Agriculture needs overhaul


Zia Khan June 05, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The government says there is a need to undertake a complete structural overhaul of the agriculture sector. The agricultural sector’s contribution to the national economic output is more than 20 per cent and it employs almost half of the country’s population.

The agriculture sector’s heavy reliance on natural factors like the weather makes it highly inconsistence said an official at the launch of the Economic Survey of Pakistan for the outgoing fiscal year 2010.

“Agriculture growth is not sustainable…and the challenge for the government is to have institutional arrangements aimed at ensuring constant and sustainable growth,” said the adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.

“This has been the hallmark of Pakistan’s agriculture sector over the years and the government will have to take speedy and accurate corrective measures,” he added.

These remarks were made two days after a survey by a multinational agency working on food security across the world said that “close to half of Pakistan’s population is vulnerable to hunger and the situation might get worse in the future.”

A dismal performance by the sector during this fiscal year promptly endorsed what the adviser said. According to statistics in the survey, the agriculture sector grew at a lacklustre rate of 2 per cent during fiscal 2010, half of the four percent growth rate last year.

A comparative analysis of the growth pattern during past four years indicates that the agriculture sector exhibits ‘abnormal’ highs and lows. For instance, after growing at a moderate 5.1 percent in the 1960s, it went down by more than half to 2.4 per cent during the next decade of the 1970.

The decline appeared to be a direct result of poor output of three of four major crops—wheat, sugarcane and rice. The overall growth of the crop sub-sector was in the negative but a slight improvisation was shown by livestock, fisheries and forestry. Livestock grew at 4.1 per cent, forestry 2.2 per cent and fisheries at 1.4 per cent to consolidate the sector’s overall growth rate. It would have otherwise been negative.

Cotton, a non-food cash commodity, is the only crop that saw an increase in production during the year but even that remained moderate.

The major crops growth went down by 0.2 per cent against an aggressive output of 7.3 per cent last year. It was mainly due to decline in the output of wheat from 24.03 million tons last year to 23.86 million tons that the crop sector’s growth fell to  the negative quadrant. It shows a reduction of 0.7 per cent.

Rice production declined by one per cent to 6.8 million tons this year, down from 6.95 million tons in the fiscal year 2009.

The output of sugarcane dropped to 49.37 million tons this year compared to 50.04 million tons in 2008-09, showing a decline of 1.3 percent.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 5th, 2010.

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