Meeting considers lifting moribund farm sector

Officials say agriculture not growing to its potential; PM forms panel for reforms


Our Correspondent February 09, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The share of the agriculture sector in Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is lesser than its actual potential and the country grows lesser quantities of wheat, rice, corn, cotton and sugarcane when compared with other countries of the region in terms of per acre yield.

However, the contribution of the agriculture sector in the GDP can be increased from the existing $49 billion to $74 billion by 2031 by adopting an effective strategy and giving financial and technical assistance to the farmers, officials told Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday.

The prime minister was chairing a high level meeting held to propose reforms to revive and rejuvenate the agriculture sector in the country.

A number of officials including the foreign minister, finance minister, food security minister, economic affairs minister as well as Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) chief ministers attended the meeting.

The participants were told that the agriculture sector contributed $49 billion to the national economy in 2020. This amount included $31 billion contributed by the livestock sector; $1billion by the fisheries sector and $17billion contributed by crops.

In 2000, the agriculture sector contributed $20billion to the economy with the livestock and crops each contributing $10 billion. This shows that in the past 20 years, the sector has not grown to its potential.

Giving a breakup of the crop yield, the officials told the meeting that the average per acre yield of wheat is 29 maund; rice 40 maund; corn 57 maund; cotton 18 maund and sugarcane 796 maund.

This yield is significantly less than the neighboring India where the average per acre yield of wheat is 45 maund; rice 80 maund; corn 80 maund; cotton 35 maund and sugarcane 950 maund.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran Khan said ensuring food security, promoting agriculture sector and helping farmers to get fair return of their product are the foremost priority of his government.     

“Despite its importance in the national economy, development of the agriculture sector along the modern lines and promotion of technology have been neglected in the past, resulting in a crisis,” he added.

He said in order to tackle the challenges of food security in view of growing population, there is a need to reduce the expenditures of food imports and utilizing the potential of the sector. The meeting decided to constitute a high-level committee to be led by the PM for the promotion of the agriculture sector.

The committee comprising representatives of federal and provincial governments, private sector and experts will finalize and present the Agricultural Transformation Plan to the prime minister so as to ensure its implantation on priority basis.   

Separately, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser handed over a comprehensive and integrated structural reforms oriented agricultural growth strategy for the next seven years to Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam and a sub-committee of the cabinet on agriculture.

He said the overarching objective of the strategy is to achieve agriculture growth rate of 7.5% by 2027-28 led and sustained by producer-owned integrated market-based value chains and climate-smart production technologies, expansion of cultivated land area and value added activities.

The speaker added that the overarching goal of the proposed strategy is to boost agricultural exports, accelerate rural-development driven economic growth, reduce rural poverty, enhance financial and gender inclusion in the agricultural sector. 

“The proposed model envisions a pro-poor growth strategy focusing on transformation of the business model of the 7.4 million smallholder farmers who cultivate 48% of the total cultivable land.

“The weak business model of the smallholder farmers comprising low bargaining power, low access to finance, low yields, fragmented market segment, lack of access to competitive markets and high production cost has hindered the modernization of the agriculture sector,” he added.

WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP

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