Pakistan: Ensure Food Security And Optimize Agricultural Production Through Innovative Technologies – OpEd


Pakistan’s economy depends heavily on agriculture, which generates 18.5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), provides a living for 64% of its rural population, and engages 38.5% of the workforce overall. The industry contributes significantly to the country’s socioeconomic growth and has direct and indirect connections to other economic sectors.

Low average yields, high production costs, and low-quality food are all creating room in our local marketplaces for imported goods. These problems have damaged local production while also rendering a competitive space for Pakistan in global markets. Evidence from everyday life suggests that some of the richest and most productive regions have been abandoned for farming, yet food consumption is still growing as a result of population growth and rising per capita income. Future plans for ensuring food security and reducing poverty are seriously threatened by the growing disparity between supply and demand. 

On July 10, 2023, PM Shahbaz Sharif along with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has formally inaugurated the ceremony to launch the modern agriculture technologies to bring the ‘green revolution’ in agriculture sector. PM Sharif in his inaugural remarks has highlighted the significance of modern technologies to fill the technological gaps in agriculture sector.

The agriculture industry is performing poorly due to a lack of ability to create and accept advancements at every level of value chains. Stakeholders participating in various value chain nodes are either unable to embrace current manufacturing, grading, and processing procedures or are unaware of their advantages. According to the Asian Development Bank, post-harvest losses account for 35 to 40% of the vegetables and fruit cultivated in Pakistan each year and total just over $1 billion. As a result, the fruit and vegetable products in the state are priced far lower than those of other rapidly developing countries. Investment in the agricultural sector needs to shift away from subsidies and towards demand-driven, problem-solving research, the establishment of incubators to turn basic farming into commercialization, and the creation of rural infrastructure to connect rural economies with cities. 

Traditional management practices in Pakistan’s agriculture industry have created a variety of problems. For Pakistan to restore the trust of investors and consumers, a digital management system is required. In order to overcome problems in Pakistan’s agriculture sector, modern technology might be helpful. A digital platform called Land Information and Management Systems was created to replace typical agricultural processes with contemporary agriculture technologies. In Pakistan, Land Information and Management Systems are relatively new. 

The initiative is likely to result in a paradigm shift in land management and agricultural development, bringing about a revolution in the system. In order to have a substantial impact on the agricultural sector, LIMS has launched modern agriculture farming initiatives, beginning from Punjab. Together with all the provinces, over 4.4 million acres of land have so far been identified, including 1.3 million acres each in Punjab and Sindh, 1.1 million acres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 0.7 million acres in Balochistan. 

Although seeds are crucial to a nation’s agricultural productivity, they may also be considerably neglected in Pakistan. No significant legislation or public/private sector development of a seed corporation occurred after Independence until 1976. Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, established in 1961 for the agriculture research and development corporation, failed to create any substantial difference regarding the seed sector. In Pakistan, there are presently around 786 small and medium-sized national seed companies, four multinational corporations, and public sector seed corporations operating, but the use and production of high-yielding varieties have not yet undergone a significant shift on the ground. Pakistan needs 1.77 million tonnes of seeds, yet there are only 0.77 million tonnes of seeds available. The utilization of certified hybrid seeds is being pursued by LIMS, while at the same time, seed development combining Japan Vegetables (JVs) with multinational corporations is ongoing.

The world’s biggest irrigation system, which includes several significant reservoirs that hold water barrages, canals, and rivers, is currently ineffective and outdated. The country has continued to waste millions of acre-feet of water into the sea despite not building a significant dam in the previous forty years. One million acre-feet (MAF) of water is believed to be worth $1 billion in economic terms, and in the last year alone, 29 billion dollars’ worth of water was lost through the Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea without being used. All of this is taking place as a water catastrophe looms in the near future. At the highest level, initiatives are being made to hasten key irrigation projects including the Thar, Thal, and Kachi canals. Priority will be given to building new canals for flood prevention and checking dams to prevent flash floods. Deployment of high efficiencies irrigation systems, such as pivot irrigation, subsurface irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and modular drip irrigation, will also be included.

Pakistan’s agricultural industry has to be revolutionized, and this can only be done by utilizing the knowledge, abilities, and technological advancements of several organizations together with contemporary irrigation techniques. A similar to LIMS, Fauji Foundation has recently launched FonGrow, its flagship project, which focuses on addressing critical issues related to Pakistan's food security which aims to revolutionize the agriculture sector by establishing large-scale corporate farms dedicated to improved food production, sustainable water management, hybrid seed research and development, agri-services, livestock and dairy farming, food processing, and distribution. In terms of priority crops, Fongrow focuses on local needs, import substitution, group synergy, and export opportunities. The production plan includes crops such as corn, wheat, oilseeds (canola, sesame, soybean), potatoes, barley, oats, and rhodes grass/alfalfa. By aligning with market demands and exploring export avenues, Fongrow aims to contribute to Pakistan’s food security while capitalizing on economic opportunities.

These projects, a carefully thought-out initiative that promises to bring equity, efficiency, and transparency to the system, have the potential to completely transform land management in Pakistan. These projects will help for real-time data collection, processing, and reporting will be helpful for spotting issues and putting quick fixes in place for greater production. Resolving agriculture-related problems would lessen the food crisis, or it may open up opportunities for export for the country as a whole, which will ultimately boost its economy.

Given that certain procedures and precautions are taken to maintain track of all property ownership and transactions, it is also advantageous for the real estate sector. To identify and categorizing every single piece of property in the country under the supervision of a single governmental entity is a massive effort. The government started the LIMS to ensure fairness and accuracy in land sales and purchases as well as for urban planning.

Not only restricted to these but it will also assist in preventing calamities caused by climate change. The agricultural industry in Pakistan still exhibits some crucial yet fundamental problems that are impeding its actual capacity to drive the national economy, while possessing every sort of weather known to humans and every type of soil deemed appropriate for plants.These tactics will lessen reliance on antiquated extension systems and foreign inventions, and they will enhance the agricultural value chains, which will create value.Innovations and interventions based on knowledge will boost competitiveness and lower the trade deficit, thus promising guaranteed food security and growing economy for stable Pakistan.

Sarah Saeed

Sarah Saeed is currently working with an Islamabad based think tank. Her area of interest is South Asian strategic and security issues.

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