing anything. The farmers borrow the money from them & sell their products at low prices. So this is a big loss to the farmers.

High yielding variety seeds are not available at affordable prices in Pakistan. So, farmers have to depend upon the low quality of seeds that causes 20% reduction in total production. The government should provide HYV seed at minimum prices to get export quality products. Moreover, agro-based industries like poultry, fisheries, dairy, and livestock should be established, as these industries indirectly help in improving the agricultural sector. While making all these efforts, the government’s focus should be on the facilitation of the farmers at grass root level. State providing insurance for crops will provide a sense of security to growers. Such measures will help in trust building between the growers and the State, thus saving Pakistan from a situation similar to that of India.

The author Laraib Nisar is a Defense and Strategic Studies’ graduate, working as a Researcher at the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS)

This article first appeared in MatrixMag. Click here to go to the original

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