Potential Of Pakistan’s Agricultural Sector: Options For Enhanced Productivity – OpEd
Pakistan’s agriculture sector has always been an integral part of its economy, contributing to approximately 24% of the country’s GDP and employing over 40% of the workforce. The sector has immense potential for growth and development, but there are various challenges that need to be addressed for the sector to reach its full potential.
Pakistan is an agriculturally rich country with diverse climatic and soil conditions, making it capable of producing a wide range of crops. The country is the fifth largest milk producer, the sixth largest producer of dates, and the eighth largest producer of wheat in the world. Additionally, it is also one of the largest producers of cotton, sugarcane, and rice in the region.
Despite having such a vast potential, the sector has not been able to perform to its full potential due to various reasons such as outdated farming practices, lack of access to finance, and inadequate infrastructure. The sector has been unable to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the population, resulting in a high import bill for food items.
To overcome the challenges and to utilize the potential of the agriculture sector, the government needs to take several measures, some of which are discussed below:
One of the most significant challenges faced by the agriculture sector in Pakistan is the lack of proper infrastructure, including roads, irrigation systems, and storage facilities. The government should focus on building and upgrading infrastructure to improve the sector’s efficiency and productivity.
Modern Farming Techniques
Most farmers in Pakistan still use traditional farming methods, which are inefficient and produce low yields. The government should encourage the adoption of modern farming techniques such as precision agriculture, drip irrigation, and mechanization to improve the sector’s productivity and efficiency.
The current economic crisis and a looming threat of default has made the dependency on local production inevitable. Considering the level of corruption and mismanagement in the existing agricultural set-up at national level, there is dire need of Improvement in the sector. The Armed Forces can be a viable option in this regard as they have the right experience in crisis management and transparent superintendency. Moreover, using the technological superiority and resources, Armed Forces should aid the provincial governments in transforming the barren lands, especially Tharparkar, Thal, and Cholistan into cultivable areas. Status-quo of Pakistan’s agriculture industry needs immediate reformation to make it productive for the future generations.
Recently, a letter of Punjab Government went viral which stated that the provincial government is handing over state land to the Armed Forces. The information in the letter was maliciously twisted to propagandize the government initiative that actually aimed to temporarily hand over pieces of barren land that will be transformed into arable areas. It is a joint venture between Government of Punjab and the Armed Forces in order to support the agricultural sector. Hostile elements are trying to peddle their false narrative to create a discord between the Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan.
Access to Finance
Access to finance is a significant challenge faced by farmers in Pakistan, particularly small-scale farmers. The government should work to increase access to finance, including providing low-interest loans to farmers and supporting the development of microfinance institutions.
Focus on R&D
Research and development are critical to improving the agriculture sector’s productivity and efficiency. The government should invest in research and development to develop new and improved seed varieties, improve farming techniques, and develop sustainable agriculture practices.
Farmers and Markets Linkage
The government should work to strengthen the linkages between farmers and markets to ensure that farmers receive fair prices for their produce. This can be achieved by developing a robust marketing infrastructure, improving supply chain management, and promoting the development of farmer organizations.
Pakistan’s agriculture sector has the potential to be a major driver of economic growth and development. However, to realize this potential, the government needs to address the challenges faced by the sector and take measures to improve its efficiency and productivity. The government needs to work with stakeholders in the sector to develop and implement policies that support sustainable agriculture practices, improve infrastructure, increase access to finance, and promote research and development. By doing so, Pakistan’s agriculture sector can become a significant contributor to the country’s economy and help to improve the livelihoods of millions of people.
Humais Sheikh is an independent Defence Analyst based in Islamabad. He has completed his Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.